Monday, 31 July 2017


The music...

Hi and welcome to one of my favourite topics - today, I'll share with you my experience about Albanian music. As a Balkan girl, I've grown up loving the beat and the oriental sound of more of the music of this region. It is very specific - and although many artists recently have started producing music for a broader audience, the "original" Balkan one has very specific sound. I'm not talking about traditional music here - more about the pop/hip-hop/R'n'B one.

Every morning/evening when I drive to/from work, I love playing something. I am a fan of singing along (although I'm far from becoming a singer myself), and one of the "tasks" I like doing is to try and figure out what is being sung in the songs I love. The more I listen to them, usually the more I understand (no cheating looking at the lyrics). I put aside Macedonians like Tuna and Adrian Gaxha, because as much as I love them, they sing in a far too "alien" dialect for me. I put aside Kosovar rap too, as it is too hard to get (and let's face it, most rap is meaningless in general, as long as there is a rhyme - although I love some songs, it's just out of my league).

A piece of advice - Albanian music is very bad "teacher" when you first begin learning the language. It took me probably around a year or so to start getting fully the meaning of some songs - the reasons are two. First, as a language, Albanian has the most non-unified use I've seen - some singers sing in Gheg, some in Tosk, some in something in the middle, and others in very specific dialects from Macedonia/Kosovo/Montenegro etc. It is very, very rare to get a "proper" Albanian song (I'd suggest some later, keep reading). And second, the online lyrics sometimes are horrific - having missing ë's, having missing letters, having extra letters or pretty much requiring some knowledge in general to figure it out. I personally have started getting some simple Gheg phrases that they use often, but again, it took me years.

My first "introduction" to this beautiful country and music was by an Albanian I used to be close to a couple of years ago - one of the first songs I remember was this one:

As most of the Balkan songs, the main "topics" are usually love, hate and having fun. The lyrics of the one above are rather meaningless (let's dance on the table, drink on the table and so on). If you've ever been to the Balkans, you'd recognize that it is pretty much the standard party night out in the club - the beat is great though, and I just love Ermal. Others doing music in that "style" are Sinan Hoxha, Ermal as I mentioned,  Sabiani & Marseli, and Flori.

Another one of the old but gold ones from my first steps in Albanian is this one: 

(Off topic: I'd love to visit Ohrid lake, but by the looks of it, it won't be this year).
Again, the topic is pretty much a huge party, they have much money so they want to burn it down, set the place on fire, don't want to hear about problems and so on. Pretty catchy beat!

I personally think that these singers are very good, and they make a very nice music. I try not to get too "deep" into the lyrics, as the beat is just very dance-y and it gives you a good mood. I recently stumbled upon the new song of Enca, which I really like:

Now, Enca has always been very controversial - many people don't approve the fact she's very young, but she dresses in a very provocative way and wears lots of make up. I personally like her voice (and hair), but she signed a contract with Universal and it's targeting a broader audience, which is admirable. As for her new song Ciao... well, don't ask about the lyrics (if you're curious, a translation of mine is available here, any corrections are more than welcome!), as you guessed it right, she is singing about having a wild party and how she wants to drink. Popular topic, isn't it?

If you want to hear songs in a "proper" Albanian, my first recommendation is Alban Skënderaj - he has very beautiful voice, beautiful ballads and very proper Albanian lyrics (suggestions - Mirëmëngjes, 1000 premtime, Duart lart, Unë dhe ti, and many more). Then I have an old Enca song - E ke rradhen ti (it has lyrics on screen, so very handy!). Then I have Mentor Haziri with his song EngjellLamtumirë, one of my favourites too. Elvana Gjata also has some very good and "proper" songs - for example Love Me, Afër dhe larg, Njesoj. And lastly in this list - Më fal.
(Of course, this is far from a complete list, but I could add new and new songs until tomorrow!)

That's it from me for now, hope you enjoyed this post. When you practice listening daily, it helps a lot for your understanding, so if you haven't done so - try it!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Jam këtu përsëri... shpresoj që do të jetë për më shumë këtë herë

I'm here again... I hope it will be for longer this time

Hi, and thanks for stopping by. I must admit that I am pretty bad at keeping timetables or working by lists, and my enthusiasm for things usually comes and goes.

The truth is that I have put my Albanian learning at the background for a while - I have started a new full time job and there are quite a lot of things to be taken care of, so somehow it just slipped through. I haven't forgotten it completely though, it's just a learning "as you go" without any particular dedication per day or something like that.

I plan to return to my reviews, hopefully I won't give up that easily this time *sigh* Fingers crossed.

I'd like to use this post to give you a few updates on my own progress during the last few months.
- I've somehow managed to finish the "Discovering Albanian" Memrise course (consisting of 1850 words, most of them with pronunciation). I loved it, the only problem is that some words in the reviews are not very well selected and have more than one correct answer (and I usually choose the "wrong" one, although it's not wrong technically!)
- I've returned to the Discovering Albanian textbook, and I'm up to lesson 15. Learning the vocabulary definitely helped a lot, although as I said already, making to-do lists is not one of my strengths and I am very spontaneous as a person. So I'll finish it off eventually, one day.
- As I drive to work every day, I usually play music from my phone - it made me an impression that I have actually increased my own amount of listening and understanding of the songs I like (no cheating reading/knowing by heart the lyrics).
- I started catching up some more common Gheg words/expressions, and I have also started to "guess" the meaning of some words (only if they're not far too different though). I consider that a huge achievement due to the fact that I'm teaching myself and I rely pretty much on music (and lyrics found online, some of them very badly written).
- I started translating/writing in Albanian more; I also started searching for people to speak with, but haven't found anyone for a long period of time yet, probably because I'm not very consistent.
- I love "overhearing" (or whatever the equivalent is of listening to others' conversations) random Albanians whenever I hear them on the street - my heart always skips a beat as I consider that a huge achievement. I used to have an Albanian housemate up until a year ago, and I didn't understand almost anything he was saying to whoever he was speaking with. Luckily for me, I live in an area where the Eastern European population is not scarce, so there is a good chance to listen and try to understand.
- I've discovered a few Facebook groups (review of them in some other post) - both for learners and for Albanians. I love reading what people say, and especially trying to understand what someone is asking entirely in Albanian without cheating.
- I've been working on my pronunciation and I hope to finally manage to get l, ll, r and rr right as they should be.

That's all I could think of. I plan to come back and continue with reviewing some of the most helpful resources in my opinion, so stay tuned!

Natën e mirë!