Albanian Folk Music
Albanian accordion player Ylli Brekofca emigrated to the United States in 2016 without his accordion. Ylli had performed on the accordion his father gave him as a teenager for nearly 50 years. He performed, sang, and collected folk tunes from across the country, transcribing more than 400 songs into three handwritten notebooks, organized by region. (Albanian music is a mixture of Middle Eastern, Greek, Roman and Byzantine sounds with styles that vary region by region.)
In 2016, economic hardship forced Ylli to leave his home country, and he could only take two suitcases and his three notebooks with him. The accordion his father had given him was just too big for the plane. As he told the Bangor Daily News in 2017, “It felt bad coming here without an accordion. I was getting older. I felt like that part of my life was over.” How wrong he was.
In 2017, Portland artist and musician Orson “Pigeon” Horchler met Ylli at a jam session put on by the Maine Access Immigrant Network. Without an accordion, Ylli couldn’t jam, but Horchler resolved to find Ylli an accordion. With the help of Jenny Van West at the Maine Immigrant Musical Instrument Project and musician Doug Protsik (who has performed at the American Folk Fest previously), an accordion was secured, and Ylli could share his amazing musical gifts. He has been performing in and around Portland ever since, delighting audiences with his musicality and repertoire. Orson Horchler will be joining Ylli at the festival.