National Folk Festival of Gjirokastra makes a comeback

National Folk Festival of Gjirokastra makes a comeback

IBNA Special Report

Tirana, February 26, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

The most important event of the communist years in Albania, makes a comeback to bring the tradition of Albanian folk music.

The National Folk Festival of Gjirokastra will be held for a week in a row in the south of the country. The festival will take place in the Castle and Historical Center of the museum city of Gjirokaster, a world heritage site protected by UNESCO. This festival is considered by the Albanian ministry of Culture as one of the most important events of spiritual values, which enables the representation of all geographical areas of national cultural heritage.

“The holding of the National Folk Festival, “Gjirokastra 2015” aims at protecting, preserving and propagating the best values of non material heritage, ethno-musical, ethno-graphical and ethno-chorographical values, folk costumes, musical instruments, rituals, traditions, crafts, culinary, etc, created throughout the centuries by the Albanian people”, says minister of Culture, Mirela Kumbaro.

In fact, this is the icon festival of Albanian authentic music. In the years of communism, it was held every four years and was considered very important.

Experts say that the festival will help in preserving, promoting and spreading of the best musical, chorographical and ethno-graphical values inherited through the centuries. The festival also aims at attracting the young generation in activities of non material heritage. This is expected to pass these values from one generation to another; the festival will also see the presentation of ancient creations, thus protecting the purity of origin.

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Expeditions and studies throughout the country

Sources from the National Committee of Non Material Heritage, told IBNA that preparations for the National Folk Festival of Gjirokastra (NFF) started several months ago. 12 prefectures of the country will be represented by 12 groups with around 50 artists. Around 1200 folk artists are expected to participate in the NFF.

In order to respect the values of cultural diversity and cohabitation, the programs of each district will also include cultural values of the national minorities that live within the territory of the prefecture.

NFF will also see the participation of three artist groups from Kosovo, two groups from Albanians of FYR Macedonia and a group from the Albanians of Montenegro. Present in this festival will also be groups from the Arberesh of Italy, Albanians living in the USA, Greece, Turkey, Switzerland and there will also be a show from the National Ensemble of the Folk Songs and Dances.

The jury will award prices for the best districts, genres and performers. There will also be awards for the best folk poem, the group with the best authentic folk clothes and the best cultural diversity.

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Research brings discovery

The organizers of the festival say that the best groups have been selected. After the presentation concerts from groups of every county, there will also be a joint concert. There, experts will continue their selection based on scientific criteria, in order to determine the groups that will participate in the final week of NFF.

During their expeditions and preparations, ethno-choreographs from Tropoja have studied and documented three rare ritual and musical findings of this area.

It’s believed that they will be the surprise of the Festival of Gjirokastra. Organizers are not willing to offer details until the start of the festival.

Folklorists of the North Cultural Center (Kukes) have also announced new original stuff, but they do not offer any details either.

Denaturalization of folk music must be stopped

Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Art Studies is an institution specialized in the domain of cultural heritage. Its experts say that they have determined the scientific criteria of representation, in order to avoid the problems that have been encountered up until today in terms of the denaturalization of folk music, amortization in the presentation of folk costumes, etc.

In fact, this is the biggest problem that Albanian folk music encounters. Singers of the last 25 years have done everything to destroy the true folk by aiming commercialism and quick gains. Folk songs have been misused and modified. In many cases, even their presentation is unacceptable, with costumes which have nothing in common with tradition.

Thus, the minister of Culture says that “this Festival will avoid shows that naturalize folklore and excess tendencies and elements of show and amateurism”.

Cataloging of national values

Ministry of Culture says that it wants to protect, study, spread and digitalize cultural heritage. For several months, the ministry is working to create a data base for all cultural and artistic groups, rhapsodists and artists of folklore.

The cataloging made so far shows that on a national level, there are 80 cultural-artistic groups, 75 folk ensembles, 36 folk rhapsodists, 34 folk orchestras and 20 artisans who make folk costumes.

“This data base has helped in determining the state of folk costumes, because there have been cases of deformation, degrading and abuses and also amateurism in their presentation on the stage”, says the minister of Culture.

On a national level, the state of folk costumes appears to be in a miserable state. In 8 municipalities, 25% of these costumes are damaged, in 40% of them there are shortages, 20% can be used on the stage and 15% have many deformations.

During the communist regime, the festival used to take place every four years. It stopped at the start of ‘90s and made a comeback with the ninth edition in 2009. //ibna/