Albanian Music and Instruments

Traditional music in Albania is called folk music. It is one of the most valuable assets of the country as it’s extremely rich with a variety of musical instruments used to accompany the voice and folk dances. Polyphony is a typical musical tradition found in the south of Albania. It involves the blending of several independent vocal or instrumental parts.

The most common traditional instrument is the lahute (the lute) in the north and saze (small orchestras composed of four or five instruments which are used to play music for folk dance on special occasions) in the south. Other musical instruments also include Çiftelia, Sharkia, Bicula (double flute), Zumarja, Fyelli (flute) etc.

Albanian folk music has a different style in the North when compared to the South. Differences among these two regions are reflected not only in the form of musical expression but also in the types of instruments used. Shkumbini River, which passes right in the middle of Albania separating the two main dialects of the country, Gheg in North Shkumbini and Tosk in the south of Shkumbin, also serves as a natural border for the classification of the different styles of music. The northern part of river Shkumbin, utilizes the lute and çiftelia while lands that lie south of river Shkumbin are known for the use of specific instruments such as bagpipe and bicula (double flute).

The end of the nineteenth century also marks the creation of a new type of music “the civic folk music”. In the south of Albania, this type of music was mainly found in the cities of Korca, Vlora, Saranda, Delvin, Permet, Leskovik, and Pogradec. They used imported instruments like the clarinet, violin, and accordion, as well as traditional characteristic instruments such as the lute. In the north, the cities of Shkodra, Durres, Elbasan, Kavaja, etc, used a combination of imported instruments such as the clarinet, accordion, and violin, with traditional instruments such as kemanxhia, flute, etc.

There are also differences in the style of songs between the north and south of Albania. Music in the north is generally expressed with mountain epic songs of historical and heroic themes, while songs in the South have a more relaxed and gentle tone taking the form of ballads and covering a wide range of themes from lullabies, love songs, wedding songs to work songs, laments etc.

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