Sunday, October 5, 2008

The music of Drenica, or an uncritical aesthetic study on the hill-country folk music vernacular of Western Kosovo part two: Turbo-Folk v Gangsta Folk

With the advent of Turbo-Folk music filtering through the Balkans in recent decades, true folk music of Drenica becomes more scarce as the years roll on. In case you're wondering, Turbo-Folk is when you put a dance beat over some traditional instruments to give it a more modern sheen. That's the most short-hand explanation of it, anyway.

If you've heard the original Borat theme from when it was on the Ali G show, then you'll know what I'm talking about. And yes, that's a Drenica-born and bred artist performing the theme song - not a Kazak.

I'm straying away from what I wanted to showcase, and that's what I call Gangsta-Folk. No eighties Mercedes Benzes with German plates doing drive-bys along rocky mountain ways, but plenty of gold teeth and gun-waving.

This video is from Vllezerit Qetaj (the Qetaj Brothers), who formed in the early sixties and are familiar faces on DVD and video collections of Kosovar folk groups. The best environment to hear Albanian music is much like this Youtube clip I happened to find. The title of the song is loosely-translated as Stop Serbia For I See Smoke says it all, and as will the guy you see at 1:29 letting a few bullets go out the window during the performance.

The players sit in a circle in the middle of a usually rectangular men's room. As you can see in the clip, there's a bit of goulash and caustic Russian tea doing the rounds so therefore I'd be safe in saying this was someone's wedding or a young boy's circumcision party.

The instrumentation is typical of a musical group of this area, with Cifelti (a two-stringed lute instrument tuned B-E), Sharki (its larger five stringed cousin), piano accordion and a def, a skinned tambourine.

This is the music of Drenica at its wildest and most unhinged.

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