I was pleasantly surprised to find a local punk scene in Prishtina. I attended a packed cd-release show at Punk’t, a local warehouse turned into a music hall venue. The evening featured Prishtina based bands: The Glasses, Ilektorati Intelektual, and Pink Metal. The local resistance is in part fueled by the sounds and lyrics of punk music, a genre that has been an impetus for protest culture and a resistance against the status quo all over the world since its conception. I was excited to interview some of the band members, especially considering the role that punk has had the past few years globally in relation to protest movements. This is a snapshot of what a few band members had to say about punk music in Kosovo.
The specific Kosovoan struggles that Edona and Labinot from Ilektorati Intelektual discuss are multi-faceted, but perhaps more economical than anything else. Here’s a personal snapshot of what I’ve come across while here:
In recent instances there have been cases of some protests in Kosovo: workers have demanded reimbursement for unpaid salaries, women have organized against sexist actions and language of local authorities, and people are demanding an end to skyrocketing electric bills. Nearly half of the population is still unemployed. Meanwhile the costs of unchecked privatization and corruption have forced people to the streets. The uprisings in Istanbul seem to be an inspiration here, especially to youth, often fragmented regionally from a historic “othering” of Albanian-ness, who are finding grounds for solidarity and inspiration through common struggle as well as art. Ahmet Ogut, a Turkish artist was recently featured at Stacion Center for Contemporary Art in Prishtina. The exchange of art is there and I believe leaves an impact. From what I can gather, local struggles also incorporate Kosovo’s status as a new nation and the role the arts have in solidifying its boundaries. Nation-building requires creating an identity through the arts and culture. I encourage anyone interested in the arts in Kosovo to explore this topic in the future. It is fascinating and one that I could not dedicated much time to.
I think Albanian-ness as a form of nationalism is something that may function as a form of anti-resistance to resistance movements, even in musician’s circles. On one hand this is understandable considering a recent history of violence and of being “othered” that Albanians identify with regionally as well as in broader Europe. On the other hand, Albanian-ism is a bit unsettling as a call for a unified state, one which would erase the Kosovo-Albania border. I’m inspired by the musicians I’ve met that promote humanist goals, goals that do not raise the status of any one group of people on ethnic or other grounds. People are people and should be respected as such, period. Being of Albanian descent I relate with these musicians most since I too am sometimes faced with the challenge of justifying a call for peace, healing, and mutual understanding regardless of loss and past trauma – a call that is sometimes hard to promote given my sensitivity of friend’s personal losses and the need for more reconciliation of war-time wounds, especially those towards women. Utilitarianism seems to be the most logical and well received philosophy towards this call — any further unsettling of borders would be cause for more tension regionally and therefore more harm.
Then, there is also the reality that Kosovo is not a uni-ethnic state. Though a majority of the Serbian population has fled Kosovo since its birth as a new nation, there is still a small minority that lives here in addition to other minority groups that include Turkish, Roma, and Ashkali peoples. All voices need to be honored, and I’m thankful that resistors in Kosovo’s many movements are working towards this.
Rock on Kosovo (Punk)!