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The Top 10 Folklore Events in Albania

Lahuta-scaled Elite DMC
Written by: Juliane Zimmerman

The Top 10 Folklore Events in Albania

Albanian folklore is fascinatingly diverse. Despite centuries of outside influences, it has maintained a distinct character and follows local traditions that have been passed on through generations. Until today, folk music, dances and costumes are important elements of private as well as public fests and celebrations in Albania, and there even are some events that revolve all around the continuation and revival of folkloric traditions. If you want to learn more about Albanian history and culture, you should definitely visit one of the top 10 folklore events listed below.   

Northern Albania

Festival of the Ciftelia Ensemble – Lezhe, May

The Cifteli is a traditional string instrument that is played a bit like a guitar, and Albanian folkloric music is hard to imagine without its tunes. The Ciftelia Ensemble of Lezhe was established in 1966 as the first of its kind in Albania. Today the ensemble has become famous throughout the country, and the anniversary of its foundation is celebrated every year with a small fest. Among other highlights and attractions, visitors will of course enjoy the traditional sounds of the Cifteli!

Oda Dibrane – Diber, the beginning of October

In the dialect of Northern Albania, “Oda” refers to the traditional guest rooms in private houses, where people used to gather to celebrate all life events – both happy and sad – and where some of the most beautiful epics and songs of the region were created. Until today, the “Oda” remains a symbol of the hospitality and generosity of the Albanian people. The “Oda Dibrane” is one of the largest folk festivals in the region. Every year, it attracts hundreds of musicians and artists from all over Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Montenegro, who meet to perform traditional folk music, songs, and dances.

Central Albania

Dumre Lakes Folk Festival – mid-August, Belsh

The “Dumre Lakes Folk Festival” is organized by the municipality of Belsh. On the first night, the folk groups of Librazhd, Lushnja, Gramsh, and Elbasan take the stage, while on the other two nights, the folk groups of Sherman, Struga, Belsh, Kosovo, Tirana, Fier, Skopje, and Prizren showcased their programs. At the end of the festival, the best groups are awarded a prize.

Klos Folk Fest – early September

The Folk Fest in Klos took place for the first time in 2018. Since then, different traditional folk groups and artists from Albania and the border regions have participated and competed at the fest every year.

Day of Folk Culture – Papër, mid-September

On the Day of Folk Culture, spectators gather on the market square in Papër to watch groups from different villages in the area perform folk songs and dances and present their costumes. A jury is set up, and in the end, prizes are awarded for the most beautiful folk song and dance, for the most beautiful folk costumes, and for the village with the best overall performance.

Folk Festival “Couple Dancing through the Generations” – Librazhd, September

“Couple Dancing through the Generations” is organized by the Cultural and Artistic Association “Rrajca” and the Municipality of Librazhd. The festival is attended by dance groups from all ethnically Albanian regions in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey. Visitors will enjoy a wonderful performance of traditional couple dances accompanied by folk instruments or songs.

Southern Albania

National Folklore Festival – Gjirokastra, every 5 years, mid-September

Every 5 years, the Gjirokaster National Folklore Festival turns the city into a stage of traditional Albanian music, dances, dresses, and other cultural practices. It constitutes one of the most important cultural celebrations in the country and aims to preserve, protect, and promote the region’s intangible cultural heritage. Many groups from Albania, Albanian-speaking regions, and the diaspora travel to Gjirokaster to participate.

Fest of Skrapari Iso-Polyphony – Gjerbes, mid August

Iso-Polyphony is an important part of traditional Albanian folk music. The event “Iso-Polyphony of Skrapar” aims to promote the Iso-Polyphony typical for Skrapar and support the local groups specialized in performing this music. In honor of Demir Zyk, the late leader of one of the groups, his birth village Gjerbes has been chosen as the site for the event.

“Bylis-Fonia” Festival – Bylis, mid of May

Iso-Polyphony is an important part of traditional Albanian folk music and describes music that involves at least two distinct, independent melodies (as opposed to e.g. one melody that is accompanied by matching chords). During the “Bylis-Fonia” Festival, visitors have the opportunity to listen to polyphonic groups from Albania and abroad amid the centuries-old ruins of Bylis – thereby experiencing several dimensions of Albanian cultural and historic heritage at the same time.

Multicultural Folklore Festival – Permet, June

The Multicultural Folklore Festival is unique in its kind, different from other folklore events in Albania since it is dedicated to the promotion of the cultural heritage and folkloric traditions of the ethnic minorities living in Albania. Many different groups and ensembles from all over the country participate.