At Least Wave Your Handkerchief At Me
When music producer Joe Boyd travelled to South Albania in 2016 he was struck by the 'unique and mysterious' folk music that he heard there. This peculiar, and frequently melancholy, music is known as saze it often involves 'iso-polyphonic' singing (which means that it combines a lead vocal and at least one other voiced drone or iso), usually accompanied by a haunting combination of violin, clarinet, lute and percussion. It's influence can be heard in Greek, Turkish and Bulgarian folk music. It is thoroughly mesmerising.
Following his visit to South Albania, Boyd assembled a group of renowned musicians and singers to create the spellbinding 'At Least Wave Your Handkerchief At Me'. A remarkable glance into the world of traditional saze music.
'Tana' the opening song on the album is Tana begins with a mournful clarinet, the subsequent tale is a traditional lament of a shepherd whose flock is stolen by bandits. This may sound like a very specific concern but the sadness and anguish portrayed by the singers is universal.
There are delightful instrumentals too, including the lilting dance of Valle Postenançe and the swirling Valle Minushi.
Of the many highlights on the album Penxherenë e Zotrisë Sate, is an intoxicating tale of a boys unrequited love and the heartbreaking Nënockë has a mother and daughter grieving together, the final verse translates as:
My man has gone to never return
and left me here, alive
Mother, didn’t it hurt.
'At Least Wave Your Handkerchief At Me' is a startling album. A window on a world of South Albanian folklore. It is an unforgettable experience.
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Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.