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17 Jan 13

Kosovo Minorities Keep Sound of Music Alive

Music remains a precious tradition - an art form as well as a way of life - for many members of Kosovo's Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.

Donjeta Demolli and Dardan Sinani
BIRN Prishtina
Sefedin and Sejdullah Kryeziu

Music is everything to Sefedin Kryeziu. It’s a tradition, pleasure, and food. He learned how to play the bugle from his father. For him, it’s a kind of art.

“I was a good student at school but I loved music with all my soul. By day I go to weddings with my bugle and by night I go to play the saxophone in a band,” he says.

What’s special is the music he has created himself. What other bugle players have created is never enough for him. He invents his own, new melodies.

Sefedin has decided that his son, Sejdulla, should carry on with the tradition. He’s given him lessons — the only requirement is that he becomes even better than his father.

“I want to do this for as long as I’m healthy and I will let my son do it if he learns it well and becomes better than me; if not, I won’t let him continue,” he says.

Fortunately, Sejdulla loves music, just like his father.

“I want to continue in this profession. I like the clarinet, the saxophone, and the bugle”, he says.

Although playing these three instruments is difficult, and each requires schooling, Sejdulla can play them well now, thanks to his dedication.

Together, he and his father they sing about the worries and problems of the Roma people, hoping that at some point in the melody they play, those listening will forget their problems.

Jazz and Roma genre Gypsy Groove, a band formed in 2010, is bringing a new spirit to music, a revival of the traditional Roma music, uniting traditional and modern forms in a jazz and reggae style.

“Our purpose is to make a kind of music that is not being cultivated in Kosovo. Our music is based on traditional Roma music but is influenced by jazz, latino, reggae, with themes from traditional Roma music,” Mirsad Dalipi, the drummer, says.

Mirsad Dalipi, drummer of the group

Front man Bajram Kafu Kinolli says the formation of this group was down to a search for identity.

“That’s what pushed me to do something more artistic - to show that Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian people don't only make 'tallava' music, but also jazz, rock and funk,” he says.

Known throughout Kosovo, not just in the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community, The Danqi brothers have continued a family tradition dating back several generations.

They play music for their own enjoyment, though if they make a cent from it, it’s more than welcome. “I am very much into music and learned on my own,” Ekrem Danqi says.

His son, Egzon, has inherited the profession. Morning, afternoon, evening they practice together, until Egzon has learned it.

“I am not interested in money, I have loved the tupan since childhood,” Egzon says.

Muhamet Bangolli is also a keen musician. But for him it’s especially difficult, because of personal circumstances.

“Both my parents are sick, my father and mother have been paralyzed for two years, so I rarely have the chance to make music. I have to go and collect tins, to support the family,” he says.

In spite of that, he still plays when he can. “We started a year and a half ago, me and a friend, for fun, just to practice," Muhamet says.

"He had a small synthesizer, with an adapter and batteries. We practiced all night, and now I’m used to it,” he says.

“But my sick mother and father need things," he adds. "I had to go without food and water for almost a month - just to buy the synthesizer."

This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.

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