Albanian music and musicians.

Albanian music displays a variety of influences. Along with modern music, folk music is one of the most popular genre in Albania. There are many folk singers and ensembles. Classical music is also known in Albania. The main modern genres include: pop, hip hop,rock, and jazz.

Folk music in Albania

Although traditional music of Albania is very characteristic, it is less investigated between other European folk musics. This folk music represent a deep culture and artistic heritage of Albania. This music exists alongside Balkan and Mediterranean music but it has its own characteristic too. What is fascinating is there are diverse types of music and culture in a small area and among many different ethnic groups. Albania was ruled by Enver Hoxha’s socialist government for many years. During this period, there were lots of restriction for Albanian folk music. After 1991, the traditional music of Albania found its way to freedom again.

Classical music in Albania

When Paloke Kurti (1860-1920) wrote the “The Unity of Albania March” in 1878, Albania was still a long way from establishing a classical or professional music tradition. Kurti was a musical amateur, singer, instrumentalist and composer educated in the popular music of his native city, Shkodra, in northern Albania. Albanian musical form took its first real steps towards professionalism during the second decade of the 20th century with its main initiator, the Franciscan priest, Padre Martin Gjoka (1890-1940) who has the distinction of being the first person in Albania to compose classical music in different genres. Following the classical music tradition of Bach and Handel, Gjoka wrote polyphonic and choral works as well as an unfinished symphony. He can also be considered the first Albanian musician who showed serious interest in traditional Albanian folk music, mostly that of the deep mountainous areas which was less influenced by Eastern music. However, because of the lack of musical institutions and any system of professional music education, his works remained an isolated phenomena – they were performed mostly by amateurs and heard only in small circles. Nevertheless, thanks to Gjoka and a few other musicians of his time, Shkodra became the most important focus of musical life in Albania during the period between the two wars and, especially, after WWII. There, the first orchestral and choral groups were formed and the first musicals were staged, practices that later spread to the southern city of Korça. As a result, Shkodra became the center of education for some of the most distinguished representatives of the first generation of Albanian composers during the second half of the 1900s.

Preng Jakova

(1917-1969), who studied clarinet at the Conservatory “Santa Cecilia” of Rome, wrote mostly vocal music. With his operas “Mrika” (1958) and, later, “Scanderbeg” (1968), he is known as the creator of the Albanian national opera. As a composer with lyric inspiration, he wrote under the influence of the traditional Italian opera of the 19th century and in the operatic style of belcanto, at the same time involving the intonations of Albanian songs and dances.

There is no doubt that the most famous composer in Albania of all the time is Çesk Zadeja (1927-1997), also born and raised in Shkodra, and rightly called the father of Albanian classical music. Zadeja graduated in music composition from the Conservatory “P.I. Tchaikovsky” in Moscow, and from 1956 until the end of his life, he propogated his artistic activities in Tirana. He was one of the founders of the Music Conservatory of Tirana, the Theatre of Opera and Ballet, and the Assembly of Songs and Dances. Equally important were Zadeja’s teaching activities as the founder of the Academy of Arts in Tirana and its professor of music composition for 30 years. Under his direction, well-known figures of Albanian classical music were educated. Zadeja’s musical repertoire spawned the formation of classical music tradition in Albania after he wrote his first symphony in 1956. He also composed two ballets, several concertos for instruments and orchestra, dozens of symphonic pieces, several sonnets, music for trio and quartet, etc. Zadeja’s compositions are distinguished for their polished technique and for the rational integration of intonational structures of rhythm and timbre of the most valued Albanian folk music.

During the second half of this century, Albanian music had to confront major challenges resulting from the absence of true professional tradition. This is one of the reasons that its musical development concentrated mainly on classic-romantic styles. The Albanian classical musical scene during 1950-1990 is replete with names such as Tish Daia (b. 1926), the composer of the first Albanian ballet “Halili and Hajria”, Nikolla Zoraqi (1928-1991), a composer with very wide and complex activities that include some short instrumental and vocal pieces for opera and ballet; Tonin Harapi (1925-1991), who was one of the first piano teachers at the national level; Feim Ibrahimi (1935-1997), who, with two concertos for piano during 1970-1980, played a sensitive role in the emancipation of the Albanian musical theatre; Shpetim Kushta (b. 1943), Thoma Gaqi (b. 1949) and others.

With the advent of democracy in 1990, Albanian music had to confront new challenges. Liberation from the constraints of state dictatorship and ideology resulted in the creation of completely new musical structures. Two important musical groups – “The Society of Music Professionals” and “The Society of New Albanian Music” – were formed during 1991-1992, and both became members of the most prestigious European and world musical organizations. Recruiting the best talents and performers of the country into these societies created a different environment for Albanian music and accelerated integration into the world contemporary music scene. Since 1992, the Society of New Albanian Music has organized annual Festivals of New Music while the Society of Music Professionals directs the concerts of New International Chamber Music. Among the composers who are most active in Albania today are Aleksander Peçi (b. 1951), Sokol Shupo (b. 1954), Vasil Tole (b. 1963), and Endri Sina (b. 1968).

Internationally recognised musicians from Albania

Rita Ora

Rita Ora was born in Pristina, Kosovo. She became the artist with the most number-one singles on the UK Singles Chart in 2012, with three consecutive singles reaching the top position. She was nominated for three Brit Awards at the 2013 ceremony. Her single, “I Will Never Let You Down”, became her fourth UK number one when it debuted at the top of the charts in 2014. Also in 2014, Ora featured on Iggy Azalea’s single, “Black Widow”, which reached number three in the US. In 2015, Ora became a coach on the fourth series of The Voice UK, and later that year, a judge on the twelfth series of The X Factor.

Petrit Çeku

Petrit Çeku, was born in June 2, 1985 in Prizren, Kosovo. He was inspired to play guitar from his father at the age of six.In 2002 Petrit Çeku was invited to study in Zagreb, Croatia at the Pavao Markovac school of music. In 2008, he graduated from the Zagreb Academy of Music. From 2009-2013 he went on to study with the great master, Manuel Barrueco, at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, USA. He has won many awards such as first prize in Maurizio Biasini International Guitar Competition, Bologna, Italy in 2011, first prize in Parkening International Guitar  Competition, Malibu, California in 2012 etc.

Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa was born in albanian family from Kosovo. Lipa grew up listening to her father, the Kosovan rock singer Dukagjin Lipa.At the age of 14 she began posting covers of her favourite songs by artists such as Christina Aguilera and Nelly Furtado on YouTube.In 2015 Lipa began working on her debut album for Warner Bros. Records. In August 2015 she released her first single “New Love”.She released her second single “Be the One,” written by Lucy “Pawws” Taylor, in October 2015. Her first tour in the UK and Europe began in January 2016

Era Istrefi

Era Istrefi, known as simply Era, is an Albanian Kosovar singer and songwriter. In June 2014, she won three Videofest awards for her music videos, including “Best New Artist” for her work in 2013. In January 2016, Era began achieving international attention due to the release of her single “BonBon”, reaching 30 million views on YouTube. Following the single’s success, she was signed to American record labels Sony Music Entertainment and Ultra Music in February 2016.

Bebe Rexha

Bebe Rexha was born in Brooklyn, New York City to ethnic Albanian parents who emigrated to the United States during the 1980s.She is best known for being featured on Cash Cash’s “Take Me Home”, David Guetta’s “Hey Mama”, and for singing “Me, Myself & I” in duet with G-Eazy. She started her career as the lead vocalist of the American band Black Cards created by Pete Wentz, and co-wrote the number-one US Billboard Hot 100 song “The Monster” by Eminem featuring Rihanna.

Anna Oxa

Ilirjana Hoxha, known as Anna Oxa, is a famous Albanian singer, actress and television presenter in Italy. She became famous through her numerous appearances in the prestigious Festival of Sanremo, the most famous Italian national music festival. She won two awards at this festival which helped put her on the map.

Ermal Meta

Ermal Meta is an Italian-Albanian singer and songwriter born in the central Albanian town of Fier. He won the prestigious Festival of Sanremo in February 2018 with a beautiful song dedicated to the victims of the wars. He recently participated in the Eurovision song contest representing Italy.

Action Bronson

Arian Asllani, better known as Action Bronson, is an American rapper, reality television star and chef who was born in 1983 in New York City to an Albanian Muslim father and an American Jewish mother. Throughout his career, he has worked with famous artists, such as Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Prodigy, and Kendrick Lamar.