Sunday, September 21, 2008

The music of Drenica, or an uncritical aesthetic study on the hill-country folk music vernacular of Western Kosovo part one

The Albanian music which has been fed through to the west via a small and steady circulation of 'world music' compact discs and records over the years have often misrepresented the cannon of this particular brand of eastern European music.

As far as music from the Albanian music of Kosovo is concerned, little information en Anglais can be found on the music of Drenica, a small rural area of in the center-west of Europe's newest nation. Worse still, the information available from Albanian language sites offers precious little information.

Drenica is a place where most (if not all) conflicts between Albanians and Serbians tend to come from. It's hilly, harsh and its music is a reflection of countless years of Serbian oppression through story-telling. It's almost exclusively male-orientated amongst its players and listeners alike and a style that's exclusive to this region in terms of song-structure and instrumentation.

For many years leading up of Yugoslavia's disintergration in the early 1990s, the state-run RTP - Radio Television Prishtina issued cassettes of Kosovo-Albanian music (the most popular format amongst Albanians for as long as I can remember), as did the Jugoton label - both during the time Kosovo was a province within the former Yugoslavia. The music released on these labels didn't profile Drenicak music for the most part.

The music that was released on RTP and Jugoton tended to have a commerical and near-pop slant, creating very little opportunity for veteran folk artist Rizah Bllaca (see photo) to put down a 33 minute rendering of Bajram Begu e Hasan Prishtina.

With the dissolve of Serbian control over Kosovo, independent labels have since released a healthy amount of CDs and DVDs of Albanian music not heard outside of flea market bootlegs. One must understand first and foremost that this style of folk music coming out of Drenica was banned by the Yugoslav authorities at the time due to its strongly anti-authoritarian sentiment in its songs. Performances were limited to impromptu shows in people's houses and thus predating the post-punk craze by a few good years.

The focus in the lyrics are more often than not a oral account of Kosovo's history which pays homage to its freedom fighters from the post-Ottoman years to former US president Bill Clinton.

A featured clip here is a home recording of Rizah Bllaca performing Vajtimi e Avdies (Mourning of Avdi) with a Sharki, a five string instrument which is rarely performed as a solo instrument.

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