Albania Arts and Music


For the medieval Albanian age, a distinction can be made between a coastal area with Venetian-Tuscan artistic forms and a more internal one with Byzantine Balkan characters. Both are forms introduced by the rulers, accepted rather than originally reworked. Castles, walls and fortifications are generally Venetian (Scutari, Durres, Gjirokaster, Berati, Butrinto, Krujë etc.), partly in ruins and partly adapted by the Turks. The Byzantine churches, often transformed into mosques with the addition of a minaret, mostly have a basilica plan and a square bell tower: the most notable are those of Santi Quaranta (in ruins) and Mesopotamus (c.1000) with domes and decorations. embossed in brick. The Turkish domination left a thousand original mosques. Characteristic are the monumental monastic complexes (consisting of church, enclosure, accommodation for pilgrims, cemetery) not after the fourteenth century, among which important are that of Pojani near Apollonia and the Gjirokastra area group. During the Italian occupation many cities had urban plans and monumental buildings in the twentieth century style (Tirana, Durres). The developments of the country’s architecture and urbanization (working class districts, industrial complexes, representative and administrative buildings) present, in this nation which is singularly isolated from the others in Eastern Europe, combinations of Soviet monumental rationalism with elements of traditional construction. The major center remains Tirana (construction of the Central Labor Committee building). Celebratory accents are prevalent in painting and sculpture, in which the painter N. Zajmi (b.1916) and sculptors O. Paskaliemerged(1903-1985) and K. Rama (b. 1932). In the last two decades of the twentieth century, even if some introspective aspects emerge in the painting of a realist nature, the characteristics of Western contemporary art were accused by the regime of “decadence”, and opposed by all means. The events that characterized the years immediately following the fall of the regime made any cultural activity almost impossible, so much so that Albania, a country located in Europe according to, was almost absent from international reviews at least until the early 2000s. Most of the Albanian artists are resident abroad, perhaps starting with the dean Ibrahim Kodra (1918-2006), residing in Italy since 1938, who has combined a primitive cubist-type abstractionism with a visionary charge closely linked to the traditions of his homeland. In Chicago lives and works Sokol Buza (b. 1972), a native of Tirana, a painter of informal suggestions and a strong expressionist charge; Anri Sala (b. 1973) lives in Paris, an exponent of a multimedia research that uses the language of video and film to tell fragments of a dramatic story like that of the Balkan region.


Cultured music began to develop only after 1944, promoted by the state. In 1954 the House of Culture in Shkoder staged the first Albanian opera, Mrika by P. Jakowa, followed by works by T. Daija (Spring, 1960; the ballets Halil and Hajrija, 1963; Sons of fishermen, 1972 and l operetta L’Aurora, 1954), and by Jakowa (Skanderbeg, 1968). As far as instrumental music is concerned, we remember the first Albanian symphony by Ç. Zadeja (1956), while K. Kono composed the choral symphonic poem The heroes of Borowa (1956); other authors include D. Leka, K. Trako, H. Aurazi, T. Harapi. Currently, the name of Thoma Simaku (b. 1958) has a great international reputation among the composers of cultured music. § Albanian popular music, whose study began only in the 1930s by Y. Arbatsky, remained free from external influences until the end of the century. XX due to both the mountainous morphology of the territory and the lack of communication routes. According to Arbatsky, the oldest form of popular music is ojkanje (oj song) transmitted orally; the other form is that linked to the roga, a kind of bagpipe that can emit 11 sounds on a scale that proceeds smoothly in tones and semitones; then there is a third form based on the relations of fifths. Albanian folk music is characterized by typical irregular measures (5/8, 7/8, 11/8) that are freely alternated, so that the song and the instrument never proceed in parallel and the accents do not coincide. Music and songs were influenced by the Turkish presence, while they were almost free from Slavic contamination, and the extent of the changes that took place emerges from the comparison with the musical tradition preserved in the original characters among the Albanians who settled in Italy. The instruments of Albanian folk music are mostly of the rudimentary type, built and used by children and shepherds with poor materials, such as stones (gurrëte Sendit) or grain stalks (rraketake, lödergramthi, tingerringe, bylbyll); clarinets, straight flutes and drums such as tupan are very popular. One of the most prominent names in Albanian popular music, open to Western suggestions but very tied to the traditions and irregular rhythms of the Balkan and Gypsy musical culture, is the accordionist Admir Shkurtaj, founder of the Opa Cupa group, in which Serbian musicians also participate. After the end of the Stalinist orthodoxy, from the late Eighties to today, native pop-rock music has developed in Albania that uses instruments and rhythms of international pop mixing them with elements of the country’s folk tradition, still very much felt: just think that one of the greatest hits of the new Albania is an ironic hip-hopversion of a classic melodic song from the folkloric tradition, Alas Alas GermanyI. Among the young Albanians, rock and hip-hop they have become, in the “ethnic” version widespread in the country, a form of expression of nationalistic sentiments, linked to the cult of the homeland and its traditions. Alongside Albanian pop, which has created a small music production industry on a semi-artisanal basis, spread across the border even among the diaspora, the so-called Turkish Pop, the most popular pop music in modern Turkey, is widely listened to in the country. Of Albanian and Kosovar origins are the internationally successful British pop singers Rita Ora (b. 1990) and Dua Lipa (b. 1995).

Albania Arts

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