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 Engjell; Lamtumirë, 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!