site.btaBulgarian Folklore Is Unique, Says Albanian Violinist Olen Cesari
Bulgarian folklore is totally different from any other music in the rest of the world and that is why it is unique, Albanian violinist Olen Cesari told BTA. He is in Sofia for a concert at the Sofia Opera and Ballet that will celebrate the 110th anniversary of his country's independence.
The event is titled Voyage Around the World and will take place on November 28. Cesari will be performing together with Inva Mula (soprano) and Genz Tukici (piano). The concert programme includes interpretations of traditional music from around the world, including Bulgarian songs.
Olen Cesari has been performing interpretations of traditional tunes for more than a decade. This is reflected in his first album, Unexpected (2010).
"A long time ago, there was an earthquake in Italy, in L'Aquila, and the whole city was in ruins. The Italian government brought artists to perform for the local people. They called me and an amazing story happened. There were about 3,000 people in the audience who had lost everything: their houses, their families, loved ones, pets. They were desperate. I went with a prepared repertoire. I finished the first piece but no applause followed. The same with the second piece. Then I tore up my music sheet in front of them and told them I would play the songs they wanted to hear. They started to suggest songs but that game didn't work either. So I tried another one: asking them to tell me where in the world they would like to be at that moment," the violinist said.
Voyage Around the World will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the diplomatic missions in Tirana and Sofia. "I believe that the similarities between the two cultures are related to the similarities in the two societies. They grew and developed in the same way, " Albania's Ambassador to Sofia Donika Hoxha told BTA.
Here is what else Cesari and Ambassador Hoxha told BTA:
Q: What is in the programme for the concert at the Sofia Opera and Ballet?
Olen Cesari: We change the programme when we go to a new place. I think we will mostly repeat the programme we had in Paris, but with some changes. It will definitely be a voyage around the world. It will include the most famous songs that people keep in their hearts and minds. I will be performing a tango by Piazzolla, as well as several works by Morricone, who is a genius of classical music of the new era.
We will present virtuoso works and at the same time we will make this concert a joyful experience. Because - yes, you go to the opera and you listen to arias and all the classical pieces, which are incredibly beautiful, but sometimes we need a little bit more zest. And I think we're going to have zest in this show.
Q: How does the venue where you are playing change the concept of the program?
OC: In this case we're doing a trip around the world and that's the basis of the program. When we talk about the most beautiful Italian songs, there are at least 100 of them, so we choose two or three of them. The same way with the French ones and the Albanian ones. There are so many beautiful Albanian songs.
When we made the selection for the concert in Bulgaria, we heard about 20 songs. I love the folklore here. The women's choir of the Bulgarian Radio and Television is very famous. I believe that this choir should be protected by UNESCO. It is really unique in this world and I think the whole world knows it.
Bulgarian folklore is totally different from any other music in the rest of the world. That is why it is unique.
Q: How does music help us get to know other people?
OC: Music is a bridge that connects people. When you listen to good music, your heart goes into a different state of being. That's what we're trying to do: to show our energy to the audience and get more energy from them. At that precise moment, we put our lives in their hands, as it were.
Q: What are the challenges in interpreting so many different musical cultures?
OC: The first challenge is that you have to be good at what you do. You have to love the songs, and we definitely love them. I think the main challenge is the technique. You have to be very good technically. For example, you can do a tango without even knowing how to play the violin, but it won't sound good. You have to learn more of the history of tango. I think Piazzolla is the founder of tango. You have to understand the circumstances in which it happened, to know the dance... You have to go deeper to understand what this music is about, to be able to interpret it in the right way.
Q: What made you fall in love with this kind of performance?
OC: I love this question. A long time ago, there was an earthquake in Italy, in L'Aquila, and the whole city was in ruins. The Italian government brought artists to perform for the local people. They called me and an amazing story happened. There were about 3,000 people in the audience who had lost everything: their houses, their families, loved ones, pets. They were desperate. I went with a prepared repertoire. I finished the first piece but no applause followed. The same with the second piece. Then I tore up my music sheet in front of them and told them I would play the songs they wanted to hear. They started to suggest songs but that game didn't work either. So I tried another one: asking them to tell me where in the world they would like to be at that moment They started shouting "America!" and we played the blues. They said "Brazil!" and we played samba.
The audience got very emotionally involved in this game. We were initially supposed to perform for about an hour, but we were still playing three hours later. I was very tired and tried to leave about five times, but it was impossible. On the tenth attempt to sneak out, an elderly lady came backstage and told us, "Please, don't stop! I have nowhere to go. I sleep in my car in front of the shopping mall. Music helps me not to think about it. Please, take me around the world with your music!" So I played until 2:00 in the morning, then I couldn't play anymore. But out of that experience came my first album, Unexpected, and this type of gigs that we call Voyage Around the World.
Q: You have played at the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and for heads of state and Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. What is the performance that was the most moving for you?
OC: Concerts related to charity are special for me. We do an event where the doctors raise money for heart surgery for children without taking anything for themselves. If these kids don't get surgery, they probably won't survive. So I think it's the most emotional thing for me when I can use what I do, my art, for causes like that.
Q: The concert at the Sofia Opera also marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the diplomatic missions in Tirana and Sofia. In this context, what impact does art - and music in particular - have on diplomacy?
Donika Hoxha: I don't think artists are the best diplomats of all. Their language is universal. They can communicate with all peoples and through art people know each other better and communicate with each other. Therefore, this is the best way to celebrate such a great occasion as the 110th anniversary of the independence of a very old country, but not so old in terms of statehood, and 100 years of wonderful and excellent relations with a friendly country like Bulgaria. These 100 years are not related to the establishment of diplomatic relations, because they date back to 1913, but because of the First World War, diplomatic missions were opened in 1922.
Q: How are Bulgarian and Albanian cultures similar and different?
DH: I believe that the similarities between the two cultures are related to the similarities in the two societies. They grow and develop in the same way, but they also suffer because both countries were under Ottoman rule for a very long period of time. And this is undoubtedly something that has left its mark on us. Our relations over the centuries have also brought us together. There are many Bulgarian toponyms in Albania, there is a Bulgarian minority in Albania. There is also a linguistic minority in Bulgaria, there is still a settlement where people speak archaic Albanian. Even in modern times, we have developed the same vision and share similar understandings on social issues, for example. We have chosen the same Euro-Atlantic path. All this can only unite us.
Q: How are the fates of the two countries historically connected?
DH: Before the creation of the nations, people moved a lot and as I said - there is a Bulgarian minority in Albania. But I can tell you that a small place, here in Bulgaria, which was a big center in the 16th and 17th centuries, was founded by Albanians. I am talking about Arbanassi. So, it is not only the village of Mandritsa that has remained Albanian in its spirit and traditions, but also Arbanassi, which was founded by and was the home of Albanians for more than two centuries.
Therefore, inevitably, this has caused the two peoples to mingle. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, our patriots fought for the independence of Albania here, from Bulgaria, because Bulgaria became independent earlier. We were one of the last countries to become free.
These are just some facts that show the links between the two countries. But they are not the only ones. During the communist period, especially immediately after the Second World War and until the 1960s, many Albanian students studied in Bulgaria because of the special connection between the two countries. And there were also many mixed marriages from those years. After the '60s we had a slowdown in relationships, but there was a boom in the '90s. During those years Bulgaria was Albania's main economic partner. And what we want to do now is to bring the economies of the two countries closer, because that has a direct effect on people's well-being.