There are certain times and days that can take on the value of a touchable, enjoyable, and naturally imposing magic for a city, to be carried as a permanent memory in the human mind. Such is the National Folklore Festival of Gjirokastra.
This year’s edition, taking place from June 24th to July 1st, 2023, is the eleventh in numerical order. Gjirokastra has many important things that constitute its identifying marks, as well as some atypical elements that hold the value of the national identity of this city. One of the most significant is precisely this festival.
Restricted, hindered, or interrupted for eight years, but challenging in terms of the contributions and spectacle it presents during its seven days. There is no such parade of costumes in any international festival, let alone in any international costume biennial! The Albanian space in the Castle of Argjiros, in the most natural and spontaneous way possible, equals itself through a cultural display and behavior.
Each group, every region, and specifically one after another, every entity, during the days of this festival, are unique material of national spirit and culture, of Albanian ethnographic and anthropocultural signs. This overflowing of folklore and culture holds the resounding and affirming value of the cry: “The Albanian lives and never dies!” Even more so in the context of a time like the present, when uniqueness is fading, and global uniformity is triumphing depressingly.
On the fourth night of the festival, ensembles from Durrës and Korça arrived. The groups from Kruja brought the first set of concert numbers for the coastal region. The elegant costumes and especially the urban folk songs, although not an additive act in terms of folk material, nonetheless serve as a refreshment of a local folklore presentation. The typical songs of the elderly in Kruja mark the continuity of such an urban tradition.
Dazzling and elegant, charming and a model of urban elegance were the performances and interpretations of the groups from Korça and Kolonja. The colorful interpretations of songs, especially the dances of the girls and boys in this group, bring back hope for the triumph of a tradition that was interrupted but now finds a charming addition among the troupe and performers of a new generation of artists and instrumentalists.
Gjirokastra has extended its days into nights these days. Folklore groups, different artists and instrumentalists, numerous fans and admirers of folklore, tourists, enthusiasts from the country and the world, they are all the inhabitants of the evenings and nights of this week in the magical city of stone and lights. Among them, that is to say, among the people, the stones, and the songs (not only the polyphonic ones), there are those deserving to be illuminated by lights like in art. Such, meaning art, Gjirokastra has been precious to itself and valued by the world for a long time.
Among all the illuminations generated by this city, the lights of nature are the oldest. But in terms of value, the lights of talented human spirits, which the fortress of Argjiros alone can gather in such abundance, are even older. Only this National Folklore Festival of Gjirokastra can enhance and specifically exhibit this unique cultural asset of our people.