Before Fanfara Tirana there was no proper Albanian brass band tradition. Brass bands did exists, but they played mostly light pop music and folk songs arranged for brass. Unlike other Balkan countries, there was no wedding brass band tradition.
Albanian music is roughly divided between the monophonic north and the polyphonic south. Fanfara Tirana borrows from all parts of the country, with an emphasis on Turkish small bands playing aheng, a style of Gypsy music; saze, a clarinet dominated style of traditional music, and the polyphonic a cappella music of the south, with songs that place an emphasis on themes of mourning and loss.
The group was started by members of the Albanian Army band who decided to start a brass band and let the chips fall where they may. The repertoire included the songs they played while moonlighting at weddings and songs from the kaba tradition, which has roots in Persia and is primarily played on clarinet and violin with an emphasis on individual interpretation and improvisation. They also got in touch with the famous folkloric singer Hysni Zela, who performed for more than 30 years with the Albanian National Folk Song and Dance Ensemble, and lured him out of retirement to come and sing with them.
Their basic repertoire comes from Albanian traditional music but the arrangements add other Balkan rhythms to create a unique fusion of styles from all over the country, the region, and the world. They use elements borrowed from dub reggae, jazz and what sounds like Balkan funk to get people up and dancing. They've become a hot attraction on the European festival and world music circuit. Their debut album Albanian Wedding, was released internationally on the German Piranha label in 2008.