Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A 'New" Song

Recently something's changed in Tirana. I can't really put my finger on it, but something's definitely changed. I noticed it this week just as I was downloading a whole bunch of Christmas songs from iTunes. Here I was, sitting at my desk, totally feeling the Christmas spirit, when suddenly the completely incongruous sound of the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, came streaming through my window. I chuckled to myself at the weirdness of the incompatibility of the two tunes I was hearing. I quickly muted the volume on my PC and listened to the unfamiliar song. Now we've been here almost 20 months so we're certainly used to hearing the chanting bellow out of the loud speaker at the top of the tower at Etham Bey Mosque. But this week there is a definite change in the air. I think the mosque has a new 'singer'! This voice is far more powerful, and much more enticing than the old one, if in fact it is a new one. I'm not 100% sure. Perhaps it's just a new sound system, or a new recording? I've asked a few locals but they don't seem to know if it's a real person or a recording. Well as a foreigner, I'm curious, and I suppose the locals may not even notice the call anymore. Because we live relatively close to the mosque I often hear the call in the middle of the night. Is there a real person sitting in the mosque at 3:30 AM with a microphone in his hand? I like to think there is.

At 7 AM if I'm awake, I hear the ding-dong of the bells from the local church, but the Adhan is heard (I think) 5 times a day. This unusual mix of Islam and Christianity is a very memorable part of the Balkan experience. I recently read that in Shkodra, a city in northern Albania, the local priests and holy men get together and celebrate each other's religious occasions. I think that's beautiful.

A little bit of information from Wikipedia about the Adhan :
Adhan (Azaan) (أَذَان) is the Islamic call to prayer, recited by the muezzin. The root of the word is ldn "to permit", and another derivative of this word is udun, meaning "ear".
Adhan is called out by the muezzin from a minaret of a mosque five times a day summoning Muslims for fard (mandatory) salah (prayers). There is a second call known as iqama that summons Muslims to line up for the beginning of the prayers.

Form of the Adhan
Each phrase is followed by a longer pause and is repeated one or more times according to fixed rules. During the first statement each phrase is limited in tonal range, less melismatic, and shorter. Upon repetition the phrase is longer, ornamented with melismas, and may possess a tonal range of over an octave. The adhan's musical form is characterized by contrast and contains twelve melodic passages which move from one to another tonal center of one maqam a fourth or fifth apart. The tempo is mostly slow; it may be faster and with fewer melismas for the sunset prayer. During festivals, it may be performed antiphonally as a duet. Salafists, such as the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, prefer to issue the adhan in a monotone, considering any verbal elaborations to be makrouh (permissible but discouraged)—or haraam (forbidden) if the meaning of the words is altered.

Okay, so now I know a lot more about the Adhan, but I still don't know if the caller is a live human being or not. Maybe someone can help me out?


ITS said...

You seem to know more about the Adhan that 90% of the Albanian muslims...

Keep up the good work, and they will make you an honorary member. Heck, just pop in the middle of the night, and say, "since you woke me up and all, I thought I would join you for coffe, after you are done with Adhan..."

The reason why Albanian religions get along so well is that the majority of people are not religious at all...

Lily said...

"At 7 AM if I'm awake, I hear the ding-dong of the bells from the local church, but the Adhan is heard (I think) 5 times a day."
My grandparents house was right between the local church and the local mosque, so you could hear both the bells and the call to prayer every day too. That was kinda nice.

And the Adhan has to be a recording hasn't it? If it was a real person wouldn't he get tired of singing night and day everyday, what if he gets a cough during the call to prayer and ruins it, and what if he's sick for one day, would they have a replacement?Oh the possibilities...:)

Alison said...

Wow, what a great contrast of cultures. Something you don't think about much in NS. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Kim,

What's the locals take on the whole religious theme?


Cynthia Rae said...

Ok so you are not from the States, but you are close! Just wantd to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Big day here as I am making a Thanksgiving dinner for me and 11 italians! Buona festa!


Anonymous said...

I am albanian from Vlora.

who sings It's not a real person but a recording.
In my city is the same but i'm not happy to heard it in every hour.
I'm hope somebody stop it.

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