Brazilian Samba, Bosnian Sevdah, New Orleans Jazz, Cuban son – and Albanian Saze! The turn of the last century saw mass migrations to the world’s cities with rural people bringing their music with them, adapting their traditions to new circumstances and modern instruments. Of all these great musical forms, the mesmerizing arabesques, joyful dances and heart-breaking laments of Saze are among the least recorded, and they remain largely unknown outside Albania.

Glitterbeat is proud to announce the release of “At Least Wave Your Handkerchief At Me: The Joys and Sorrows of Southern Albanian Song” by Saz’iso, a group of virtuoso musicians and legendary singers assembled by veteran producer Joe Boyd (Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Cubanismo, Songhai) and his co-producers, Edit Pula and Andrea Goertler, and recorded by Grammy-winning engineer Jerry Boys (Buena Vista Social Club, Ali Farka Touré, Orchestra Baobab).

The songs on this album tell of joy and sorrow, love and loss, heroism and tragedy. “Tana” is an ancient song about a shepherd whose flock is stolen by bandits that grant his wish to play his flute for the last time before they kill him. The plaintive melody conveys his terrible fate to his beloved in the valley below. A line from the beautiful “Penxherenë e zotrisë sate” gives the album its title; a boy yearns for the girl next door, pleading, “You keep going in and out of your gate. O poor me outside! At least wave your handkerchief at me.” Other songs are about partisans struggling against foreign invaders and men forced to depart in search of work, leaving behind grieving wives and families, a recurring theme in Albanian music to the present day.

The instrumental dances have deep roots in the region’s history. “Valle e Osman Takës” originated with a captured rebel leader dancing his way to freedom and is now a spectacular male dance that constitutes a test that only the most skilled attempt. Of all the region’s instrumental forms none has the resonance and emotive power of ‘kaba’. According to legend, the form originated when a dying wife told her husband not to cry, but to let his clarinet weep over her coffin instead. The album includes both, a clarinet and a violin kaba as well as a rare, freely improvised ‘avaz’. The melancholic improvisational lines of the clarinet or violin give it a mood often referred to as the ‘Albanian blues’. Kaba’s “melodies, ornamented with swoops, glides and growls of an almost vocal quality, sound both fresh and ancient at the same time”, observes author and musician Kim Burton, “and exemplify the combination of passion with restraint that is the hallmark of Albanian culture.”

“This recording is a landmark in the history of Saze music. These performers are following in the footsteps of the great masters that have preceded them, while the careful and thorough production and wonderful sound quality allow us to experience recorded Saze as never before.”
– Vasil S. Tole

“We set out to record these virtuoso singers and musicians like a Blue Note jazz session or a Deutsche Grammophon string quartet. Saze is, after all, a classical form, its essential elements unaltered over the decades. With its ancient roots, the intensity of this world-class music has the power to entrance any listener.”
– Joe Boyd

Saz’iso are
Donika Pecallari, vocal
Adrianna Thanou, vocal
Robert Tralo, vocal
Aurel Qirjo, violin & vocal
Telando Feto, clarinet
Agron Murat, llautë/lute
Agron Nasi, dajre/frame drum
Pëllumb Meta, fyell/flute & vocal

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