Polyphony is a southern Albanian tradition dating back to ancient Illyrian times, involving blending several independent vocal or instrumental parts. The songs usually have epic lyrical or historical themes, and may be slow and sombre with beautiful harmonies or include yodelling when it really starts whooping up. There is little Albanian cinema, but the most notable recent film is Lamerica, a stark portrayal of post-communist Albanian life. Before written Albanian was standardised in 1909, there was very little literature. Fan Noli, who died in 1965, was the giant of 20th century Albanian literature. Many of his own works were based on religious themes, but the introductions he wrote to his translations of Cervantes, Shakespeare, Ibsen and Omar Khayyam established him as the foremost literary critic of the country. The best known contemporary albanian writer is Ismail Kadare, who fled the police state of the country in 1990. His work has been translated into 40 languages.
P olyphony is a southern Albanian tradition dating back to ancient Illyrian times, involving blending several independent vocal or instrumental parts. The songs usually have epic lyrical or historical themes, and may be slow and sombre with beautiful harmonies or include yodelling when it really starts whooping up. There is little Albanian cinema, but the most notable recent film is Lamerica, a stark portrayal of post-communist Albanian life. Before written Albanian was standardised in 1909, there was very little literature. Fan Noli, who died in 1965, was the giant of 20th century Albanian literature. Many of his own works were based on religious themes, but the introductions he wrote to his translations of Cervantes, Shakespeare, Ibsen and Omar Khayyám established him as the country's foremost literary critic. Albania's best known contemporary writer is Ismail Kadare, who fled the country's police state in 1990. His work has been translated into 40 languages.
Albanian (Shqipja) is an Indo-European language with many Latin, Slavonic and modern Greek words. It has two main forms, Tosk and Gheg, which diverged about 1000 years ago. In 1972 the Congress of Orthography established a unified written language, which is now universally accepted for both languages. Italian is useful for travel in Albania; many Albanians learned it before 1943, but others have picked it up by watching Italian TV stations or through recent trips to Italy.
Traditionally, Albania has been 70% Sunni Muslim, 10% Roman Catholic (mostly in the north) and 20% Albanian Orthodox, making it the only European country to have a Muslim majority. From 1967 to 1990 it was also the only officially atheist state in the world, and many churches were converted into cinemas and theatres. The spiritual vacuum left after the fall of communism has in part been filled by US evangelists, but new churches and mosques are springing up all over the country.
Albanian food has been strongly influenced by Turkish food. Grilled meats like shishqebap (shish kebab), romsteak (minced meat patties) and qofte (meat balls) are common dishes. Popular local dishes are çonlek (meat and onion stew), fërges (a rich beef stew), rosto me salcë kosi (roast beef with sour cream) and tave kosi (mutton with yoghurt). Lunch is the main meal, although eating out in the evening in Tirana is increasingly common. Ice cream (akullore) is very popular, and the coffee is either kafe turke and strong enough to walk over to your table by itself, or kafe ekspres (espresso). The white wine is usually better than the vinegary red, and other local drops are raki (brandy), konjak (cognac), uzo (an aniseed flavoured liqueur like Greek ouzo) and various fruit liqueurs. If you're taken to a bar, always offer to pay. Your Albanian host will rarely let you, but your gesture gains your host 'face' in front of others.
The Albanian language is the official language. Albanian comprises a separate original branch in the family of the Indo-European languages.
Albanian is a successor of the Illyrian language. In its lexical there are to be found borrowings from Italian, old and new Greek, Latin, Slavic languages of the Balkan and Turkish. Despite that, it has preserved its originality as a special language.
Folk beliefs are link with cults, the religious rites, magic practices, folk mythology and calendar, family and social life and production.
Among the elements of toteism, the most important is the cult of snake as protector of the house, as a benefaction.
Different belief of production motifs are interwoven with the celebrations of folk calendar, special rites, social praying, the work in agriculture and live-stock, land, moon and sun.
Three religions co-exist in Albania: Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim. About 60% of the population is Muslim.
After the overthrow of the Communist regime, the Albanian people re-opened the existing religious institutions and now they are building up new ones.
The Greek and Roman ethnographers provide the first ethnographic data on Albania, which were enriched later on by ancient Albanian authors. During the period of National Renaissance, the interest for the traditional culture grew further. Outstanding is the work by Shtjefen Gjecovi, F.Nopca, Edit Durham. From the ethnographic point of view, Albania is represented by several regions as Kelmend, Krasniqe, Bytyc, Dukagjin, Malesia of Shkodra, Ana e Malit, Bregu i Bunes, Bregu i Drinit, Zadrima, Has i Madh, Lume, Puka, Laberia, Kurveleshi, Golloborda, Dibra, Mallakastra, Devolli, Dardha, Konispol, Dropull, Sheper-Zagori, Leskovik, Shpat, Belsh, Coastal area, etc.
Albanian Folklore is rich, diversified and with artistic values. It is a precious treasury inherited from generation to generation. It is rather vivid and continues to be enriched even nowadays. The Albanian folklore consists of literary, musical, choreographic and dramatic folklore. You find poetry, short stories, tales, legends, anecdotes, proverbs and folk sayings in the literary folklore. 15 volumes entitled "Nation's visars" came out of press during the years 1937-1944. Some thousands of volumes with musical, choreographic and literary folklore have been published during the recent years. 8 volumes with literary folklore and 10 volumes of "Albanian Musical Folklore" have been published in Prishtina.
Albanian cinematography was created after the World War II (1947). The "New Albania" Film Studio (today "Albafilm") was created in 1952. It managed to turn out the first full length feature film "Tana" in 1958.
With the passing of the time, it succeeded in producing 14 feature film yearly. Some of the Albanian feature films are well-known by the European public opinion. Indeed, prizes have been awarded to many Albanian films at different international activities.
The numerous stadiums discovered in the ancient cities are an evidence of the long-standing sports traditions in the country.
Almost all kinds of European sports are known and practiced in Albania. But the most preferable are soccer, basketball, volleyball, boxing, athletics, shooting, weight-lifting, wrestling, etc.
Sports activities are run by Sports Clubs and Federations of the country.
Albanian theatre has long-standing traditions. This is testified by the archaeological excavation of the theatres and amphitheatres dating back to the 4 Th. - 3 rd centuries BC
The amateur theatre comes into existence at the period of National - Renaissance and , it created its tradition in Shkodra, Korca, Gjirokastra and Elbasan.
Albania is the motherland of the famous actor Aleksander Moisiu.
Professional theatrical and variety-show troupes are available in the main cities of the country. The national Theatre, the Opera and Ballet Theatre, Variety-Show and Puppet Theatres conduct their activity in Tirana.
Monuments of Culture
Albania is a country with very ancient civilizations. Not only the local, but also other civilizations, such as Greek, Roman, Byzantine, have left their traces in its territory. Albania has a millenary-long culture and history. The possibility will be provided to you to see their traces in the ancient and relatively new monuments of culture belonging to all the periods and to be fund all over Albania.
Literature and Arts
The first Albanian book is Gjon Buzuku's "Meshari"(1555). The old literature is represented by religious books expressing the resistance towards the Turkish domination. The most outstanding authors of that literature are Pjeter Budi, Fran Bardhi, Pjeter Bogdani, etc.
The Albanian literature assumed vigorous development during the period of National Renaissance. This literature is permeated by illumines and romantic, democratic and folk spirit. The central topic of the creations of that period is the echoing of the heroic past, the struggle for national and social liberation. The most distinguished authors of the literature of National Renaissance are Naim Frasheri, Andon Zako Cajupi, Sami Frasheri, Ndre Mjeda, De Rada, etc.
During the period of Independence, literature continues the patriotic spirit of the period of Renaissance and further deepens its democratic character. Fan Noli, as a publicist, poet, translator as well as a political figure, Migjeni, Lasgush Poradeci, Gjergj Fishta, Ernest Koliqi, Faik Konica, and others, are among the most renowned figures of that period.
After the world war II, socialist realism in literature conditioned its schematic and political character. Despite that, during this period, too, there were realised a number of works of high artistic value. Worth mentioning are the works by Mitrush Kuteli, Ismail Kadare, Dritero Agolli, etc.
The earliest objects of figurative arts belong to prehistoric period (the 6th to the I-St Millennium BC) with Neolithic ceramics and terracotta. The Illyrian art with its distinguishing features is formed in the early Iron Age (1100-500 BC) and continues up to the beginning of the New Era, in particular in the Illyrian cities of Bylis, Amantia. Foinik, Buthrot, etc, and the Hellenic settlements of Durrah, Apolonia, Orik etc.; where there have been unearthed precious works in sculpture, mosaic, ceramic as well as artistic objects made of stone and metal. In the Paleochristian and Byzantine objects there are to be found mural paintings and icons of a high artistic level, such as the frescos of the Monastery of Pojan, the Church of Ristos in Mborja, the epitaph of Gllavnica (1373), which is a masterpiece of art.
A culminating point in the Medieval art is represented by the works of Onufri Qiprioti. Realistic elements of baroque style (David Selenicasi and Kostandin Shpataraku) were introduced in the genre of painting in the 18th century.
During the period of National Renaissance, the figurative arts broke away from religious iconography and treated mostly the patriotic subjects. Kol Idromeno has been the most distinguished painter of this period.
During the period of world war two, there were realised works of art of artistic value, such as the monumental works devoted to national historic events.
The modern figurative arts, freed from the Communist ideology, have assumed a great impetus at present. The Gallery of Figurative Arts, containing many works of high artistic value, is in Tirana.
The country has long-standing traditions in music, dating back to the Illyrian period. In the songs, dances and instrumental works, you will find the temperament and the vivid spirit of the Albanians, the diversity of their spiritual world.
Folk songs and dances have always escorted the Albanians in all the events of their life, in wedding parties and wars, even at funeral ceremonies. Folk music, songs and dances are characteristic and original for each region of the country. The foreigner's attention has been drawn in particular by the polyphonic song of the southern regions, which is the sole technique of the kind in the world.
The Albanian musician Jan Kukuzeli as well as some other hymnographies claimed distinction and were renowned in other countries during the Mediaeval time (XII-th century).
Handicraft in Albania has long-standing traditions. The Illyrians and the Arberesh of early Medieval Time have had a high level of development of handicraft and artistic technique. Worth mentioning here is that the greater part is held by artistic articles adorned with national motifs and the traditions of folk creativity. Such handicraft products are in filigree, wood carvings, cooper engraved vases, alabaster, bone, ceramic, horn, rugs and leather products. These handicraft articles have constantly drawn the attention of foreign tourists for their original values and high artistic technique.
(Published on 26 October 2008 01:51)