Albanian Music History

Albanian Music History - an Analysis


Defining the roots of the albanian music...

Most in the western world have mistaken Albanian music as merely Turkish or Greek. Others would argue that the Albanian musical tradition is distingueshed by its originality and provides a solid historical foundation for early European music. Few have acknowledged the fact that Illyricum (today Shqiperia - Albania), was one of the first areas to be influenced by the new Christian liturgy which would have been distributed around the early churches at that time (I -II BC). Also, almost no one is aware that bagpipes have originated from the region of Southern Albania and Northen Greece. The above features have shaped the debate between Albanian and Western musicologists.

We can expand on the fact that early music was used a lot to animate the rituals of different Illyrian tribes. Songs of this time in history would have consisted of a single, simple and repetitive melodic line which would have been accompanied mostly by percussion instruments, backing voices and primitive wind instruments. We do not know if the early harp was widely used in this area before the birth of Christ. The main historical fact that would favour the harp's existence in the Balkans, would be the invasion from the Roman Empire, which would have brought with it, its culture and instruments.

Albania has traditionally been a country which has passed its historical stages under the invasion of other empires and therefore we could assume that its music has a taste of each of these cultures. This continued until the beggining of this century when Albania came out of 500 years of Turkish occupation. Therefore, one can ask the natural question whether such a thing as a truly Albanian music exists or not ! The answer to this question would have to be found only by taking a close look at the character of the Albanian people. People who have always wanted freedom, family life; People who were used to fighting and isolating themselves. The constant invasions have continuously obliged the Albanians to isolate themselves in the high mountains, where they would loose touch with the neighbouring world. Therefore we could argue that because of this isolasion, their music could have been better preserved, probably more than that of some other countries.

So, what has been preserved by these people? Let us take a deeper look at what we find in Albania during this century. Until the second half (1945-1955), the entire musical life of Albania was determined by folk music. This is characterized by archaic forms and practices that can provide information on previous stages of musical development in Europe. Few sources are available for scientific investigation as field research projects have not covered the whole country. Ramadan Sokoli's collection and studies, the material from Eric Stockman's German-Albanian expedition and the activities of the Institute of Folklore of the University of Tirana have contributed considerably to research work.


There is a clear and marked difference, particularly in the vocal folk music, between the northen and southern parts of the country, divided by the Shkumbin River. The Gegs (north) have a tradition of monophonic singing whereas the Tosks (south) have developed many types of part-singing, probably more than any other region in Europe; much of it may belong to the earliest stratum of European vocal poliphony.

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