May 30-31, 2018
Isa Elezi-Lekgjekaij (in civil records Isa Muriqi, born 1947) is nowadays the greatest epic singer in Rugova district. This area, at the border with Albania and Montenegro, is recognized as the most important repository for the living Albanian epic tradition accompanied with lahuta – the one stringed bowed instrument also known as gusle in the Slavic culture.
His repertoire includes legendary epics about the deeds of the brothers Muji and Halil, which covers several thousands of formulaic verses. The singing is based on a few rhythmic and melodic patterns, continuously supported by the instrument which revolves around a small range of pitches.
The two-days work with Isa, carried out by Nicola Scaldaferri and Giovanni Cestino, aside from video recordings of The Song of the Wedding of Halil, gave chance to conversations about some features of the performance: the relationship between voice and lahuta observed from the timbral side, and the importance of body rhythm in managing the performance and shaping the structure of the song. Prof. Zymer U. Neziri (Institute of Albanian Studies in Prishtina) provided an invaluable help in organizing the trip to Rugova, as well as in the study of the recorded material.
Moreover, this occasion was a preliminary step towards an event scheduled for November 13th, 2018, promoted by the Intercultural Institute of Comparative Music Studies, Foundation “Giorgio Cini” in Venice. In that case, Isa’s performance will be offered in a concert form, and framed by a seminar about the issues raised by proposing nowadays such kind of epic songs to a general public, the textualization of the “composing in performance” process, and a more general discussion about media documentation and living performance.
Photographs by Nicola Scaldaferri, Giovanni Cestino and Linda Muriqi
Our thanks go to Mikaela Minga, Vesel Nikçi and Zymer Syla for their help during our journey to and back from Koshutan, and to family Muriqi for their hospitality.