This book includes a plain text version that is designed for high accessibility. To use this version please follow this link.
f34 F


aced with the almost baffling diversity of Albania’s musi- cal cultures, and deciding that “a recording that does too much ends up doing less,” he and Goertler eventual- ly settled on the instrumental and vocal ensemble music of the Tosks, from the south Albanian Alps, an urban style rooted in the pastoral tradition. Enthused by the sheer beauty of the sound, and the chance to record a traditional music that has remained largely unchanged over the last 70 or more years, Boyd decided that “great traditional music does not need to be fused with anything, or modernised in the most natural way, that comes from the ground up. It has roots, it has beauty, it has history, it has depth. Let’s record it like Blue Note recording John Coltrane in 1968, or Deutsche Grammophon recording a string quartet, because it’s world class music. You don’t need to put a French DJ underneath it – it doesn’t work! And it’s not going to improve your chances.”


That decision made, the next step was choosing the musicians, and finding a place to record them. It was not a simple process. Even- tually, advised by the country’s most eminent scholar of Tosk polyphony, Vasil Tole, and drawing upon the transnational connec- tions of the media and the music business, they settled on a group of singers and musicians to form a band, a one-time sound stage at the former film studios on the outskirts of the capital Tirana as the loca- tion, while recording equipment and a sound engineer, Jerry Boys, were trucked in from Greece and the UK respectively. The parlous state of the current music industry meant that the project had to be financed by Kickstarter, which according to Andrea “needed very hard work. We had about 170 supporters, and what was wonderful was that so many Albanian friends and strangers in the country and in the diaspora donated, with messages of support, saying that it was so marvellous that this project was happening – and so over- due!” And a name was chosen for the group – Saz’iso.


Saz’iso is a fusion of two words which cover the musical style, the modern saze referring to a local ensemble of clarinet, violin, fret- ted lute, daira frame-drum and sometimes accordeon, which emerged at the end of the turn of the 20th Century as the country began to encounter the modern industrialised world, and the antique iso, or vocal drone sung by a group of singers or the mem- bers of the band, above which two voices entwine, leading and fol- lowing one another in turn. Albanians consider this style to be very ancient. The band’s violinist Aurel Qirjo suggests that it may predate the birth of Christ, and it certainly precedes the drawing of borders for the modern nation-state, also being found among the Albanian population of southern Macedonia and by Aromanians, a once nomadic and now largely sedentary group, while Greek Epirus is home to a harsher-sounding but clearly related music.


Qirjo points out that the music is largely pentatonic, using a gapped scale of five notes whose emotional weight shifts depending on the pitch of the drone which supports the singers. The shaping of the melodies relies on sustained tones on unstable or dissonant notes, whose resolution is sometimes delayed almost to breaking point, creating an intense feeling of tension which is never quite resolved, as one phrase flows into the next. The same structure and emotional world underline the semi-extemporised instrumental


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84