The most important unifying features found throughout all variations of the Tosk musical dialect are:  i)  polifonic structure;  ii)  developed melody;  iii)  pentatonic modal/tonal system;  iv)  imitative singing;  v)  free or measurable meter/rhythm;  and vi)  lack of instrumental accompaniment.


Polifonic structure


More specifically, in the vast majority of the Tosk dialect there are either two or three melodic lines.  In two-melodic line polyphony, songs are performed by the taker and the turner.  These roles are always fulfilled by only one person.  In three-melodic line polyphony, the taker and turner are joined by the drone.  The former two are again one-man jobs, but the role of the drone is assumed by a group of people.  The taker is more than just the first person to begin singing.  He or she dictates the tone, emotions, and overall melody throughout the song.  In Tosk music, the turner is usually a variation in the melodic line of the taker.  The drone provides a background foundation consisting of a one-note melodic line.  For completeness, it is worth mentioning that the genres of lullabies, lament, and pastoral song, although only a small fraction of the entire Tosk dialect, do exist, but unlike the rest of the music their structure is monophonic.

Developed melody

Tosk traditional music is distinctly richer melodically compared to its neighbor of Lab traditional music in Southern Albania.  This is reflected in its improvisational nature of singing, frequent musical ornamentations of various kinds, and presence of pitches in the high range.  More specifically, it is the taker and turner who have more developed melodies in Tosk music compared to Lab music, since the drone performs only one note in both dialects.


Pentatoic modal/tonal system


Tosk traditional music is built on the pentatonic mode/scale, which is a musical scale consisting of 5 pitches.  As a rule, the 5 different pitches are placed in intervals of major seconds and minor thirds.  Exceptions to this rule do occur, manifesting as shortened or widened intervals, but these are sporadic.  Pentatonic structure in Tosk music is mono-modal, meaning that melodic lines belong to a single mode/scale.  Also, the minor third originates between the second and the fourth grades (notes B and D).  (In this case, the fundamental tone of the mode/scale would be the note A.)

Imitative singing

Melodic lines in Tosk traditional music generally have resemblance to one-another.  More specifically, the turner will engage in emulating the melodic line of the taker as a means of supporting the singing begun by the taker.  The emulation of the taker by the turner also exists when it comes to meter/rhythm.  In general, the turner will try and keep the same pace with the taker.

Free or measurable meter/rhythm

Throughout the Tosk dialect, there is an interesting compartmentalization when it comes to meter/rhythm.  Music performed by men is generally metrically/rhythmically free, whereas that performed by women is generally measurable in meter/rhythm.

Lack of instrumental accompaniment

A cappella singing is a pervasive characteristic in Tosk traditional music.  This feature is thought to have led to the development of the following three phenomena:  the niche of the drone, modulation, and dancing accompanied by singing.


Professor SPIRO J. SHETUNI, Ph.D.

Winthrop University

Rock Hill, SC


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.
WordPress Popup
error: Sorry! You don\'t copy...