The development of Albanian literature was countered by Ottoman rule and was long hampered by regional and confessional divisions. Only with the so-called Rilindje, the national renaissance in the latter half of the 19th century, was a modern, uniform national literature founded. A work of great national significance is the humanist Marin Barleti’s Latin Scanner History (1510). In the 1600’s, in northern Catholic Albania, an Albanian-speaking Baroque poem, represented by churchgoers such as Pjetër Budi, emerged. In the 18th century, in southern, Islamic Albania, an influential, popular poetry flourished with Nezim Frakulla and Hasan Zyko Kamberi as the main names.
- Countryaah: Population and demographics of Albania, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.
Prior to independence (1912), the more recent Albanian literature developed mainly in the diaspora, after the Turkish administration banned the spread of Albanian printing in the motherland. Among the Albanians (the Arabs) who emigrated to Italy, a romantic inspired, patriotic poem emerged in the early 19th century, which, with Jeronim De Rada as its main representative, foreshadowed the national renaissance. The portal figures in this movement were the Naim and Sami Frashëri brothers operating in Istanbul. In their aftermath, during the decades around the turn of the century, classic poets such as Filip Shiroka, Ndre Mjeda, Andon Zako-Çajupi, Gjergj Fishta, Asdreni and Zef Serembe appeared.
Great importance for bridging religious or other contradictions was the journal Albania, which was published around the turn of the century in London and Brussels by Faik Konica. During the interwar years, the versatile Fan Noli, the poet Lasgush Poradeci and the prose writer Migjeni. After World War II, Ismail Kadare has emerged as a poet of European rank. Among others that have been noted are Dritëro Agolli.
Classical music and folk music
It was not until the 20th century that European art music began to gain a foothold in Albania, whose music life is still based today on a tradition of popular singing and instrumental plays with very ancient ancestry.
In southern Albania we encounter rock songs, old-fashioned gray songs and multi-voiced songs in groups of either men or women. This multi-part song can be based on a landscape tone (bordoon), or it is a variation over a melody performed by two singers. The structures of the polyphonic song are very complicated.
In northern Albania there is an epic song, to the one-stringed fiddle lahuta or to the two-stringed lute cifteli, about the heroes of ancient times and the present. There is a wealth of wind instruments, such as double flute, double clarinet and bagpipe (gajdë), played with high-powered technology. In the cities there is a ensemble music, influenced by Turkish music, in which clarinet, accordion and short-necked as well as violin are the supporting instruments.
Albania’s popular music was characterized by traditional features during a large part of the 20th century, which was encouraged in patriotic direction during Hoxha’s social government (1944-85). Popular music of western cut could not be developed until the 1990’s after the breakthrough of democracy.
In the early 1900’s, many newly composed or art-arranged urban folk songs were added that are still sung. One of the first artists to popularize this style was the internationally active singer Marie Kraja (1911-99).
Singer Nexhmije Pagarusha (born 1933) from Kosovo has been called “the queen of Albanian music” and during her 40-year career has been active in both classical and traditional music. In a more bubbly, sometimes jazzy, style, Vaçe Zela (1939–2014) sang the Albanian song festival eleven times during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Popular music from Tirana and central Albania has Turkish and Roman features. This music has been spread by singers such as Parashqevi Simaku (born 1966) and Merita Halili, both residing in the United States with a large audience among Albanian emigrant groups. Halili’s husband and accompanist Raif Hyseni is a well-known accordion player and composer.
Albanian rock began to develop in Kosovo as early as the 1960’s; some recent influential groups have been the new wave band Gjurmët (founded in 1980) and the alternative rock group Asgjë Sikur Dielli (founded in 1996).
Since the 1990’s, international popular music styles have also been established in Albania. Many artists mix modern and traditional features such as folk singer Eli Fara (born 1967) and folk pop singer Ardit Gjebrea (born 1963), who is considered Albania’s best-selling artist. A counterpart to Serbia’s turbo people is the tallava genre that emerged in Kosovo, with artists such as Flori Mumajesi (born 1982) and Elvana Gjata (born 1987).
Other popular artists include the Albanian-Italian pop singer Anna Oxa (born 1961), pop singer Alban Skënderaj (born 1982), dance pop singer Tuna from Northern Macedonia (born 1985) and rapper Noizy (born 1988).
Folk culture is akin to other folk cultures in the Balkans but also has unique features. It has a strong position, which has to do with the fact that urban high-rise culture has a weak anchorage and little spread. Behind the strong regional variations lies the medieval divide in small feudal principality and tribal areas.
During the economic development of the 17th and 18th centuries, the small territories grew into two main regions: in the northern lakes and in the southern Tusks, separated by the Shkumbin River. The Albanian settlements are larger than today’s political borders, Kosovo belongs to the northern region, while the settlements in today’s Epirus and northern Macedonia belong to the southern region.
During the 19th century, the Albanian nation formation followed, which to a large extent was based on popular culture. This was because the high-rise culture developed in the cities was largely seen as non-Albanian, Turkish or Muslim. This was greatly reinforced during the socialist regime through the unification of two popular concepts, the bourgeois romantic (what we mean by popular culture in everyday speech) and the socialist (where the people are usually workers). After the Second World War, certain expressions were supported for both of these “peoples” while others, especially those associated with religion, were countered or banned.
After the collapse of the socialist and bourgeois state in Albania, popular culture is one of the few organizing structures in which, in particular, old kinship systems (“clans”) play a significant role.