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Kosovo: Life in the land of popstars

Culture, Tourism January 29, 2019

When people think of Kosovo, they probably remember the war-torn country in the late 1990s. What they probably don’t think of is the fact that there is no place in Europe that can boast as many popstars per capital as Kosovo. Before telling you who those popstars are, let me emphasise that this was not the case when I first visited this country, back in 2004.
Dua Lipa (pictured below) has been at number one in the pop charts for more than 10 weeks. She is a perfect example of the positive vibe of the Kosovan capital Pristina, combined with a western attitude (she grew up partly in the UK). Another singer, also originally from Pristina, is the female with the most number 10 hits: Rita Ora…

Communist Concentration Camps of the Past Haunt Today’s Albania

Culture, History January 22, 2019

TEPELENA, Albania—Simon Mirakaj was 4 years old in 1949 when, together with his mother and two siblings, he was transferred to an internment camp a few miles from the town of Tepelena in southern Albania.

His family’s odyssey of displacement first started in July 1945, when the communist government of Albania, headed by dictator Enver Hoxha, deemed them enemies. This was because Mirakaj’s father and uncles had been fighting communists in the countryside, sparking the regime’s anger.

Simon Mirakaj holds the drawings from Tepelena camp in his office. (Antonio Çakshiri for The Epoch Times)

Ava Max: My parents left Albania in 1990 and lived in a church in Paris for a whole year

Culture, Music, Profile January 22, 2019

Albanian-American Singer-songwriter Ava Max has had a remarkable few months since the release of her breakout single Sweet But Psycho, which narrowly missed becoming the UK Christmas number one. Ava Max is buzzing. She’s bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and raring to go at the start of what many critics are already predicting will be a stellar pop career.

Although you may not be familiar with her yet, there’s a very strong chance that you’ve heard her breakout single, Sweet But Psycho, which was nearly 2018’s Christmas number one in the UK.

Albania’s Post-Communist Rebirth Gets a Jewish Twist

Culture, History, Religion January 22, 2019

On a windy mountaintop citadel in Berat, Albania, in a church lit only by incense lamps and their dim reflections off the peeling gold-painted icons, I met Simon Vrusho, the creator and director of the Muzei Solomoni, Albania’s first and only Jewish museum, which opened earlier this year.

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At Least Wave Your Handkerchief At Me: The Joys and Sorrows of Southern Albanian Song

Culture, Music November 3, 2017

“Why not give yourself a break from the unending cavalcade of modern high-speed insanity, and rest up with this album of deep soul from Southern Albania.” – Ry Cooder

Brazilian Samba, Bosnian Sevdah, New Orleans Jazz, Cuban son – and Albanian Saze! The turn of the last century saw mass migrations to the world’s cities with rural people bringing their music with them, adapting their traditions to new circumstances and modern instruments. Of all these great musical forms, the mesmerizing arabesques, joyful dances and heart-breaking laments of Saze are among the least recorded, and they remain largely unknown outside Albania. Continue reading …

Albania an important gateway in the heart of the Mediterranean

Culture, Travel July 18, 2017

One hour flight distance from European capitals. Stretches along seashores of the Adriatic and Ionian seas. More than 300km of coastline. Memorable holidays. Unexplored shores. A varying landscape of nature. More than 2700m high mountains. More than 7700 acres of forests. Hidden Valleys. In the heart of mountains, tall-stone architecture, guest houses. More than 3200 plant species. Among Europe’s biggest water resources. More than 500 lakes. 12 National parks spreading across 39% of the country. More than 20 underwater caves. Sport and adventure. More than 5000 years of history. 7 Ancient theatres. Unesco heritage. More than 95 cultural monuments. More than 250 days of sunshine per year. More than 160 castles and fortresses. Fresh bio food. Capital city Tirana is a dynamic vibrant metropol. Youngest population in Europe…
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BBC: Discovering the craze for Albania’s Saze folk music

Culture August 24, 2016

For the best part of the last century, Albania was totally isolated under one of the most brutal communist dictatorships. Little came out of that isolation, least its music, but since communism fell in 1990 people like London-based record producer Joe Boyd have started to discover Albania’s unique Saze folk music…
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