Feb
19


The High Lonesome sound of…Albania from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Although there is great dissent and discussion amongst those of us who attend WOMEX, (the European World Music Expo) about its inclusion of so many hybrids and pop manifestations, we always know that there will be a helping of something starkly ethnic that will please the most demanding purist ear. This time it was Hysni (Niko) Zela and the Albanian Iso-Polyphonic Choir.
The polyphony of Albania is one of the most hair raising and hauntingly gorgeous sounds made by the human voice. Strong words, but I stand behind them. I first heard this kind of music back in 1995 when I was putting together a compilation of music from formerly Soviet “satellite” nations. It sent me roving through what for me turned out to be Terra Incognita on multiple levels. I remember trying to get recordings from the State owned radio station in Tirana and coming up against a surprising language barrier; my English and French were of no use—either I had to speak Albanian or I had to speak ….Italian. Plus there were several layers of Albanian song, depending on the region. But at last I found a recording of a polyphonic group singing “The Legend of the Walled in Woman” and I knew I had found something precious and important. It literally sent shivers down my spine, and that does not happen often.
So here is my video, and excerpt from the concert. This choir is true to the tradition, and they sing magnificently. Mr. Zela looked blissed the entire time he was performing, he was most definitely “in the zone.”
Here is the information about the songs as I received it from their management:

1 – Zura nje bilbil me vese – I caught a Nightingale – love song very rich of metaphors
2 – Syzeza – Black eyed – love song
3 – Shoke nat e shoke dite – Friends of nights and days – dramatic song a la Romeo and Juliette
4 – Dola nje dite nga mali – Wander in the mountain – love song
5 – Legjenda e ures – The bridge legend – while the title is referred to the bridge it is dedicated to the Rozafa castle legend. The girl that accepted her sort to be a human sacrifice (buried alive in the walls) for the castle and that asked to leave out one breast to feed the toddler and one leg to rock the cradle.
6 – Dollandyshe vogelo – Little Swallow – Love song 7 – Mu thane syte mu thane – My eyes are dry – Dramatic migration song of a mother that has run out of tears because the son came back home dead right before the wedding ceremony.



4 Responses to “The High Lonesome sound of…Albania”

 
  1. James says:

    Just WOW!
    Awesome is not enough!
    Thanks Michal
    James

  2. Jack says:

    Hello Michael and thanks for this! You may want to know that there are a few groups who perform the famous ISO LABE even in the U.S., immigrating in these shores during the 90s. There is one in Boston, MA as well as in Salem, MA, to my knowledge, but there may be many more. There is also a famous singer in NYC, Aurola Gaçe. The penultimate song in your Salonica recording is “Iku djali në kurbet” {the son goes to immigration], telling the tragic story of one single son who dies abroad. A similar song by Aurela Gaçe is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yblItWZPG9Y

 

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Michal
Welcome!

Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.

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