Decisión del Comité intergubernamental: 15.COM 8.c.4

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Greece has proposed Polyphonic Caravan, researching, safeguarding and promoting the Epirus polyphonic song (no. 01611) for selection and promotion by the Committee as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention:

The Polyphonic Caravan is a longstanding project aimed at researching, safeguarding and promoting the Epirus polyphonic song. Performed for centuries, the Epirus polyphonic song is performed by a group of singers with two to four distinctive roles among them, and touches on almost every aspect of life, such as childhood, marriage, death, historical events and pastoral life. In the aftermath of WWII and the ensuing Greek Civil War, the element gradually became sporadic after the inhabitants of Epirus started migrating to large urban centers in Greece and abroad. Eventually, very few experienced performers remained in the villages. In the mid-1990s, a group of young people, internal migrants from Epirus, formed the first polyphonic group, ‘Chaonia’, in Athens. Realizing the threats the element was facing and the need to cultivate fertile ground for it in the new urban environment, they decided to undertake initiatives to safeguard and promote the element. After Chaonia’s first concert in 1997, they founded the non-governmental organization ‘Apiros (Polyphonic Caravan)’. Their primary objectives were to raise awareness about the practice, document it through extensive field research, create bridges across generations and geographical boundaries and bring everyone that sings the polyphonic song of Epirus together. These goals remain at the core of the project’s philosophy to this day. Through its twenty-year-long activity, the Polyphonic Caravan has critically contributed to strengthening the viability of the practice and enhancing it in an ever-changing social environment.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the programme responds as follows to the criteria for selection as a good safeguarding practice set out in paragraph 7 of the Operational Directives:

P.1:   The file provides a thorough description of the background of the programme and the threats related to the current development of the polyphonic song. Regarding the safeguarding measures applied by the ‘Polyphonic Caravan’, regular field research and documentation are carried out; the organizers travel to the villages where the element was initially practised four times a year and gather first-hand information through interviews and recordings; the ‘Polyphonic Song Archive’ was established; two major cultural events were set up to celebrate the polyphonic song; and the transmission of the element is ensured through non-formal education.

P.2:   The activities of the programme are carried out at the national, regional and international levels. At the national level, the programme focuses on building a relationship of mutual trust with the local community authorities. Such a relationship is vital for organizing the international meetings in Epirus, carrying out field research, and facilitating the participation of polyphonic groups in events taking place in Athens and abroad. At the regional level, while exploring the folk polyphonies of neighbouring countries in Southeast Europe, the Polyphonic Caravan has gradually established an informal network of folk polyphonic groups from Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Southern Italy and Serbia. Since 2016, at the initiative of the Polyphonic Caravan, 14 May has been celebrated as the Day of the Polyphonic Song, with the future goal of establishing this as the World Day of the Polyphonic Song.

P.3:   The Polyphonic Caravan reflects the spirit of the Convention by encouraging bonding and bridging among people, cohesion and cultural diversity, creativity, intercultural dialogue and exchange, intergenerational transmission, non-formal education involving young people, and a special role of women. The practice increases the visibility of intangible cultural heritage while also fostering a holistic approach to heritage.

P.4:   The State Party has clearly demonstrated how, in its over twenty years of existence, the Polyphonic Caravan has contributed to the revitalization and safeguarding of polyphonic songs in Greece, as well as to ensuring their visibility among different actors and audiences, in both rural and urban environments. Since 1999, the effectiveness of the project has been demonstrated by monitoring the increase in new musical groups, improvements in research and documentation practices, the consolidation of the practice of research and documentation, and greater participation in the related meetings, festivals and workshops.

P.5:   The proposal provides sufficient information on the participation of the bearers of the element and other stakeholders concerned. The active participation of the bearers is based on constant dialogue, meaning that the project can be assessed as it progresses. Additionally, the project has successfully demonstrated the complementary role of the female and male songs. This active participation of all parties concerned is clearly reflected in the number and quality of the consents provided.

P.6:   The State Party has demonstrated that the project could serve as a model for safeguarding elements of intangible cultural heritage that face various threats. The key has been the implementation of a coherent safeguarding plan that has evolved over time in response to the needs of communities of the bearers, and constantly taking into account the priorities expressed by the various stakeholders. Thanks to its flexible, effective organization, the programme makes it possible to integrate anyone interested in polyphonic singing.

P.7:   The Polyphonic Caravan welcomes the possibility of collaborations within the framework of disseminating good practices. The programme has already achieved some positive results in this area, and new axes of cooperation could be achieved through the creation of lasting relationships between different stakeholders, including municipal authorities, as well as through the revitalization and promotion of creativity and the documentation and creation of specific intangible cultural heritage archives.

P.8:   The Polyphonic Caravan organizational committee and community members always carry out an assessment of each activity implemented. They regularly meet to discuss and evaluate the steps already undertaken and plan the next ones. There is a monitoring system in place that makes it possible to report on each of the activities organized (workshops, festivals, research days) and trace their evolution over time. The assessment appears to be more quantitative than qualitative, although qualitative aspects are also taken into account.

P.9:   The intangible cultural heritage safeguarding model developed by the Polyphonic Caravan could serve as an example of safeguarding for developing countries. Because it is mainly based on the principle of self-management, it does not require substantial funds to set it up. However, this requires a determination to build cooperation networks and effective partnerships.

  1. Decides to select Polyphonic Caravan, researching, safeguarding and promoting the Epirus polyphonic song as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention;

  2. Commends the State Party for proposing an exemplary file that presents a safeguarding programme that arose thanks to an initiative by individuals and a non-governmental organization, is deeply connected to its community of bearers, and responds in an exemplary manner to the threats related to polyphonic singing through the close cooperation of the different stakeholders involved;

  3. Further commends the State Party, together with the broad network of communities and partnerships involved in the Polyphonic Caravan, for the highly adaptive, creative approach developed in the safeguarding programme, which has facilitated the adjustment of the element in an ever-changing social context and in the movement from rural to urban environments, and which also underpins the active participation of young people.

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