I love the idea that the most genuine art is free of expectation. Perhaps too much of a romantic myself, I believe art has the power to lift the veil of reality and reveal deeper truths underneath the surface, and that artists everywhere connect to a space of spiritual expression. I’ve been meeting musicians in Kosovo that feel these deep connections.
Shpat Deda, a self-taught and locally acclaimed singer-songwriter, is one example. His music is very genuine; his lyrics are often based on his own love and heartbreak. Kindred spirits, we discussed music in an interview. We talked about his work, being a Kosovo artist, and the blossoming underground music scene which includes jazz, punk, and hip-hop amongst other genres coming from original, often independent artists. These artists seem to have little air space on television and radio stations dominated by what some call a hyper-commercialized music industry (something that’s arguably a regional characteristic not specific to Kosovo alone). But Shpat’s music is pretty well known and adored, perhaps making him a creator that intuitively breached a mysterious and invisible threshold to the masses. I was curious to learn more about what he thought made his music relatable to a larger audience.
We additionally discussed a long-term, multi-collaborative idea for creating some type of music exchange between friends in Kosovo and friends in the US. Kosovo is the youngest democracy in Europe, having recently celebrated its 5th anniversary as a nation. Its population is literally composed of a majority of young people. How young people connect to the world and in what capacity they have the opportunity to do so is important, especially to developing, young nations. Deda elaborates on this a little more, while also sharing perhaps little known insights into the Albanian language, linguistically said to be one of the oldest in Europe.
Plus, he was kind enough to share some of his music with us. Enjoy!
If the fashion centers of the world had a baby sister, Prishtina might be it. Fashion is expression, a form of art, and people here love to play with style. Edona Reshitaj, an actress and musician, looks like she could be a duchess or a heroin from your favorite film noir – but the fact of the matter is she works hard, juggles multiple obligations and talents in order to maintain a steady life that allows her to be creative and incorporate her passions as part of her career. Edona and I were introduced to one another by Albulena Jashari from my last post. Communities here are pretty tight nit, which I love, and Reshitaj often plays in collaboration with Jashari, a testament of how supportive Kosovoans are of one another’s artforms.
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Albulena Jashari, Lena, is the first of many Albulenas (yep, that’s plural) that I’ve come across in Kosovo. We met a few days after I arrived at a local hangout called Tingle-tangle: a tiny, colorful, albeit smokey cafe with simple, vintage decor, indie music blaring, and Basquiat-like-inspired pictures on the walls, presumably done by hand, probably by a collective of people. I was a fan of Jashari’s music before I came to Kosovo and had been meaning to get in touch with her. Our meeting happened serendipitously instead, which seems to be the case more often than not here. We have been friends since. I’m not sure Lena knows this, but she’s totally a local hipster. She shops at thrift stores and loves indie fashion and music. She’s sweet, thoughtful, intelligent and all about supporting, collaborating with, and creating solidarity amongst female artists. I think this is fantastic since women are often pitted against one another as competitors in the music industry. Lena writes her own music and text with support from family and friends. This is what she had to say about her love of music, performing, and the challenges of being an indie artist in Kosovo.
Hi everyone. Today is the day of the One Billion Rising event and we will be livestreaming in Kosovo. Best wishes and a very Happy Valentine’s Day!
A young Albanian immigrant discovered the group Retrovizorja during a typical teenage bout of existential uncertainty. Their music ached, desperately to belong to something. It’s ambience, unease, and provocative lyrics were the first to trigger an interest in indie music coming from the Albanian diaspora.
After years of sharing Retrovizorja songs with college friends and coworkers, I finally met some of the musicians that gave so much hope and meaning to life back home in Milwaukee.
Elina Duni, the vocalist, was recently in Prishtina touring with her Jazz quartet, a group based out of Switzerland where she grew up. The Elina Duni Quartet with Colin Vallon on piano, Patrice Moret on double bass and Norbert Pfammatter on drums, “represents a return to her musical sources, a combination of Balkan folk songs and jazz”. I was able to sneak an interview with her just before her dress rehearsal.