Jun 14, 2014

Random Thoughts | Everyday Ruins vs. Monumental Archeology in Albania

What is the difference between 'ruins' and 'archeology'? 
Do we have the capacity to distinguish one from the other?
What's a 'ruin' and what's 'archeology'?
Are 'ruins' from a past (even) failed ideology (i.e. Piramida) part of our (heritage) 'archeology', or just urban excess/waste (i.e. entrepreneurial opportunities)?  

When speaking about history and heritage, why do we only mention/condemn the 'contemporary' vandal acts upon the 'physical' or 'visible' presence of history (such as mosaics, houses, monuments, i.e. architectural objects) and not the 'cultural' or 'intangible' heritage they have produced? The same cultural foundations that have birthed and enriched our national legacy?

I am (more) offended and shocked by the fact that these vandal acts (and condemning attitudes that follow) clearly manifest (or depending on your optimism suggest) that cultural heritage has already failed us (or it may have never reached us at all) because how else could we explain such disregard, disrespect and plain abuse of fundamentals that has made Albanians (more often than none) proud patriots?  

Why are we louder in condemning acts upon the physical, visible heritage than the acts themselves as a manifestation/product of our dissipated cultural heritage? An alarming symptom of cultural ruin indeed. So, let's not stop at the disgust we feel about 'those people that destroyed that beautiful amphitheater' but tap into our responsibility (as Albanians and their co-patriots) to (re)educate and make them understand the gravity of their ignorance toward what's left of our national legacy.

What worries me is not only how quick rapid 'transitional' modernity (if we dare call it that) have challenged (a better word would be destroyed) the presence of 'physical' historical heritage, but more so how they have castrated the weight of  their our 'cultural' production. We have failed our historical identity (and consequent national legacy) by paralyzing and even wounding a collective memory (supposedly so rich) dating back to antiquity. 

An unfortunate transitional lasting change: haunted by alienated historical 'ruins' and blinded by the glare of towers that now cover them.

Where do we go from here?


Jun 1, 2014

Sunday Beats | Greek-Albanian Folk Dirges

**Creative Sunday Series

A few weeks ago, I came across Christopher King and his collection of rare records when reading a piece on long lost blues musicians Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas and their only surviving record "Last Kind Word Blues". Recently, I checked out his Long Gone "How the Other Half Hears" Series (via) on Easter European, Balkan and Mediterranean musics - and found it to be an awesome source of lost pre-war sounds.

Here's a glimpse of a few featured stories/sounds:

Albanian Traditional Music: An Introduction, with Sheet Music and Lyrics for 48 Songs.
By Spiro J. Shetuni. McFarland & Company, 2011. Sheet Music, Lyrics, Bibliography.
Folk music from Albania, particularly from the Central and Southern regions of the country, is rightly characterized as otherworldly, sublime, and in many instances, incongruent with practically all other European and Baltic musical expressions. The distinction is so great between Albanian music and music from surrounding areas that adjectival descriptors are sometimes tortured in relation to their referents. [...] The only melodious expression that is similar to the song and dance of Central and Southern Albania is the repertoire of Northern Greece, Epirus. 
Geographic isolation is the main reason why the music of Central and Southern Albania (and Northern Greece) is so distinctly different from the rest of the Baltic and surrounding European countries. 
Shetuni divides Albanian folk music into roughly four different dialects (broad styles) that have specific geographic locations and boundaries. Gheg traditional music is found in Northern Albania (Ghegëri), Tosk music is located in Central and Southern Albania (Toskëri), Lab music is found in Southern Albania (Labëri), and Urban music is found in the more densely populated cities throughout Albania. Crucially noted by Shetuni is the fact that Gheg music is almost exclusively monophonic and Tosk, Lab and Urban are primarily polyphonic and instruments normally accompany Gheg and Urban music whereas Tosk and Lab are almost always a cappella. Besides discussing the various sub-dialects and styles found in various villages and regions within a dialect, Shetuni goes to great lengths to describe each stylistic variation based on what he calls core structural groupings.
Five Days Married & Other Laments Song and Dance from Northern Greece 1928-1958

Beyond Rembetika: The Music & Dance of The Region of Epirus


Years of research and obsession have resulted in this, the first collection of recordings by the legendary and masterful Greek folk violinist Alexis Zoumbas. Very few pre-war musicians have tapped deeper into the human soul than Zoumbas and this volume presents his most profoundly hypnotic and unearthly pieces. - via