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Kostika Çollaku

Balkan poetry set to music

The pandemic led to the cancellation of the staging and the online broadcast of the Dead Brother’s Song play, a coproduction of the Romanian Cultural Center and Avlaia Theater. The music composed by Kostika Çollaku especially for the purposes of the play was nothing short of a deep immersion into the variant of the “Dead Brother”, putting into display the wide spread of the popular folk myth in the entire region of the Balkans. The titular music album, Dead Brother’s Song, was the outcome of this creative process.

The play, based on the titular poem, which makes part of a century-long folk tradition in the entire Balkan Peninsula, could be described as an all-Balkan spectacle. The myth is encountered in different countries under different names. “Constantis and Dokina” in Albania, “Lazar and Petkana” in Bulgaria, “Of Boyka” in Romania, “The daughter and her sisters” in Serbia. This multicultural myth led the director Evi Sarmi to have certain lines spoken in the above-mentioned Balkan languages. Similarly, all foreign-language songs of the album are heard in their original version.

Kostika Çollaku set to music a series of experts from poems by Argyris Eftaliotis (Greece, 1849-1923), Peyo Yavorov (Bulgaria 1878-1914), Jovan Dučić (Serbia, 1871-1943), Νaim Frashëri (Albania, 1846-1900) and Mihai Eminescu (Romania, 1850-1889), which he co-selected with Evi Sarmi. The album’s songs are performed by Ifigenia Pappouli, Pelagia Hatzinikita, Maria Kondylidou, Marita Tsalkitzoglou, Stellina Vogiatzi, Alexandos Zafiriadis, Constantin Răileanu, Lefteris Kaldis and the Byzantine male chorus, Anton Pann. In tandem with the album’s release, Çollaku made a series of small-scale tributes to these poets on his social media page, featuring all selected poems translated in Greek, but also in their original version. His goal was no so much to portray the life of each poet in detail, but rather to share the way he was influenced by their work and describe his approach as a musician.

Çollaku cherishes the work of author, poet and prose writer Argyris Eftaliotis (nom de plume of Kleanthis Michailidis), as he discovered a common bond with his own artistic approach. Eftaliotis, besides being a fervent supporter of the demotic Greek language and the Greek folk tradition, wanted for his poems to be undistinguishable from a folk song. Likewise, Çollaku’s music for theatrical plays aims to blur the lines between the contemporary and the traditional. 

The album Dead brother’s song is available free of charge on all internet platforms. Those who wish to contribute are welcome to do so through https://www.patreon.com/kostikacollaku.