publications as a researcher

            Thanassis Moraitis
Anthology of arvanitic songs of Greece

150 arvanitic songs with musical notation and historical, linguistic, musicological, prosodic and metrical commentaries. The book is accompanied by a cd containing short examples of the above songs, mostly field recordings. 

Preface by Markos Dragoumis.
Theoretical and musicological introduction by Demetrios Lekkas.

Published by Centre for Asia Minor Studies - Melpo Merlier Music Folklore Archive, Athens,
October 2002

Second Edition: May 2011

Text by Markos F. Dragoumis
(Translated by Markos Dragoumis)

In the introduction of his book 260 Greek Folk Songs, Volume A΄ (Marasli Library, Athens 1905), George Pachtikos writes: «Apart from Greek folk songs, my collection includes songs in various other languages. There are many Greeks […] speaking besides their mother language a second one. […] These bilingual Greeks can sing in Turkish, Armenian, Arabian, Bulgarian, Vlach and Albanian. The contents of these songs –as far as melody and poetics are concerned– is clearly Greek».

From all these melodies, George Pachtikos published only one. We refer to the «Të dua» (= I want you) which according to the compiler «is sung in Berat of Albania by Albanian-speaking Greek people» (p. 340). What is more, in the footnote of the same page we are informed that besides «Τë dua», «… another well-known in Greece is the Albanian folk song that sung on Lazarus Saturday “Έρδε Λάζαρε περδέ” (= You came to earth, Lazarus, which means that he has arisen).

The non Greek songs listed by G. Pachtikos, were intended to form a second volume of the same series. But this volume was never published. We are not aware of the reason this publication did not take place. One thing is certain though: the interest of G. Pachtikos is the variety of our folk song tradition. This interest was of the same kind as that of Thanassis Moraitis of the Music Folklore Archives. It is the interest of a passionate collector «beyond boundaries and limits», as Andreas Embirikos would have said. It is the sort of interest which induces the ethno-musicologists of all over the world into travelling to distant places of our planet, or even to other planets, to discover the “unknown”, to learn, to enlighten and be enlightened. G. Pachtikos, understandably, may declare that he collects songs of other language only because of their Greek origins, but deep down what abets him, along with his love for everything that is Greek, is the vigilant spirit of Odysseus who wants to see and learn everything.

This anthology is the product of a long and laborious research. And it comes not only from a profound connoisseur of the languages the songs he collects but also from someone who is a very skillful musician. It is a volume which fills a significant void (as the Arvanitic folk music contrary to its poetry has not yet been documented), and enables the research of our folk music to be placed on a wider basis. Because ultimately, only books of this kind will lead us to the comparative researches we need to broaden our ethno-musicological horizons.

                                                                                Athens, April 21, 2002

Arvanites and their songs in the Greek space
by Thanassis Moraitis and Leonidas Empeirikos (historian)
(Translated by Demetrios Lekkas)

The current presence of non-Greek-speaking groups within the borders of the Greek state could be considered a residue of the pre-national conditions of this region. Today’s status of those groups bears witness to the progress of the nation-building historical process, typical of the break-up of pre-national administrative entities, directed towards homogenizing splinters caught within singular geographical regions. This was accomplished by effectively inventing a uniform national profile for each entire expanse and thence by suppressing the ethno-lingual diversity previously pervading the Ottoman domain towards obliteration.
    Trapped within the national phenomenon, non-Greek-speaking groups –ones spared of population exchange or of other violent displacements– embarked upon a course of gradual geographical shrinkage, accompanied by the loosening of localized lingual fabrics of societies and of a surge of bilingualism, natural outcomes of local vernaculars subsiding versus the ideological domination of Greek. A set of public domain areas, where other languages or idioms had been welcome or tolerated, were gradually handed over to the “jurisdiction” of a language of high prestige, which would be the official version of Greek, while at the same time downgrading spoken vernaculars to more and more stringent usages. Under these circumstances, all elements of the non-Greek-speaking groups’ cultural identities embarked upon a course of ever-increasing negotiation with the state and with the national ideology. Musical tradition, in particular, sees the shrinkage of local idiom mapped in the diminution of repertoire in other languages and in its replacement by geographically adjacent Grecophone repertoires, or even by a specific “national” folklore common to all, projected and promoted as such by state channels. This in time led to the extreme outcome of a token preservation of a minute portion of previously blooming local repertoires, today viewed as a marker of narrow local symbolic identity. To a certain extent, the same applies to Grecophone repertoires of groups in various Greek idioms and dialects in each region within the state borders, even for those with a musical expression quite akin to “national music”. An exception to this typology is the Muslim minority of Thrace, mostly because of its special institutional status.
    The absence of tradition in different languages from any official portrayal of Greek musical folklore is also ascribed within the context of this negotiation. A first consequence is the constricted documentation of cultural expression of non-Greek-speaking groups as confined to mechanisms of Greek folklore, otherwise chiefly dealing with collecting Grecophone ethnographic material. Nevertheless, the study of Greek-language music is but artificially set apart from music of non-Greek-speaking groups, as these two sides had been and oftentimes still are in a relationship of constant interaction. Besides, language does not at all constitute an impenetrable barrier among the various folk traditions of a certain area –as romantic ethnographers in the 19th century had dreamt it– and does not therefore lend itself as a clear-cut standard of classifying musical production.
    Speaking, then, of the music of groups internally communicating in a different language, we do not intend to substantiate musical production by defining it singularly within the scope of a linguistic systematization. On the contrary, such a legend is often deemed contestable in the context of the subsequent analysis. Our approach aspires to shed some light to a less known reality, whose study we deem an integral part of musicological research in the Greek territory. In protecting us against an idea of impervious traditions, as passed down by romantic historicism, a comparative study of cultural production of groups speaking various languages assists us in grasping the phenomenon of folk creation in its full complexity.
    Towards such an endeavour, going beyond the study of music, a full study of the history of non-Grecophone groups arises as a necessity; this is due to the fact that the music of whoever ends up being a speaker of a different language within the borders of a national state is called upon to express the intricate cultural and occasionally political realities of each group. This is a contrast oftentimes depicted along the borders delineating various musical zones.  Besides, lingual realities of these groups define privileged networks of communication with musical traditions outside the Greek territory, thus affecting the evolution of musical idiom. Such relationships, as the one between a Turcophone and a Rumeliote musical tradition (“Rumeli”, in Turkish, meaning the European / Balkan section of the Ottoman empire) to today’s Turkish musical reality, or the one regarding the influence exerted by Albanian clarinet playing to the evolution of Epirote music –especially within the limits of pentatonic zone– can only be researched in their historicity.
    Last, the study of non-Grecophone musical tradition highlights the rôle of language in musical output, not through the prism of an organically predefined ethnic physiognomy of music, but as a structural element of the music itself, enforcing language-bound rules upon metrics of the text and vocal behaviours of songs. This is a dimension lost in the widespread practice of translating non-Grecophone songs, a standard practice from the past still going on now, aiming at enabling their absorption into the official national musical tradition. A typical example of such a deviant practice is the Greek translation of Slavophone lyrics in East Macedonia which, though sounding completely harmonious in the Slavo-Macedonian / Bulgarian dialectal continuum, fail to suit a Greek ear.
    We reckon that the study of different linguistic groups, seen in this context, constitutes an essential interpretative tool towards the history of traditional music, by whose lack the latter has been plagued only too long.
    The preceding analysis concerns all historical linguistic groups in Greece. In this publication we shall go about making a thorough reference to Arvanites, focused on their music and their songs. The viewing angle selected here is a synchronic overview of an assumed ideal point in time, fixed, say, upon the optimum musical expression of Arvanite groups studied henceforth lying closest to us in time.

Arvanites of Greece and their music

The term Arvanites serves as an identifying term for all ethno-lingual groups in Greece speaking some version of the Albanian language. Conventionally, we can split these groups into two large categories.
    The first category includes all those residing within the borders of the first Greek state (1830), henceforth to be called “Arvanites of South Greece”. They constitute a special category of speakers by themselves, because their language has its origin in southwest Toshk medieval dialects, cut off from the main body of the Albanian language before that language was named “Shqip” and the people speaking it “Shqiptar”.
    The second category of Arvanites includes all the groups of Greece’s “new lands”: Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace.

Arvanites of South Greece
The presence of Arvanites in the south of Greece is due to old migrations in the 14th - 15th century, or, according to other sources, earlier still, motivated by social and economic turbulence in the West Balkan area; this led to relocations of population, also partially set off by ‘invitations’ on the part of the Florentine rulers of Athens, of count de Villanova, of the Venitian masters in Euboea and of the Catalan, Palaiologoi and Frankish rulers of the Peloponnese in order to populate the above areas. These Arvanites were included in the first Greek kingdom of 1830, forming the most populous Arvanite group in Greece. They are spread over a compact dwelling area in southeastern Central Greece, encompassing the large part of Boeotia, a section of Locris, pretty much all native settlements in Attica save for Megara and Athens, the “Argo-Saronic” islands except Aegina, south Euboea (Carystia and Cavo d’Oro save for Carystos itself and its basin) and the north of the island of Andros, a large span of Argolis and Corinthia, where there are some enclaves outside the compact area; there are also three large enclaves in Achaia (mount Panachaicon and the area of cape Araxos), Triphylia (Soulimochoria) and coastal Laconia (area of Zarakas); this last one can be deemed as an extraterritorial extension of Argolic Hermionis through the island of Spetses.
    Arvanitic songs mostly use diatonic scales, especially in the mode of D. Nevertheless, melodies in chromatic scales are not absent, such as in hejâz, sabâ (a diatonic chroa according Byzantine theory), uzzal (according to Arabo-Persian terminology) and mostly the so-called Balkan or Romanian or gipsy minor; this last one is found in many songs of Loutraki and Perachora (Corinth); in fact a specimen is preserved in script from late antiquity (West, example 42, p. 428). In Villia, at the foot of Mount Cithaeron, we come across at least seven songs using anhemitonic pentatonic scales, a fact indicating the geographical origin of the residents (an enclave of Epirus in Central Greece).
    The rhythms of these songs exhibit a strong mainland mood, excluding the songs from Andros and Cavo d’Oro, which come in a purely Aegean archipelago style. They use meters of 4/4, 2/4, 3/4 (tsamikos), 5/4, 6/8, 7/8 (syrtos-kalamatianos further inland and ‘trata’ on the coast); also, alternating sections of meter 7/8 (kalamatianos) + 2/4 (kangheli) or 3/4 (tsamikos) + 2/4 (kangheli) or 2/4 (syrtos) + 7/8 (kalamatianos). There is a total lack of belly-dance-like tsifteteli and of odd or complex or irrational or “limp” rhythms: 9/4 (zeibekikos), 9/8 (karsilamas, except for “E bukurë moj Ljenë”, № 87 of this production, which seems to be a product of translation), 8/8, 11/8 and 5/8 (except for “Atje parë” № 40a, sung in Villia).
    The songs known to us so far are mostly songs of love, courtship and wedding. There are also labour songs, free rhythm recitative (“sitting”) songs, songs of mockery, carnival songs, lullabies and dirges (chiefly with a religious content). There is a total lack of clephtic and historic songs (apart from “Tre Papor”, № 7, referring to Constantinople) and another one from Salamis referring to the battle of Arachova in 1824 (its music has never been recovered until the present time).
    An interesting element observed in the metric structure of verse is this: unlike Greek-language demotic songs where decapentasyllabic (15-syllable) verse prevails, in Arvanitic songs this verse form is scarce. What prevails in these latter ones is the octosyllabic (8-syllable) “trochaic”, whether complete or truncated (seven syllables), or afforded with an extra preceding initial upbeat (nine syllables). One could state about Arvanites that they add or remove syllables without much caring about strict structural uniformity in verse.
    The musical style of Arvanitic songs from these areas is austere without fatalistic inclination even when their mood is “blue”. The singer performs without much “chalkantza” (non-stop ornamentation), with no “dragging mood” (even in the most “Eastern” instances, such as in chromatic modes leaning in that direction), without dulcet “chesty” colorations.
    In older times, songs of these areas used to be played on the pipiza (hautboy) the end-blown flute and the large davul drum. After 1830, a demotic band has been consisting of clarinet, violin, lute and santouri (dulcimer). In Salamis, up until 1935, the songs used to be played on folk fiddle (lyra), lute and tambouras (long-necked lute, obviously attributable to the proximity of Salamis to Piraeus with its rebetiko songs).

Arvanites of the “New Lands”

A. First group of speakers: Arvanites of Epirus
The next group under consideration, second in population to that of south Greece, is that of Epirus. It extends over west Epirus, chiefly on grounds formerly also known as Çamëria (Tsamouria) comprising most of the western coastal section of Thesprotia province and the north of Preveza province. These Arvanites are in territorial continuity with Albania, with an intervening Greek-speaking region inside Albania called Vurg. The Albanian idiom still spoken there, Çamërisht, is the southernmost sub-dialect of the main body of the Albanian language, but has remained outside the national space where standard Albanian has been standardized as official language of the state. This area of Epirus had Muslims (today called Çam) living side by side with Christians, commonly today referred to as Arvanites. The former were expelled massively and by force in 1944, following the collaboration between a significant portion of them and the occupying forces of the Axis. Despite bonds of kinship, the deeply ingrained pre-national Ottoman system of separation into religious communities (millets) resulted in the orthodox Arvanites identifying themselves and being incorporated as national Greeks from the start, unlike the Muslims who, at least after 1923 (year of population exchange), were considered a foreign body, practically a sort of Albanian minority. This is the only group of Muslims of the "new lands" in Greece who, having entered Greece in 1912-20, were finally spared of the population exchange, along with the Muslims of western Thrace. Ethnic Albanophone Christians perceive themselves as national Greeks. When speaking Greek, members of this group call their idiom Arvanitic, just as all other Arvanites of Greece; yet, when conversing in their own idiom, they call it Shqip.
    The music of this group is imbued with the local incumbent idiom of their area of residence; as a result of territorial continuity, it is akin to the music of south Albania, whether Albanophone or Grecophone. It must be stressed that under no circumstances can someone talk about impervious musical traditions, based on an ethno-lingual criterion alone. Figuratively, west and north parts of Epirus and south Albania are a compact cultural region dominated by a particular musical idiom, pentatonic polyphony, commonly shared by Grecophone, Albanophone and Slavophone populations. But, today’s form of those songs, still delivered in the Arvanitic dialect, has been profoundly influenced by the continental Grecophone musical tradition of Arta and Preveza. This area is represented by only two songs in this production. Thus, conducting a thorough musicological analysis (rhythms, scales) is not a truly feasible task.

B. Second group of speakers: Arvanites of Florina and Plikati of Konitsa
Immigrants of the past century (appr. 1850) from Kolonjë valley in Albania and from the village Plikati Konitsa. The residents of villages Flambouro (Negovan) and Drossopigi (Belkamen) originate from there, whereas a third village, Lehovo, clearly appears to be a much earlier settlement. These three villages are enclaves of Albanian speakers inside a region of intense Slavophony; they use the Toshk dialect as spoken in Korcë.
    Their musical idiom is common to that of Korcë. Many Arvanitic wedding songs in the region are performed by a monophonic choir; solo singing is also present, often reflecting the typical Korcë urban idiom. But there also is an ample number of songs (historic and love/courtship) sung in a form of a polyphony, stylistically close to that of Korcë, Kolonjë and Lakka Pogoni, but lacking the idiomatic “spinner” and “turner” voices. This polyphony, especially in Drossopigi, is probably due to the provenance of the original residents from Plikati and from Albania. In their majority, polyphonic songs are sung unaccompanied in a solemn hieratic style. In wedding songs that are danced to, a clarinet prevails, sitting on a substrate of a local-type brass band. Kalamatianos, tsamikos and beratikos (danced only by residents of Drossopigi and Flambouro, on an air almost identical to those of “lytos”, meaning hands-free, and “pusceno”, a hopping dance of Slavophone villages of the Florina district, yet slightly slower), metris, meaning “with three” (actually a dance motif of three steps, hands clasped from the wrist, popular mostly amongst the elderly) and hassapiko are the wedding dances. A lot of Arvanitic songs are also sung in the “Vlach” language (Rmaneşti) on the same tune. All three villages boast wedding songs, love songs, ballads, “sitting” songs in irrational or “limp” meter (5/8, 8/8), typical of the region, as well as in 7/8, 2/4, 4/4, 6/4 and 5/4.

C. Third group of speakers: Arvanites of Thrace
At the district of river Evros (Hebrus) there resides a group of Arvanites consisting of east Thrace refugees from the area of Adrianoupolis (Edirne), permanently fleeing from Turkey in 1923, specifically East Thrace, an area evacuated by the Greek army following the truce of Müdanya. Crossing Evros, they settled straight across, as well as at a village of Komotini (Paradimi, Rhodope province) and at a few more villages of Serres. There is still another village related to the above, Mandres of Kilkis, whose residents originate from village Mandritza in Bulgaria. Arvanite populations of Thrace are the product of an incoming wave from southeast Albania, much posterior to those of south Greece, later than the prevalence of the name “Shqip”.
    Their musical idiom has an unmistakably Thracian character, especially in slow free-rhythm (“sitting”) songs. Their rhythms/dances are the same as the ones we know from the musical tradition of Thrace: baiduska (5/8), zonaradikos (12/8) and mantilatos in 7/8 (2+2+3). This production also includes songs in 5/4 (paeon epibatos), rare in the Grecophone songs of the area.
    In older times, the bagpipe used to prevail. Nowadays, the band consists of clarinet, davul or darbukka and bouzouki. Translating of Arvanitic songs into Greek or vice versa is an obsolete practice. Many songs are sung by an unaccompanied group of women. Their vocal timbre is reminiscent of Bulgarian female voices.

, in fact Vlachs of Albania, also called Farserotes, speak a dialect unlike that of other Vlachs. The reason they are included here is that some of them sing some of the songs of their repertoire in Arvanitic. Herding livestock was surviving as their main professional occupation until not too long ago, whereas dependence from a mountain settlement as a focal point of reference does not apply for them, as it does for all other Vlachs.
    The Arvanitovlach group concerning us here covers some villages of the Prespes lakes, of Korestia, of the Epirote provinces of Pogoni and of Thesprotia, owing their presence to settlements from west Epirus and from Albania proper after the civil war. They used to speak Vlach at home and Arvanitic as a second language, unlike long-time settlers in Greece (such as the ones in Acarnania or in Thessaly) who have given up Arvanitic as a second language, having replaced it with Greek.
    Arvanite Vlachs (Arvanitic-speaker ethnic Vlachs) have preserved a polyphonic and pentatonic oral tradition, very close to Tosk polyphonic chanting, manifested in both Vlach-speaking and Arvanitic-speaking songs.

                                                                                                Athens 2002