Music of Northern Albania

The Northern part of Albania is known for the performance of a variety of epic song. They are mainly about Skanderbeg, a legendary 15th century warrior who led the struggle against the Turks, as well as about the Albanians’ honor, hospitality, besa (promise), bravery etc. The traditions of the Northern part of Albania have passed from generation to generation in a form of oral history, necessary for a society that, until the early 20th century, relied on blood feuds as its “primary means of law enforcement.

These epic songs are accompanied by a lahuta, a one-stringed fiddle, found in the northern highlands. Somewhat further south, around Dibër and Kërçovë in Macedonia, the lahuta is not used, replaced by the çifteli, a two-stringed instrument in which one string is used for the drone and one for the melody. Though men are the traditional performers, women have increasingly been taking part in epic balladry.

Ciftelia is beautifully combined with folk instruments of different genres such as: bishnica, bilbili, sharkia, etc., being part of instrumental formations. Ciftelia has traditionally been used mainly in Kosovo, Northern Albania, but it also descends to the provinces of Central Albania and partly to some regions of South-East Albania.

Homemade wind instruments are traditionally used by shepherds in northern Albania; these include the zumarë, an unusual kind of clarinet. This shepherds’ music is “melancholic” in tone.

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