Dancing on the rooftops as lockdown concert lifts spirits in Albania


DURRES, Albania (Reuters) – As singing boomed among the apartment buildings of Albania’s seaside town of Durres, families took to their wrought-iron balconies, clapped in the windows and danced on the rooftops.

The group of singers serenading the port of Durres are among the only people in Albania given special dispensation to venture outside during lockdown hours.

Each evening before sunset they go to a different neighbourhood in Albania’s main port city, accompanied by a police escort and loudspeakers, to perform an impromptu concert to families shut inside the surrounding apartment buildings.

Tuesday evening’s concert, the fifth so far, lasted 90 minutes, with singers mostly wearing face masks, taking turns belting out traditional songs into a microphone wrapped in plastic. Residents clapped their hands in rubber gloves. A few bent the rules to venture out and dance on the street near their doorsteps.

They described the musical interlude as a blessing for a city which is enduring one of Europe’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns while still bearing the scars from an earthquake that killed 24 people less than five months ago.

“Wonderful, I forgot all my anxieties,” said Aishe, 60. She danced with a gleam in her eyes, holding up her phone to show the concert live to her son who is sheltering in neighbouring Kosovo because the quake made his house in Durres uninhabitable.

To halt the coronavirus, Albania has ordered all residents to stay in their homes at all times, except weekdays between 5:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., when those below retirement age can register on an app for a trip to go shopping for necessities.

This time of year, Durres would have been welcoming tourists to one of the longest beaches on the Adriatic and brimming with life in its many bars.

“We have been doing this for four days, and I must say I did not believe it would turn out to be one of the greatest pleasures of my life as a singer,” said Alban Kamenica, one of the performers, who normally sings for British, Polish and Austrian tourists at a nearby hotel.

The organiser of the concert, poet Ardi Omeri, received a thank-you gift: a pot of flowers.

On a third floor balcony, a white-haired mother in her late sixties was also filming the concert on a video call, showing it to her 37-year-old twin daughters in lockdown in Milan, Italy, one of the European cities worst hit by the coronavirus.

“You see,” she told them, smiling. “I’ve given you live music for your birthday!”

Reporting by Benet Koleka, Editing by Peter Graff