When I was growing up, my parents had an active social life. They never went out to bars, restaurants or nightclubs. They never went to cocktail parties or intimate candlelight suppers. They would never think of socializing without my sister and I tagging along. Every weekend they would drag us to the homes of all their Greek friends and relatives, where, without fail, we would spend hours eating and they would talk, argue and laugh incessantly. Sometimes they would turn on a record player and dance to Greek music. I even remember my yiayia dancing the dances of her native Epirus and refusing to sit, even one out. Occasionally, my father and his hometown friends would sing the songs of Northern Epirus. To my young ears it all sounded like the caterwauling of a bunch of old guys. I was actually quite embarassed by it all. It was only later on in my life that I began to truly appreciate the beauty of this type of music. The polyphonic songs of Epirus constitute one of the most interesting musical forms in this part of the world. My expertise in this area is limited, therefore I will defer to Wikipedia Encyclopedia:
"The origin of this polyphonic form, in spite of the fact that the research hasn’t reached certain conclusions yet, is considered to be very old (possibly, even pre-Hellenic). The melodies of polyphonic songs, including some more songs of Epirus and Thessaly, are the only ones in Greece that have preserved the pentatonic scale without semitones (a scale consisted of five tones without semitones). According to some musicologists, this scale is identified with the Doric way of ancient Greeks, the par excellence Hellenic harmony. Except from its scale, what pleads for the very old origin of the kind is its vocal, collective, rhetorical and modal character.
These days, polyphonic song is found in northwestern Greek region of Ioannina (villages of Pogoni, Parakalamos and some villages north of Konitsa), in very few villages in northeastern Thesprotia, Tsamantas, Lias, Vavouri, Povla) and, mainly, in Northern Epirus, in the villages of the Greek minority in south Albania (Dropolis, Upper Pogoni, Vuthrotto, Chimarra).
Polyphonic groups of Epirus consist of four members at least. There are four distinct roles that compound the group:
"Πάρτης" (partis) or "σηκωτής" (sikotis) is the voice that sings the main melody, beginning, "παίρνοντας" (pernontas, taking) or "σηκώνοντας" (sikonontas, lifting) the song.
The second voice answers him, "γυρίζει" (yirizei, turns) or "τσακίζει" (tsakizei, crimps) the song; that’s why he is called "gyristis". Sometimes, instead of "gyristis", or according to some musicologists parallel with him, we find the role of "κλώστης" (klostis, spinner), who makes peculiar yodels, "κλώθοντας" (klothontas, spinning) the song between the tonic and subtonic of the melody, a technique that reminds the movement of the hand which holds the spindle and spins the thread.
A role that is often, but not always, found is the one of "rihtis", who "ρίχνει" (drops) the song in the end of the introduction of "partis", singing an exclamation (e.g. «αχ ωχ ωχ» (ah oh oh), «άντε βρε» (ante vre) a fourth lower than the tonic of the melody, resting "partis" and uniting its introduction with the entrance of "ισοκρατές" (isokrates).
The rest members of the polyphonic group, "isokrates", keep the «ίσο» (iso, vocal drone), namely the sound of the tonic of the melody, creating the modal base of the song. The isokrates' role is particularly important; the louder the «ισοκράτημα» (isokratima, keeping of the vocal drone) is, the more «βρονταριά» (vrontaria) the song goes (i.e. the better).
The perfection of the rendition of the polyphonic song presupposes the existence and the unity of the several voices–roles of the polyphonic group. As a result, polyphonic song presupposes the collectiveness of expression and the firm distinction between the roles it reflects, and the unwritten hierarchy in the composition of the group and the distribution of the roles."
The best collection of the polyphonic songs I have discovered on the Internet can be found in the music section of www.Politsani.com
I recommend you start here, here, here and here. All of these songs are sung by natives of the North Epirotan village of Politsani. The last two called "Song of Xenitia (Foreign Land)" and "Yianoula" are sung by Politsanites who now reside in Portland, Maine, USA.