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WORLD AND FOLK MUSIC NEWS
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Focus on: Albania
Until the second half of the 20th century, the entire musical culture of Albania was dominated by folk music, characterised by archaic forms. The Albanians’ Indo-European ancestors came from the north in the 2nd millennium BC. They were among the earliest inhabitants of the Balkans.
During their eventful history the Albanians came into contact with Greeks, Romans and Slavs; these contacts and their subjugation through the Turks from the 15th century until 1912, shaped their language and culture. In their struggles with foreign peoples the Albanians developed a strong resistance which was essential to the survival of their musical culture; they often escaped assimilation and alien influence by withdrawing to the remote mountain regions. This enforced cultural isolation and the continuation of their rural way of life have contributed to the preservation of traditional folk music with social functions almost unchanged. During the Turkish occupation, forms of popular music with oriental features developed only in the towns. Even in the 20th century this oriental element contrasts vividly with the rural folk music.
The religions of the Albanians (70% Muslims, 20% Greek Orthodox in the South, 10% Roman Catholic in the North) did not influence folk music substantially. Purely instrumental music is less important than vocal music in Albania; in the South there are regions where almost none is performed.
Of the folk instruments the shepherds’ instruments are the most important group. They consist mainly of wind instruments, such as various fipple and reed flutes. Circular breathing technique is used when playing these instruments.
Another category of instruments are string instruments originating in the Persian-Arab culture, such as the llahutë, a one-string fiddle, or the çifteli, a 2-stringed, long-necked lute. A third category are the instruments for dance music, most of them originating in oriental cultures, for instance the dajre, a round single-headed, hand-held frame drum with jingles, or the daulle, a double-headed cylindrical drum beaten with 2 sticks, one thick, the other one thin.