When traveling alone you are alone; when you travel in two you get into a fight; but if you travel in three you will surely start singing ”. (Albanian proverb)
There is a civilization that is never told in history books, because it is made of ancient sounds, scents and emotions. We hardly notice that it is disappearing along with the tolling of bells played by the old sacristan, the street vendor of umbrellas, the flock that passes in the middle of the town, the talk made in the town square, the storyteller who moves from town to town .
They are sounds that we no longer hear, not only because they are replaced by the traffic and overcrowding of our cities, but because we no longer have time for our "feeling". It would require a different attention, like food for the health-conscious now, for the religious the quiet to pray, for animalists the endangered animal species.
There is also the sonorous arbérèshe civilization, scattered in our South, in which for more than 500 years the sounds paint Byzantine icons, madonnas odigitrie, papàs dressed in black with long white beards, vallje (dances) in the streets.
Here the sounds are those of the songs of the diaspora from Albania, of the Greek Orthodox rite, of wedding parties and serenades, of funeral lamentations and of work in the fields. It is an entire sound civilization that must resist the massification made continuously by TV and the mass media, the approval imposed by the dominant culture, the disinterest of "those" young people accustomed to "consume" music continuously, but not really listen to it.
An entire civilization that is told through its music and its dances, in the arberisht (its language), with beautiful a cappella songs, or accompanied by obsolete instruments such as the sordulina bagpipe, the Calabrian lyre, the battente guitar, the most of the vaults built by itself, by peasants and shepherds. Dances and music have always been considered minor expressions of the arbérèshe culture, just as popular music is generally considered ignorant compared to classical music.
After all, how long did it take to recognize the musical and cultural dignity of the Neapolitan "classical" song, or to include the songs of De Andrè and De Gregori in Italian Poetry and insert them in school textbooks? We are serving a cultural snobbery from which we must also mark our literature, supporting the revaluation of those musical expressions, through which popular culture is expressed orally. Above all the ethno-folk arbérèshe, which rightly, and certainly more than others, can be called ethno, as an instrument, through orality, of construction and identity assertion.
Music, in fact, is the instrument with which the Italian-Albanian community tells itself and the Diaspora from the land of the eagles, reaffirms the common descent and strengthens the identity bonds, recalls shared values and condemns social infringements, mourns socialization and emphasizes the social occasions of encounter. As a privileged expression of orality, it accompanies and explains the individual and collective dimension of double identity, prayer, work, mourning, serenades and holidays. On the socio-anthropological level it can therefore be said that music reproduces all the historical and psychological travails of the People of the Diaspora, expresses the value system and the emic dimension of identity. This is also evident from the superficial reading of the lyrics of songs like Ce me pe ti, zog ?, or E Ikura, even without arriving to the masterly interpretation "a cappella" of the Lamento for the death of Skanderbeg by Silvana Licursi, careful and refined culinary of the arbérèshe culture.
E ìkura, by Silvana Licursi
But on a strictly musicological level it becomes even more interesting for the echoing of the Albanian iso-polyphonic music, already recognized by Unesco, in the polyphonic music arbérèshe of female groups such as the Vjesh of San Costantino Albanese, but not only.
Arbëreshë Polyphony, Le Vjesh - Gjirokaster Festival
The Vjesh rely on the collaboration of the ethnomusicologist Nicola Scaldaferri, who carried out a profound philological research of arbérèshe texts and an in-depth musicological examination concerning the movement of the parts, highlighting that the choral structure of these songs includes a superior voice of singing and others two of harmony, with a third that works as a drone.
In San Costantino, as in most of the countries of the Arberia, songs the Ce me pe ti, zog? sung by the Vjesh, they accompany the Vallje, the traditional dances, on the Tuesday after Easter, the day in which the national hero Skanderbeg on the Turks, the 24 April 1467, Easter day, occurs. On these occasions the women wear the Llambadhor, the beautiful traditional costume and sing the Vjershë, the ancient songs that refer to Moti i Madh (The great age).
They parade through the streets of the festive village, forming a sort of "U" chain and holding hands or handkerchiefs. At the head of the semicircle are the "caporali" (also called "bastoni" in other places), that is the men who lead the group. These dances, which are born as the historical re-enactment of the epic deeds of Skanderberg, with time have turned into a "trap" for someone from the public, usually a foreigner or a tourist, who is taken to the nearest bar to offer a drink to the members of the group, in exchange for "freedom".
The most complex issue is, instead, that of the liturgical chants of the Byzantine tradition of the Arbérèshe of Piana degli Albanesi, also these recognized World Heritage by UNESCO (2005). The Songs of the Eparchy of Lungro, did not obtain this important recognition, even though they boast the same specificity (as the musical system of reference is always of a modal type) and the Byzantine derivation itself.
In fact the ethnomusicologist Girolamo Garofalo maintains that "The musical grammar of the arbérèshe liturgical repertoire, analogous to the ancient music of the Mediterranean, the Gregorian Chant and the cultures of ethnomusicological interest, is not based on tonal sensitivity and on the opposition between major and minor modes that characterizes Eurocult music. His musical system is in fact modal and refers to the Byzantine theory of oktoichos. "
So does arbérèshe music refer to both the Byzantine monody and the Albanian iso-polyphony?
It is a fascinating hypothesis, but it must still be confirmed by the necessary scientific evidence. It is within the scope of this brief discussion to establish how much the liturgical chants of Piana degli Albanesi are close to those of the Eparchy of Lungro; how much the polyphony of San Costantino Albanese is close to the Albanian iso-polyphony çam or lab; or how much the music of the Arberia is today influenced by the melurgic tradition, by the pizzica or by the taranta, etc. etc.
What is worth emphasizing here is the importance of these processes of variation and reworking of music, as well as of arbérèshe dance; or if we want the importance of those processes of assimilation-processing-expulsion that the musical and dance arts arbérèshe are able to operate according to their own utility, creating atmospheres of profound spiritual adhesion and of great emotional suggestion and psychology, in order to favor those processes of self-identification that reinforce the sense of belonging of each arbérèshe to its own community.
If in the Albanian isopolyphonic music the opposition is of the type I / they (singer / choir), in the arbérèshe music this tension melts to become monody, intimate and personal song that tells of a loss experience (from klloshar), the remorse for the Homeland left, the price of poverty (not only material) suffered for the maintenance of one's identity.
The transformation of Vallje over time, from an epic tale and re-enactment of Skanderbeg's warlike deeds (the hero who always distinguished himself for his ability to surprise the enemy and lure him "ambushes"), to historical nemesis (or self-repair) and a moment of celebration for the whole community, it reflects precisely this ability of the arbérèshe culture to incorporate and metabolize, reconcile and merge heterogeneous elements belonging both to the dominant Italian culture and to the Albanian culture of origin. So in the dance, the "enemy" slowly replaces "the foreigner" and then "the tourist", which once incorporated in the ridda, "redeems its freedom" by paying everyone to drink.
Also on the musical level he can speak of a sort of musical syncretism arbérèshe, if it is true that in the arbérèshe music is detectable both the Byzantine monody and the Albanian polyphony. A similar process has also taken place at the linguistic level where arberish, as some scholars maintain, has merged the Northern dialect with the South Albanian dialect, making use also of local and Italian dialectal loans, especially for the terms that did not exist in the 16th century (for example antenna, television, etc.).
In short, in the Arberia everything is music and sound: even the obscure and musical language of women who sit outside their doors at night, to tell; the nenie that the shepherds play with the sorduline bagpipes; the trampling of donkeys and mules that bring peasants to the countryside in the morning; the regular and mechanical noise of the frames still in use; the voices of children playing in the street.
On the strictly musical level, on the other hand, personalities such as Anna Stratigò, multiform interpreter of music and arbereshity, promoter of a thousand initiatives and tireless cultural promoter operate; groups like the Peppa Marriti and the Spasulati; instrumentalists like Cataldo Perri; artists who make auteur music, impossible to mention them all, or who have let themselves be seduced by the contaminations of jazz and gravitate around the artistic and managerial figure of Franco Stezzi, who directs the Centro Jazz Calabria.
Then there are the sounds of the feast, the Vallje and the songs of the Rites of the Greek Orthodox liturgy related to Easter and weddings celebrated in beautiful traditional costumes. On these occasions, the iconic suggestion of the beautiful Byzantine churches and icons, of the papa's red and purple vestments and their gestures, processions and the many religious representations that take place on the street is added to the profound suggestion of the music and the melurgia.
Anyone who ventures into the Arberia will have the impression of traveling through a huge musical park, a magical sound civilization, both ancient and new, expressed through orality, which from time to time becomes language, mythical tale and music . If even this was not enough to give the music of Arberia the character of the immaterial Good of humanity, we must think that this represents an entire sonorous Civilization, which must already be safeguarded as such, and thought of as the emotional and psychological core of everyone's feeling . Not only of the Arbérèshe.
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