Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ALBANIA: MUSIC, ARTS, AND LITERATURE


I am really fascinated with Albania’s music.  And I didn’t realize I was. Among some of the instruments, one of the early ones was the lahuta, a one-stringed lute-like instrument. But as they say, one is the loneliest number, and it soon gave way to a more popular two-stringed version called çiftelia.  Probably introduced during the 500 years of Ottoman rule, the medium sized frame drum with jingles called the dajreja is used for keeping rhythm. It seems similar to the tambourine, which is also used.

But one style that struck me is the vocal iso polyphony heard in the southern regions.  If you listen, it gives the same effect as a bagpipe (which is also used in Albanian music): you have a drone note and the melody on top.  There is a leader, who’ll sing the introductory phrase and the others will follow.  There are several groups who have formed in recent years in an effort to preserve Albania’s traditional folk music.


Classical music is also on the rise with several prominent music conservatories focusing on creating Albanian composers and classical musicians. Opera seems to be one of the fortes (no pun intended), especially given it’s proximity to Italy. Probably one of the most famous opera singers in Albania is Inva Mula. She was the voice of the Diva Plavalaguna in the movie The Fifth Element. You know the song -- it's the best part of the movie. 


As far as modern music goes, I came across two that impressed me: Genta Ismajli and Bertan Asllani. I found Genta’s 2011 album Guximi available on iTunes for $9.99. I’m definitely planning on buying it (although it’s also available to listen to on Spotify).  


I’m not able to find very many songs for Bertan, except a few individual songs on iTunes and a few more on Spotify. But unfortunately I can't find this song and I really like it. I do believe he has a Facebook page and I could probably find info there. 



Because of the influence from the Ottomans, mosaic art is very popular. Mural paintings are also quite popular. Probably one of the most widely known mosaic artists is Saimir Strati, who have won numerous Guinness World Records for his work. His work is pretty cool. I’d love to see it up close. Of course mosaic art is one of my favorite mediums, so I’m a little partial. This particular mosaic is make of cork. 

Early Albanian texts were strictly religious works and historical documents. Pjetër Budi was one of the first to write poetry in Albanian. Of course Albanian literature went through its eras, just like English literature does. Ismail Kadare is thought of as one of the best-known contemporary authors. Fifteen of his novels have been translated into 40 languages, bringing Albanian literature to accessibility in Europe and throughout the world.  There are many of his books available through Amazon and many of those are also available for the Kindle – some as low as $3.19! You can’t beat inexpensive literature. Definitely thinking of making a Kindle purchase in the near future…

Next up: Food!

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