From Skifter Kelliçi
The fifth part
Memorie.al/ On November 28, 1938, on the occasion of the Independence Day, in a ceremony attended by important authorities of the country, with a speech held on the microphone of Radio Tirana, King Zog the First inaugurated the establishment of this the institution, which over the years became so beloved and popular even for Albanians abroad. On this occasion, we are publishing the dossier ’85 years of Radio Tirana’, prepared by the journalist and writer Skifter Këlliçi, who worked for 40 years at Radio Tirana, (1959-1999), first as an editor and then as a sports commentator and is also author of the book “History of Albanian Radio-Television”, (1938-1990), published in 2003.
Continues from last issue
The speakers and announcers of the Albanian Radio-Television
Haki Beleri (1919-2003)
We mentioned above that in a contest for speakers organized at Radio-Tirana in the summer of 1947, Haki Beleri also won. After finishing his studies at the “Normal” in Elbasan, Hakiu studied literature for several years in Italy, which he was unable to complete due to the Second World War. Passionate about the violin, which would later lead him to the symphony orchestra of TOB, he, unwillingly, took part in the competition in question and also unwillingly, he was liked, and thus his fate was determined, to be the successor of the tradition of reading the news and commenting on the microphone.
Haki Beleri undoubtedly became a special voice in reading the news and especially the speeches of our leaders and the communist world. The leadership itself was directly interested in him, although it was known that he had a brother shot as a nationalist during the War. And here, an unexpected day. It was the evening of May 6, 1976, when Haki Beleri, on his way to the news broadcast studio, was stopped by the policeman on duty to enter. Surprised, he asked for an explanation, but he got it the next day. By order of that leadership, he would no longer read into the microphone, because of his brother being shot!
The terrible class war was reviving, which suited even the general director, Thanas Nano. Thus, when he was only 55 years old, Haki Beleri, this special voice of the microphone, was forced to leave Radio-Tirana. They also removed him from TOB, where he had been not only the first violin, but also the translator of such operas as; “Ladies with Camellias”, “Madame Butterfly”, “Tosca”, “Rigolet”, “Pearl Fishers”, etc. And it makes you sad when you think that only a fragment from the movie “Face to Face” is left of his voice “, because all the recordings of the texts read by him, since then disappeared from the Radio Archive, as “the voice of the enemy”! Before his death in 2003, RTSh fortunately produced a program complete, which reveals his activity as a rare speaker of Radio Tirana.
In February 1948, a girl’s voice began to be heard on the microphone of Radio-Tirana. He stood out especially in the reading of literary shows. This was the student of the Pedagogical School of Tirana, 15-year-old Vera Zheji, who quickly became a popular voice. You could hear her voice as early as 5:00 in the morning, reading shows of various kinds. Since she was a friend of my sister, I asked to get to know her, to try myself as a speaker.
And so it happened. On January 12, 1958, I met and was surprised when I saw in front of me a young, lively and warm-hearted girl. From the first rehearsals, he encouraged me, he taught me, and just like with Kaliopi Plasari, the day came when I had to read the news live on the microphone, where you had to be careful not to make a mistake, because you don’t have a chance to correct yourself, like in the recorded shows. What has always impressed me is that Vera Zheji was a speaker who never made mistakes while reading.
I can say for sure that from this point of view, it was a rare phenomenon, comparing it with other speakers that I have been able to listen to in Italian and Russian. I remember that when I was listening to Radio-Moscow, the famous Levitan had such qualities. Who does not remember reading fairy tales at 19.00 in the 70s from Vera? A friend told me, now in his 40s, since he was little, he used to leave the game in the street, to get closer to the Radio and listen to the fairy tales, read by the eight summers.
She also read news in Italian, a language she mastered very well, because she was inclined to foreign languages, just like her distinguished brothers in the field of literature, Petroja and Gjergji. She could have been a shamelessly talented actress as well. He showed this in some theater pieces, (remember the comedy “Rain on the Beach”), and some feature films. And yet no one remembered that she was at least given the title; “Honored Artist”.
Feride Spahiu, (Economics)
It was 1957 when I, a regular amateur of Radio-Tirana broadcasts, heard for the first time a new and fresh voice. And I was surprised when I learned that it was the voice of Feride Spahi, a former student of the “Qemal Stafa” gymnasium, one class below the class where I studied. We then became close friends, in August 1958.
As I mentioned above, that’s when I started reading the news. It was a difficult test because, as you know, I would read directly into the microphone. And for the first time I read with Ferida. It gave me heart and, although I read timidly, I did not make a mistake, nor did I get stuck.
With Feriden at the microphone, we also had dramatic moments: In February 1961, the 4th Congress of the PPSh took place. Since Haki Beleri, as a TOB violinist, was participating in a show organized for the congress delegates, I replaced him on the 20.00 news. And to think that the discussions of many delegates were given to us by the news editors, directly on the microphone, after corrections and cuts had been made.
We read together with Feride until 21:45 and, after a 15-minute break, when the music was played, we resumed the marathon with the reading of the last news show, at 22:00, with the other discussions of the delegates, again full of corrections , where, surprisingly, we didn’t make even the slightest delay in mobilizing. After reading the news, the deputy director, Ymer Minxhozi, congratulated us warmly.
Kiço Fotiadhi, (1939-2014)
A voice that rose with dignity to Haki Beler’s reading level and even in some ways took his experience even further. He appeared on the microphone in 1960, when he was in the Army. Graduated from the High Dramatic Institute, Fotiadhi had a great range that started, not only reading the news and political and social conversations, but also presenting shows, such as a song festival on RTSh and, above all, as a TV reporter.
In this role, he successfully directed a series of television programs, with a historical-cultural character, for the development of the cities and provinces of our country. Even he was not liked by Thanas Nano. A biographical “event” according to an announcement from his hometown, caused him to live for several years in a village in Tirana. He returned to RTSh, where he successfully continued his activity as a speaker in radio and television shows.
Later on, other speakers stood out on the radio, among which, in the first place, Meropi Xhai, (Matlia), who often resembled Vera Zhei, Elsa Xhai, Viron Noti, undoubtedly a speaker of a level very high, Liliana Meçani, Lorenc Zadrima, Skëndër Rama, years later Tefta Radi, Arben Kamberi, who then became active in important television shows, etc.
Among them we should also mention Prof. Thanas February. He didn’t read in Albanian language news shows, but in Italian, French and English, for the outside world, as if he were Italian, French or English. I believe this is a rare case in the world. I will never forget that in several letters received from foreign listeners, addressed to Radio Tirana, in 1956-’60s, when I worked in its foreign editorial office, they expressed surprise at how an Albanian could read in English , as if he were a BBC speaker?!
They, and others who came after us, make up a delightful gallery of Radio-Tirana speakers, who will be remembered more and more respectfully by the early radio listeners.
The first radio chronicles…!
Indeed, the speakers, when opening the shows or reading the news, said: “Tirana is speaking to you”, but in reality, Radio-Tirana did not speak, but only read. They read the news, the cultural, artistic, economic, political columns, they read the conversations, and they read everything. However, in the meantime, at least from RAI Radio, which was heard almost in the entire territory of the country, it was seen that there were radio chronicles, radio reports, conversations with questions and answers, broadcasts of important events. And in the center of them, was the journalist, not the speaker.
Radio-Tirana was far from this goal. For many reasons. The first, and the most important, that the journalists still did not have the experience and the ability to speak on the microphone, excluding some journalists, like Muho Rehova, or Pirro Naçe, who were still very young. Second, it was very difficult for co-workers to speak directly into the microphone. The third, even if they were capable, was the censorship that did not allow such a step, which was very dangerous and uncontrolled. Mistakes could happen, especially political ones.
But even after 1950, when Radio-Tirana was equipped with tape recorders and when there were opportunities to at least have conversations with colleagues, this was not achieved, because the experience of the journalists themselves continued to be lacking. However, the first conversations and then the radio reports opened a new page in the history of Radio-Tirana there from the mid-50s, authored by Pirro Naçen, who I mentioned above, and after him; Koço Afezollin, Kadri Zotri, Maqo Afezollin, Adli Dacin….! However, radio news and radio reporting were not yet in sight.
Some of the first radio announcers and…
Real, live radio news would start later. (Manifestations are excluded, in the case of holidays accompanied by parades, in which speakers and later journalists were mainly active, which have been done, as we have seen since 1944, during the parade of partisan forces on the boulevard ” Martyrs of the Nation “. But they only read a text, where they described how the manifestation would unfold, without adding any other words of their own.
In 1959, apart from Pirro Naçe, Maqo Afezolli and Kadri Zotria were also noted for their live broadcasts on the microphone, the latter especially in radio reports in Vlora, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in November 1962. Mention also the radio news from Rinas airport, on the occasion of the arrival of Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, made by Frederik Gjerasi, former speaker at Radio Moscow, (May 26, 1959).
The first radio newscasts started in January 1961, on the eve of the 4th Congress of PPSh. Information journalists, Polivaq Lino and Bajram Vuka, Kadri Zotria and the author of these columns were activated.
However, he left not only his considerable experience, but also a microphone talent. This was Alfons Gurashi, (1942-2012) who started to become active as a speaker in the “Youth Column”, prepared by Piro Naçe himself, and then in other shows.
Although I worked in the culture editorial office since 1959, I started collaborating with the “Sports column”, where I prepared the first radio programs from the sports environment, especially from the “Partizani” Sports Palace. Even, not willingly, I was also obliged to help the newsroom, with radio news from the work and production center.
It was December of 1965, when Alfons Guashi and Agron Çobani became professional radio journalists, furthering the work done until then by Polivaq Lino, Bajram Vuka and Kadri Zotria. Radiochronicle, thanks to these two talented journalists of the microphone, became an integral part of “Revista Radiofonike”.
Then the gallery of radio reporters was enriched with new voices, such as; Dhimitër Dishnica, Zamira Koleci, Amali Dhamo and Timo Luto.
The first sports broadcasters
“It was the first time that a football match was going to be broadcast on the radio in our country. The resounding and clear genius of the broadcaster, (I was told for sure that it was Mr. Anton Mazreku), did not miss a chance, but all the journeys of the ball, broadcast for beauty to our listeners….”!
This is what the newspaper ” Albanian sport ” of September 10, 1938 wrote, about the friendly international football match between “Sport Klub Tirana” and “Iraklis” of Kavalla, (Greece), held on September 1, at the “Shallvare” field in Tirana.
And the columnist was not wrong. It was precisely Anton Mazreku, the director of this newspaper and undoubtedly the best journalist and football specialist in Albania at that time, former footballer of “Skënderbeu” of Korça, who undertook the commentary of this match, on the airwaves of Radio-Tirana.
And this happened almost three months before the inauguration of Radio Tirana on November 28, 1938, in the three-day period, when the last rehearsals of the broadcasts were made, which were successful. Unfortunately, this was the first and last time that Radio Tirana broadcast a football match, until 1945.
Exactly on December 20 of that year, it was Anton Mazreku again and once again from the field of “Shallvares”, he commented on another match, this time between “Tirana” and “Vllaznia”, which marked the uninterrupted start of our football championships From the mouth of Anton Mazrek, the listeners also watched the matches of the football tournament of the Balkan Games, in 1946, where Albania became the champion, as well as the beautiful victories, but also the losses of our representative, in international matches.
Since 1945, as we have seen, Anton Mazreku commented alone on the sports microphone. But in 1957, after having been close to him for a long time, Ismet Bellova, a physical culture teacher, who would later become a prominent journalist of “Popular Sport”, became not only his student, but also his most important colleague close to the microphone. In October 1959, I too, who had dreamed of becoming a commentator, like Anton Mazreku, after two months before I had started working as a journalist on the Radio, I put myself in the arms of Anton and Ismet.
We thus created a “vocal trio”, where the role of the main “tenor” was played, of course, by master Mazreku. In 1970, a year after Anton Mazreku had finally separated from still when he was only 61 years old, another voice was heard in the sports microphone. It was Aleko Gjergo, and after him in 1972, Veli Rada. Both, obviously, talented.
On October 3, 1983, an important page was marked in the history of Radio-Tirana. The show “From one match, to another” started, where all the matches of the first category championship were commented at the same time, led by the tireless journalist Ahmet Shqari.
The veteran Ismet Bellova commented from the booths of the Tirana stadiums with the specialist Mikel Janku, and from the stadiums of other cities, Aleko Gjergo, Veli Rada, Frederik Fico, another sound feature of the sports microphone, Fatmir Mëneri, Ymer Kurti, Ymer Striniqi, Sefedin Allkja, Agron Kaja, etc. If Anton Mazreku were alive, he would say: “Congratulations, my boy, the work that I started alone, you all continue. And how beautiful…”! Memorie.al