Mentor Xhemali is a prominent lyric and folk singer of Permeti.
He was raised in a family famed for their love and skillful performance of folk songs of Permeti. In 1943, like many young Albanians, he joined the ranks of the partisan army for the liberation of Albania. He took an active part in music formations of the partisan army, and with the creation of the Army Ensemble by musician Gaqo Avrazi, he became a choirmaster. After the liberation of the country, in 1952-1955 he studied bass at the P.I.Tajkovski Conservatory in Moscow. Later he started work as a soloist at the Opera and Ballet Theater in Tirana, where he performed most of the roles that were assigned to him. He makes a successful career, and in 1975 he was awarded the “People’s Artist”. He retires in 1977. He was distinguished for the skillful performance of the song “For You Homeland”, the romance “O You Mountains” by Cesk Zadeja, arie Don Bazilios from “The Barber of Seville” opera by Rossini etc. He stood out for making his singing voice fuller, deeper while singing in lower notes.
It was in 1977 when Mentor Xhemali kicked off performing folk songs in public. For the first time he recorded folk songs during the filming of “Gramophone General” directed by Viktor Gjika, along with another singer from Permeti, Ylli Zeqiri. The 1977 songs are also well known to all Albanian music lovers such as “Taking the road to Ioannina” and “I caught the nightingale of dew”.
Since this collaboration proved successful, Mentor Xhemali establishes a permanent communication with the city of Permeti and in particular with the skillful clarinetist Laver Bariu, with whom he records about 30 memorial songs at Radio Tirana. After the 90s he performs concerts abroad such as in France, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Germany etc together with Lela family performers of Permeti folk songs.
It is the collaboration with another master of Albanian folk music such as Cobani which helped enrich the musical fund with some other pearls of music. Together with Lela family folk singers, Mentor Xhemali has recorded and released several songs on CD in France in 1992. Mentor Xhemali’s singing in both opera and folk song remains a unique case for the values he created in these two areas. Among the songs recorded by Mentor Xhemali at Radio Tirana in 1979-1991 are:
“Like Rooster’s Feathers”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1979,
“Let’s move Out to Lipa”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1979,
“The nightingale of dew”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1979,
“I Took the Road to Ioannina”, M. Xhemali & Y.Zeqiri, 1979,
“You cut off the fringe”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1979,
“Where’s bridegroom going to”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1979,
“Wedding Song Potpourri”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1979,
297 “Potpourri”, Saze of Permet, 1980,
“White grapes and black grapes”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1982,
“On the tenth of February”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1991,
“Wedding Song Potpourri”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1991,
“The Handkerchief”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1991,
“The rooster”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1991,
“Staying Out in the Garden”, M. Xhemali & Y. Zeqiri, 1991,
He will remain one of the most prominent figures of vocal art, one of the biggest basses, a revered name of Albanian art and music. Every time his name is mentioned he will be remembered for the great song “For you Fatherland” which became an Albanian anthem. Mentor Xhemali passed away in Tirana, on April 9, 1992.