When the nightingale singer, conqueror of the continents, sings
Interview with the folk singer, Vasil Çuri, the nightingale of Permet and Albania
Interviewed: Kristaq F. Shabani, writer, poet, publicist, aesthete, “President of IAWPA “PEGASI” ALBANIA IWA, WPS, ABI
“Man of the Year 2011” ABI (USA)
It is somehow strange when you think that a protagonist of a contemporary interview will be a singer, who travels with his song, not only in his own country, but he has also broken records of space by flying through continents. The beginning of his activity was in his place of origin in Leusë, of Përmeti, where his talent was distinguished and, now, after five decades, he is very much popular not only in Europe, but also in Australia and USA. He is very much liked for the repertory of his songs, for the interpretation and not in vain they call him “A Nightingale of the Song” and his rise is tearing.
His song is a beautiful song, as if the nightingale is singing it, therefore Vasil (Vaskë) Çuri, is rewarded and motivated with reason, now with a special name, “Nightingale”, which enraptures, draws you to close, exhilarates you and, along with him, you fly away joyfully in the space of the score of the notes…
Always when we return to retrospective and especially to the early childhood, we try to catch some moments, rare moments, which we have them fixed in our memory and we narrate them with a very beautiful and impressive nostalgia.
And the interview begins with a question, which brings along the smile and the soul gets excited:
Can you bring to us from your memory the first flash, when the little Vasil was distinguished as a talented child in a beautiful art, that of the song. Who discovered it and initiated you in this journey?
Vasil: I remember that day which has remained in my memory. Papa Vangjeli, my wise grandfather, who was educated in the high school of “Zossimea” in Ioannina was very clever and loved the song very much, and he had a great level in this field, he made me a small rehearsal. It was just one song, which required melodious voice and effort to be realized... I, as a child, responded to his request and I proved to be successful. Since that day I began to love the song, its interpretation and to begin this great art with great pleasure... At that time I was just 7.
How did you begin to practice you talent?
I remember that when I returned from the field to the village, mounded on a mule, I used to sing. I used to look around fearing that anybody might listen to me, because I was very shy, and when I did not see anybody around, I began to sing. I used to sing mounted on the mule the songs I liked. This way I realized rehearsals of my voice and I usually did this.
When may be considered your first concert in the interpretation of the song?
My first interpretation “Stage” have been the threshing yards of my village church, where many people gathered in the evenings and I used to sing there. They used to applaud and encourage me. Interesting were some yards close to each other where my co-villagers used to group together.
The yards at the church of Saint Thanas, were tied in the brotherly quartet with a silky handkerchief. In the first yard used to stay the wise men who were trying to resemble their forefathers. They initiated them in detail and this way they created their profile, which they filled daily with new characteristics until they thought that it was complete. ..
In the second yard were the dames of Leshicë, who were distinguished for their shining eyes, for their beauty and the uniformity of dressing. Sometimes they used to look stealthily at the men’s yard. Each of them used to watch the appearing characteristics of the presence of the other sex...
In the third yard were the brides and the young girls, who used to look around, looks which resembled active fireflies, which resembled initial lighting matter of loves; shining of eyes, blooming of lips, body resembling the cypress, which has the aim to raise in the direction of the sky...
In the fourth and the last yard used to stay the grooms and the newly married men, who dreamt of their children that would be born and would continue their journey of life.
In these yards I grew up with songs, I interpreted; in these scenic yards I grew up to become a man and a singer. I learned all those songs, by being activated with the groups of the songs of my village and later in the town of Permet with the amateur groups of folk song “Naim Frashëri”, “Mentor Xhemali and “Elena Gjika” and after my town I gave concerts in the whole Albania, by increasing my skills and the quality of singing and strengthening the conviction that I would become a popular singer.
You in these decades, owing to Your talent, predisposition, have managed to become a popular singer not only in Albania, but also in the entire Albanian regions, as well as beloved for the Diaspora? Can you unfold to us this activity?
I grew up with song, by activating myself in my town of Permet. Owing to my skills and my contribution I managed to participate in the Gjirokastra Folk Festival since from the year 1978 as well as in many other national festivals such as in: Festival of Civil Song Elbasan, in the years 1996, 1999, 2001; “Meeting of instrumental folk groups”, competition of Culture Centers with the group “Vëllezërit Frashëri”, Përmet, Tiranë 2005; The First Festival of folk Orchestras year 2007 with the group of Permeti Folk instrument band; National Typological Festival of Folk instruments held in Korçë, in September 2007 etcetera .
These participations and the raise of the level prepared me to widen the range of participations and representations abroad, participating in concerts with folk groups. I may mention: Concerts (with folk groups), which should be highlighted in: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark with the Group of Permeti House of Culture, July 1990, Romania (Bucharest, Constance) with the group “Elena Gjika”, 1991, France – Switzerland with the group “Naim Frashëri” Përmet, 2005, Greece (Athens, Thessaloniki, Rhodes, Ioannina, period 2007-2012; Holland (Amsterdam, Rotterdam) three concerts with the group “Naim Frashëri”, 2006. I may mention the participation with the Ensemble of Songs, Folk Dances and Ballet Tirane, in Italy.
The participation in these events has been very successful. But in addition to that important are also my individual concerts: a. Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Italy. I have been invited also from the Diaspora. I may mention here the concerts in: Australia (Melbourne, Sidney, Shepherdson, Adelaide) year 2014; Turkey (Istanbul), 2013 invited from the Head of the Association Turkey – Albania as well as concerts with groups of singers (Poni, Ermal Fejzullahu) recently in Australia, march 2016. They have been successful concerts and our repertory is very much appreciated.
During this period you have collaborated with many composers, adding much value to the interpretation of the song that you deal with. Can you mention to us some of them?
I have given much priority to this relationship and always, during my activity have given priority to the selection and level of cooperation. This way I have cooperated with popular composers such as: Shpëtim Saraçi, Saimir Skënduli, Edmond Zhulali, Adrian Hila, Sokol Marsi, Valter Beqo etcetera.
You are distinguished for the fruitful cooperation with singers and instrumentalists and in this framework can you mention to us some of them and what has this cooperation highlighted?
I have always given priority to the professional, harmonic, ethical cooperation with the colleagues. This cooperation has always been intended and evident. This way I may mention my cooperation with singers and instrumentalists in concerts:
Singers: Mentor Xhemali, Sulejman Lame, Lindita Theodhori, Eli Fara, Poni, Ermal Fejzullahu, Eranda and Irma Libohova, Denis Xharahu, Artjola Toska, Paro Ziflaj, Dashnor Diko, Petrit Lulo, Arjan Shehu. As we can see in this brief list, there are very popular singers from whom I have learned, but also we have exchanged experience. As far as concerning instrumentalists I want to mention the Great Master, Laver Bariu, who has been the artist, who has given his assistance to me and has supported me during all the time and I have always admired him for his passionate and most efficient work. I may also mention other instrumentalists such as: Aleks Xhelili, Zhani Struga, Sadik Zeqiri, or the master from Gjirokastra Jorgo Roze.
If we analyze Your repertory, it is very rich, very colorful and a typical representative of rich folkloristic of Permet and further. This repertory enriched and “harvested” from the intelligent people as well as your creature, have made you today an avant-garde singer very much likened by the public and very much in demand. This is a beautiful chapter of your life as a singer. What can you say to us in this context?.
You are right to make this question. My power is that, I always know how to chose, how to harvest, those songs and melodies which are ripen to be harvested. I have managed to measure what the public likes, to know his preferences, but meanwhile to date this. I am quiet in this analytics, as I always after an activity make an analysis of this activity. Owing to my persistence, I have many successful songs such as: “ Malli për atdhe” (Yearning for the Fatherland), Ç’u ngrit lulja që në mëngjes” (The flower woke up in the morning), “Këngë për Laver Bariun” (Song for Laver Bariu), “Penxhere e zotërisë sate”(The window of your Lordship) , “Të pres mike” (I keep waiting for you, sweetheart), “Në udhë të malit shkova” (I went to the mountain route), “O borzilok”(Oh you basil) , “Mos më qaj” (Don’t you cry), “Më pinje kafenë” (You were drinking coffee), “Kishe dalë në baçe” (You have gone out to garden), “Leri , leri nazet” (Leave, leave the coquetries), “ Copë e bëre gjunjë (You broke your knee)” etcetera.
My entire repertory, now, is very much liked and in demand. Some of my songs that I interpret have my text, as I may mention: “Malli për Atdhe” (Yearning for the fatherland), “Këngë për Laver Bariun” (Song for Laver Bariu) etcetera.
Very successful folk songs in the interpretation: “Malli për atdhe” (Yearning for the Fatherland), Ç’u ngrit lulja që në mëngjes” (The flower woke up in the morning),, “Këngë për Laver Bariun” (Song for Laver Bariu), “Penxhere e zotërisë sate”(The window of your Lordship) , “Të pres mike” (I keep waiting for you, sweetheart), etcetera.
You are distinguished for your creative skills. Who have you resembled in your family for your creative skills?
There are many singers in my family such as my brother and my sister, who sing very beautifully. We, in the village, when we were together, made a very charming group, which was distinguished for the interpretation of the songs. Papa Vangjeli was distinguished in the creation of the song texts. It seems to me that I resemble him. (He laughs) I am a text maker of 12 songs, which I interpret: “Malli për Atdhe” (Yearning for the fatherland), “Këngë për Laver Bariun” (Song for Laver Bariu) etcetera.
I will be distinguished in this direction also because I have this gift.
Your activity is promoted in the written and visual media in Albania and broader. You, naturally, feel a special satisfaction?... Can you unfold to us this satisfaction?
Yes, this is true.
My activity is focused in the movies: “ Këngët e zemrës” (Heart songs), with screenplay of Vath Koreshi; “Pëmeti në këngë dhe punë”(Saimir Kumbaro) (Permet in songs and work), movies with short-footage feature.
In google.com also there is a a good part of my repertory.
For my activity as a singer reportages, portrayals and interviews have been written in many newspapers such as: “Shekulli”, “Shqip”, Dita” “ILYRIA”(SHBA) “Përmeti”, ”Pegasi” “Dëshnica” etcetera.
I have participated in three editions: “Zërat e Këngës” (Voices of the song) of national activity, competition with folk songs with folk singers, organized by TV CLAN, in which in the year 2014 from 112 participants I was ranked in the first four places. All this work, all this activity has been evaluated.
Which are some of these and different titles?
In the year 1990 in the concerts in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark described as “The Best Voice”;
In the year 1998, in the international Folk Festival, I was chosen as “The Best Voice” from all the competing singers and groups of 12 participant states;
I am a prizewinner of the Gjirokastra Folk Festival.
The International Association of Poets, Writers and Artists “PEGASI” ALBANIA, the PEGASIAN ALTERNATIVE ACADEMY has accorded me the high title “DISTINGUISHED ARTIST (Singer)” for the year 2011 and, in the year 2014, this association has declared him “THE SINGER OF THE YEAR 2014”.
I may add: For my activity as a singer, a novel is in the process, which mirrors my multi-dimensional activity in the field of the song. I have also prepared a book, in which I have collected over 250 traditional songs from the region of Permet and which will find the light of publication very soon.
You are distinguished also in giving your contribution in many other fields, which are interrelated with the song, the art. Can you highlight some of these activities?
It is a very interesting question, which unfolds values: owing to my initiative I have created the group of the new folk singers, giving assistance to the continuance of love for the interpretation of the song. This is my passionate work, which will necessarily give its fruits in the future. It is the duty of every experienced singer, to look realistically to leave to the generations the valuable, rich folk heritage. Each of us should perform this important duty in the field of the transmission of the tradition well. In this context I am also the compiler of the project: “Permeti traditional wedding”.
As a member of the International Association of Poets, Writers and Artists “Pegasi” Albania, which operates from two decades in the field of Literature, Culture and Art and has extended its activity into 120 countries of the world, I have participated in all its multi-dimensional activities. I may mention my active, continuous participation in the World Wide Manifestation, (organized by Mihail Rothenberg, publicist, poet, California)” WORLD’S POETS AND ARTISTS FOR A CHANGE” with IAPWA “PEGASI” in Tirana, Kosovo, 2011-2015. This manifestation is held annually on September, in about 100 countries throughout the world, where my interpretations have been appreciated internationally.
As a result of my qualities and skills, I have been selected in different juries to select new talents in the field of the song. I continue to be an active member of the amateur groups of the folk song: “Naim Frashëri”, “Mentor Xhemali and “Elena Gjika”. I am also an active member of the IAPWA “PEGASI” ALBANIA.
Before the curtain of this interview falls we must highlight again: “Vasil Çuri is one of the most preferable singers of folk music in Albania and Albanian regions motivating him as: “The Nightingale of the Song”. His songs take place in all the Albanian visual media in the daily programme. How do you imagine the future?
I am in a phase that I can give more. I am always in intensive preparation and my whole artistic life is rich and in demand not only in Albania but also abroad. I give importance also to the publications of my artistic life. Presently I am in a phase of active preparations to broaden the space of my activity in Europe, Australia, as well as USA. I have prepared four CD-s and 3 video clips with my own songs and I am preparing to extend this range of publication. Having a public who loves the song, I express my opinion that the future will be more beautiful and with great achievements.
Thank you, honorable Vasil, for this interview, which highlights Your activity as a writer.
Interviewed: Kristaq F. Shabani, writer, poet, publicist, aesthete, “President of IAWPA “PEGASI” ALBANIA IWA, WPS, ABI
“Man of the Year 2011” ABI (USA)
Gjirokastër, on March 29, 2016