Albanian Music

Albanian music like in the entire Balkan region displays a variety of influences. Albanian folk music traditions differ by region, with major stylistic differences between the traditional music of the Ghegs in the north and Tosks in the south. Albania’s political, military and cultural domination by outside elements have contributed to the country’s modern music scene. Albanian music is a fusion of the music of Southeastern Europe, especially that of the Ottoman Empire which ruled Albania for more than 500 years. However, the Albanian people kept themselves culturally apart from the Ottomans, with many living in rural and remote mountains….

Albanian folk music falls into three stylistic groups, with other important music areas around Skoder and Tirana. The major groupings as in the geographical and ethnical division are the Ghegs of the north and southern Labs and Tosks. The northern and southern traditions are contrasted by the “rugged and heroic” tone of the north and the “relaxed, gentle and exceptionally beautiful” form of the south. These disparate styles are unified by “the intensity that both performers and listeners give to their music as a medium for patriotic expression and as a vehicle carrying the narrative of oral history as well as certain characteristics like the use of obscure rhythms such as 3/8, 5/8 and 10/8. Albanian folk songs can be divided into major groups, the heroic epics of the north, and the sweetly melodic lullabies, love songs, wedding music, work songs and other kinds of song. The music of various festivals and holidays is also an important part of Albanian folk song, especially those that celebrate St. Lazarus Day (the llazore), which inaugurates the springtime. Lullabies and laments are very important kinds of Albanian folk song, and are generally performed by solo women.

In the north of Albania songs are usually sung by a single individual, and the dominant pattern is of heroic narrative, on historical themes, usually the struggle against the Turks. In the south music and song are more communal, with songs and poems for several performers, often with a choral element. There are also many different folk dances for each region of Albania. In the south of Albania dances are often accompanied by polyphonic songs, of great antiquity. In the commoner dances the performers move in a rectilinear pattern, and with pirouettes. Albanian music uses a variety of traditional instruments, some of which are unique to the country. The flute is the most common instrument, along with the bagpipes, the drum and the lahuta. The lahuta is a one-stringed violin – instrument resembling the medieval and Renaissance lutes of northern Europe and is one of the most ancient instruments still in use in Europe. It was used by the ancient oral poets to call the attention of the audience to their recitations. In the north of Albania the ciftelia is widely played, that is a small wooden largely acoustic mandolin with a very long thin neck and only two strings.