The Cultural life of Shkodra according to Tonin Zadeja

The Cultural Life of Shkodra book (mid XIX century – mid XX century) is thought to be a summary of all of Zadeja’s researches made over a period of 40 years. It is for this reason that this book will be treated separately, thus as a main proof of the documents and informations gathered by the author himself, under the name “T. Zadeja’s archive”.

The Cultural Life of Shkodra (mid XIX century – mid XX century) is organized in two parts, which contain the following articles:

The first part:
The introduction
The cultural movement in the city of Shkodra
Fanfare orchestras in the city of Shkodra during the Renaissance and National Independance period
The theatrical movement in the city of Shkodra
Shkodra’s civic-songs.
The second part:
Speaks about the music creativity of Palok Kurti; Frano Ndoja. The life and artistic creativity of Father Martin Gjoka, a distinctive personality of Albanian music.;
The life and activities of Dom Mikel Koliqi;
Dom Zef Shestani, the musician that died feeling great nostalgia in his heart about his country, a gap that was never filled.
Father Filip Mazreku, the musician that dedicaed his all to teaching music to the youth;
A painful anniversary. In memory of Gjon Kujxhija’s (musicologist) death.
Remmbering the 100 Anniversary of Paulin Pali’s birth-day; Bibliography. 

The articles, some of them republished in reconstructed and enriched textures, are for the most part genuine historical studies with the musical life of the city of Shkodra from 1880 to 1940 as main subject. As Gjon Kapedani expresses in the introductory part of the book titled “Two words”, “In his study articles, Tonin Zadeja has not set himself the duty to “snoop” into the early periods. He explores the periods in which the cultural and musical life of Shkodra begins to genuinely take a noticeable development.         In its entirety, Tonin Zadeja’s book awakens a special interest to all those that share a certain curiosity, as it creates a clear picture of the cultural life of the city of Shkodra during this period. He comes to the “rescue”of all interested musicians, students and scholars, as well as simple readers who share interest in learning more about music developments in the city of Shkodra. On the other hand, for the author himself, I imagine how this book remains his most important publication, a publication that speaks of a very careful approach to source documentation, mainly in archives, but also of evidences gathered for years.         As he already explains in the Introduction, while highlighting the reasons that led to the publication of the book, the author writes: While preparing and publishing the volume “Researches upon the cultural life of Shkodra. Mid XIX century – mid XX century”, I aimed at enriching with new information and evidence the historical, patriotic and social framework that made possible the creation of a tradition in this city and, on the other hand, the contribution of well-known musicians of the same period in the cities of Korça, Elbasan, etc., created the premises on which the Albanian professional music arose and developed. For anyone who has certain knowledge of Tonin Zadeja’s previous writings, the cited note leaves no doubt about the continuity of a work that has been going on for many, many years and that has been enriched with new facts and documentations.         The short article, consisting only of two pages, and entitled The Cultural Movement in the City of Shkodra represents, in fact, the real entrance of the book. Conceived as a panoramic description, it sets out the beginnings of Shkodra’s artistic life on the eve of the 80s of the nineteenth century until the first half of the twentieth century. In a nutshell, the article utlines the content of the subject: special authors are to be considered as well as the formation of the first amateur music groups of the city until the proclamation of National Independence. Concerning the latter, the submitted documentation is of a special interest, which highlights some very important facts about the first musical arrangements within religious institutions which were ran and administered by the Catholic clergy, such as for example a document of 1877, which refers to the establishment of an orchestra on the occasion of the Congregation of Saint Nunncjatë , or the artistic activity of the beginning of the century (1902) developed by the students of “Severian College”.          The first article (study) of the book is titled The Fanfare Orchestra in the Renaissance and National Independence period. In this article, the description of the activity of various fanfare orchestras is mainly submitted to a single historical line. For this reason, the author while lining up the facts he focused on aligning them on the chronological order of the occurrence and the beginning of the activity of orchestral formations. Starting his article with the first fanfare orchestra, founded in 1878, Zadeja attempts on arising on surface a new fact, for which the author, oddly enough, gives no source document. So, according to Zadeja, the first orchestra was founded thanks to the initiation of the Franciscan missionary Father Tom Marcozzi. The orchestra held its first concert on the occasion of Christmas holidays of 1878. Since 1878 and onwards, in Shkodra city there are now fanfare orchestras: The Fanfare Orchestra of the Cathedral Curch (1898); The Fanfare Orchestra of the Artisan School (1901); The City’s Fanfare Orchestra (1916); The Fanfare Orchestra of the Vllaznia (Albanian dialect for the term brotherhood) Society (1920); The Fanfare Orchestra of the Bogdani Society (1922); The Fanfare Orchestra of Shkodra’s Garnizon (1922); The Fanfare Orchestra of the “Illyricum” Lyceum (1922); The Fanfare Orchestra of the Plotore School of Parrucë, Shkoder (1931); The Fanfare Orchestra of the “Antonian” Society (1936). During the years 1931-36, two other fanfares were formed: “Malet Tona” (Albanian for Our Mountains) Fanfare and Fanfare of Orphanage.         The theatrical movement is the second article (study) of the first part of the book. The author has set out all stages of theater development in the city of Shkodra since the first documented performances, theatrical activities of various institutions etc. The first documented theatrical performance was Julius Caesar’s farsa “Macco” in 1879, and the second was the pastoral drama of “Christmas Night” in 1880, with the arbërsh (old term for Albanian) poet as its author, the Franciscan Leonardo de Martino, and the third documented theatrical performance was “The Son of the Jews drama”, translated from Italian language by Dom Pashko Babit. The theatrical movement was further developed by the activities of various institutions such as theatrical activities by the Franciscan School, Severian College and Stigmatine School. Along with such development came the foundation of three important associations formed in the city of Shkodra, such as: the cultural-artistic “Rozafati” (named after the legend of our land) association, the “Vllaznia” (written in dialect and Albanian for the term brotherhood) association and the cultural-artistic “Bogdani” association. The “Rozafati” association, founded on February 13, 1918, is one of the most renowned societies in Shkodra. Its main purpose was not only to protect and assist the workers, but to add as well to their cultural and artistic education and background through various activities.          The other two associations, “Vllaznia” and “Bogdani”, both founded on 1919, also occupy an important place in the cultural-artistic and political life of the city of Shkodra. As far as the latter is concerned, Zadeja informs that the creation of Bogdani association came at an initiative of a group of young people who, disconnecting from the “Oratori i Zemrës së Krishtit” (Albanian for Speaker of the Lord’s Heart), decided to create a separate association that was named after the one who led it with his patriotic ideas, it was named after Pjetër Bogdani. The members of the association shared their work in four branches: theatrical; musical; literary and gymnastics.

          During the years 1920 – 30 in Shkoder other associations developed their activities as well, the activities of which narrow down mainly to the field of theatre:  Teatri Shkodra (Shkodra Theatre) association; Gjon Krajni me shoke theatrical group; Besa Shqiptare e Gjimnazit të Shtetit association; Atmja e lirë association; Vllaznia association; Komuniteti Muhamedan ssociation. The association we just mentioned above hold a very small place in this article.
Kënga qytetare shkodrane” (Albanian for Shkodra civic – song) is the final article (research) of the first part of the book. In this article is published the study Preface for the songs of Dasmës Shkodrane (Albanian for traditional weddings of Shkodra city), as well as the songs of Shkodra’s aheng (note: “Aheng” is an Albanian word used to describe traditional songs and dances of a city) published in the volume “250 këngë qytetare shkodran” (250 civic – songs of Shkodra) in 2000. The author states that wedding songs in the city of Shkodra are mainly sung on three occasions: on weddings, on spring holidays or on simple walks. The marriage ritual is the most beautiful and the most affluent one. Zadeja has made a detailed analysis of wedding songs based on their poetic lyrics and their modal, melodic, and rhythmic construction (structure). Holding onto the fact that the aheng songs have been created as a natural need to say something more than singing and dancing, the author as their connoisseur, through his personal analysis concludes in the fact that they are distinguished mostly for their lyrical-erotic themes, for their deep emotional pathos and for the developed dynamics that characterizes them.
The second part of the book begins with a study article upon Palokë Kurti’s life and creativity. As it is understood by the title, the writing is devoted to the life and activity of the musician Palokë Kurti and the contribution he gave that helped the development of the musical life of the city of Shkodra. Palokë Kurti’s creations hold a special place in the field of lyrical civic- song, he brought a new style that was ahead of his time, as well as two “Pot-pourri” with folk songs. The new fact that the author brings in this article of the book is related to the authorship of “Marshi i Lidhjes” (Liga-march) or “Bashkimi i Shqipëris” (Albanian for Albanian Union). Zadeja himself in his earlier writings (even in his “History of Albanian Music”, Vol. I) acknowledges that the “Marshit i Lidhjes” (Liga-march) is a creation of Palokë Kurti. This theory had been acknowledged and accepted by all for a long time until the publication of the new document that Zadeja brings to his book “The Cultural Life of Shkodra” (mid XIX century – XX century) of 2006. Thus, in his “Patriotic Songs” book, Prof. Dr. Ramadan Sokoli writes “… It was in those circumstances that the concertmaster of that orchestra Palokë Kurti composed “Liga-march”. The same thing is asserted by Prof. Dr. Zana Shuteriqi Prela in her dissertation Albanian Music during the Renaissance and National Independence period.
In his writing upon Palokë Kurti’s life and creativity, which opens the second part of the book, Tonin Zadeja referring to the memories of a “foreign journalist” who had visited Shkodra in the 1880 and appreciated the merits of G. Canale on the formation of the city’s musical band, he quotes two lines that speak of the authorship of the work: …………………………………………………………………… . Based on this fact, according to a reliable source, Zadeja concludes that the true author of “Marshi i Lidhjes” (Liga-march) or “Bashkimi i Shqipëris” (Albanian for Albanian Union) is Giovanni Canale, adding that the latter “had also written for a fanfare orchestra the part “Valle Shqiptare”(Albanian for Albanian Dances)”.
Frano Ndoja’s Life and musical activity shares the same nature. In this case the author focuses mainly in Frano Ndoja’s work as the concertmaster of the Cathedral Church’s fanfare orchestra, which later on procedeed to become the City’s orchestra. Also of great interest is Ndoja’s initiation to compose Mihal Grameno’s drama “Vdekja e Pirros” (The death of Pirro) music.
With the work of Father Martin Gjoka, a distinctive Albanian music figure, Tonin Zadeja once again returns to one of his most beloved figures, calling him one of the first professional musicians in Albania. However, this sort of qualification remains highly controversial, as Father Martin Gjoka’s music contains many elements that show that the author did not possess a composer’s skills enough to be called such, thus this extended work provides a complex presentation of the life and activity of the Franciscan musician. Father Martin Gjoka, as a creator, is the author of many vocal and instrumental works and in the entirety of his works a significant place holds his unfinished drama play “Juda Makabe”, writtem by Father Gjergj Fishta’s. In his study, accompanied by their respective analysis, the author unequivocally categorizes Juda Makabe as an opera genre. In fact, on the cover of the original piece saved in the AQSH, Martin Gjoka described Juda Makabe as a “Three-part Work”. But, based on the “general construction”, the “compositional forms” and the “musical and musical development laws,” Zadeja concludes that it is a creation of an opera genre.
The 24-piece Harmonium Album, which, as it is known, occupies an important place in Martin Gjoka’s work, in Zadeja’s writtings is brojen down to pieces and each piece is handled almost in details. “Dy lule mbi vorr të Skanderbegut” (Albanian for Two flowers on Skanderbeg’s grave) is the greatest instrumental work of Father Martin Gjoka, which Zadeja considers it a symphonic poem, while the author himself, as Zadeja himself claims, has called it “A symphony for a Full Orchestra”. Defining it as a symphonic poem is a wrong, as the symphonic poem is a genre of a one-tempo construction, while M. Gjoka’s work contains two-tempo. On the other hand, and more importantly, despite the fact that the act does not meet the requirements of symphonic genre, I think it is wrong to give it a name other than what its creator has given.
Other works that Zadeja has rightly distinguished from Martin Gjoka’s creativity, proving that he has a full knowledge of it, are the coral “O ata t’lumtë qi dhënë jetë”, the ballad “Grueja Shqyptare” (Albanian for the Albanian woman), Rhapsody on popular Albanian folk songs, all three of which awaken a certain interest in recognizing an important part of the composer’s creativity, his effort to utilize and process the materials of the national folklore source.
The short writing dedicated to Dom Mikel Koliqi, as the author himself claims, is is a reprint of an earlier script, “Dom Mikel Koliqi’s musical activity”, published in Jehona e së dielës in 1992.
A special place in the volume The Cultural Life of Shkodra (mid XIX century – mid XX century) hold also some of the most outstanding figures of the musical life of Shkodra, such as the musicologist Gjon Kujxhijaj and his work “Valle Kombëtare” (National Dance), which, according to T. Zadeja, is the first, complete, work of the Albanian ethnomusicology. Other figures that are also taken into consideration are Dom Zef Shestani, Father Filip Mazreku and Paulin Pali.

Elena Skënderi, Musicologist


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