Reminiscing while listening to Saz’Iso CD- “At Least Wave Your Handkerchief At Me”/
By Merita B McCormack,- Washington DC/
A friend from Albania came to visit us last month and as a gift to the multiple hosts in USA, she brought each the now famous CD of “Saz’Iso” ‘s “At Least Wave the Handkerchief at Me”. This latest CD is a recording of an Albanian group of seven artists who have provided a fantastic rendering of several songs and dances produced by Joe Boyd, Edit Pula and Andrea Goertler. It is engineered by Jerry Boys and recorded in Tirana Marubi Academy of Film, in Albania and published by Carthage Music. The artists are : Donika Pecallari,(vocal) Adrianna Thanou,(vocal) Robert Tralo, (vocal)Aurel Qirjo,(violin and vocal) , Telando Feto, (clarinet), Agron Murat, (llaute/lute), Agim Nasi (frame drum/dajre), Pellumb Meta,(fyell/flute/vocal).
Joe Boyd is well known professional of the industry in the western world and more.
My friend Maria K, who brought the CD, said to me before opening it: “I know that you, being from Korca, will like this the best.” I looked at her wondering what could it might be and was wondering what was in the thin, well wrapped package. I gathered it was a CD, but was thinking some Albanian talk on something important, and thought if music, it probably was a CD with some Serenata Korcare. But yet, my friend is a Catholic Consecrated Lay Woman, so she could not possible bring that to me. But who knows, I am Korcare after all.
As I opened it, I saw the CD, for which I was aware. Had heard a program about it on NPR and had shared that. But I had not had a chance to have seen or heard the whole list. I had heard who were the singers, had searched their songs and revisited the Youtube links many times. Many times have played and enjoyed but there has been never a CD of this quality and this selection, carefully chosen, masterfully arranged and recorded.
As soon as I got the CD, I put it on my car’s CD player slot and drove away on that snowy and icy day. Soon enough I was crying. Had to stop somewhere to take a photo of the CD’s cover and posted it on my Facebook. Wanted to share with my friends but also wanted to wipe my tears away. Then drove away turning the volume up, and if felt that route “7 West” was the Ruga e Sportit in Korca, where I had so many memories walking up and down after many rehearsals and concerts and where had heard and sung such songs.
The next morning I got a message from one of the artists, Donika Pecallari, who didn’t know if I was Albanian or not, due to my last name, but she was so kind and wanted to thank me for posting about the CD on Facebook.
I had to smile at her gesture and thought that hers, was so typical of an Albanian woman, such great humility and admirable generosity. Donika and her co-stars perhaps do not realize in its fullness what great favor she and her friends have done to all Albanians and me. Donika and I chatted a little on the messenger and I expressed my desire to write a bit and asked her some questions. As she was responding to my questions she told me all about it and how it started, what happened and supplied a wealth of information about the now beautiful Saz’Iso. Then I looked up some more and I found that the success of Saz”iso is huge. They have been performing while touring several countries and there are many raving review. As I mentioned NPR had a piece and BBC broadcasted during a Live program the “Tana song”.
While many of you may have heard about it, some may have not, some may know of the non Albanian reviews and some not, but if you have few minutes to spare, these are some thoughts that came to my mind as I heard over and over again these beautiful pieces of our darling music, music that I knew since the day I began to perceive the world around me, but never appreciated then the way I do now.
Albanians throughout the centuries have been all about family. The art has reflected that dynamic and the love, whether is tough love or just affection, compassion, mourning or joy. It is there, manifested at weddings and funerals, in its fullness..
For example, Tana’s song is such a beautiful ballad, talks about a shepherd being killed and how the sister heard about it through shepherd’s flute melody. The legend has it that as she flies over the mountains, the places the horse galloped caught fire and afterwards roses took roots and grew. Today those flowers are called the “Fire Flowers or Tana’s Roses” The love between parents and children and siblings is a characteristic of all nations, but for some reason, amongst Albanians is like a national virtue. A small nation, striving to always survive, caught between East and West, has nothing else to hold on but God and family. Hence the other familial love song “Nenockë – Mother dear” hits you and strikes you, leaving a long lasting emotional impact. There is not a single time that I hear that song and do not get teary eyed. And I believe many feel the same. The tone is so beautiful but mourning also. All these, integrated in song, deliver perfectly the emotion.
“Trendafili Flete –Fletë – The Petaled Rose “ song is also a beautiful song signaling the end of bachelor days and transformation to a bridegroom, as he is about to marry. There are so many songs like this in Albania. All were sung at certain events and during the week of the wedding. There are songs to prepare for the engagement, to get engaged, to have a bachelor / bachelorette party, all then culminating with the wedding feast. Some of the Dances fit in this category, as they indicate a team building effort among friends, whether is expresses joy or sorrow.
This is known as Eros and is so characteristic of many folk songs in Albania. It is so beautifully illustrated through the songs like “ Penxherene e Zotrise Sate – The window of your ladyship”, “Goce e Berberit- The Barber’s daughter”, “Beje Dru ne Percellime – Cutting Wood on the Burned Winter Slope” are mostly songs that are sung to court or date the young, single ladies,. The ways the rhymes go are simple, but so meaningful. The Albanian folk music would be incomplete without such songs. They are sung by both sexes and no one ever questions that, something that in other cultures might be misunderstood. Every time that someone gets engaged or married, the never ending days of celebration, each have relevant songs, expressing the state of life at the given moment, thus, courting, dating, engagement and finally the wedding are all celebrated appropriately and romantic love through songs is centerpiece. Sometimes listening to the lyrics, someone might say, lucky those who understand and lucky those who don’t J . But for the Albanians, they are just part of life.
There are songs and dances like “Osman Taka Dance “ “Doli Laceja nga Stani” and even the story off “Kaba with clarinet” that illustrate the sacrifice and the motivation to fight for the love of country and to protect others. Albanian folk music is full of such masterpieces and the Southern Part is as rich as the North. The mourning songs, the ballads singing to heroes are plenty. The songs that show national pride and praising victories are many, as there are those of mourning the fallen for freedom. Seldom you attend an event that does not have all these types of songs or dances, whether be a wedding or an Albania’s Independence Party. It includes all.
We who grew up with these songs and dances were not as appreciative at the time when we were hearing them almost daily, but as time goes by, we realize what we miss and how much we miss them. We do realize how much we love and appreciate them now. Being abroad, away from our motherland we do realize what gems we have. And this is the reason for writing this article, for which I had never planned, but it took a foreigner (Joe B.) to provide such a CD to rekindle in me the longing for my own art and enjoy it very much. Thank you! And it took seven hard working brothers and sisters of mine, and their assisting families and teams to render such beautiful art. To all of you, thank you!
Wishing all a Blessed and Happy St. Valentine’s Feast Day, I invite everyone to hear the beautiful Albanian music and not just on CD, but hear it all and enjoy it. It has much to offer.