Profiles 25 Jul 12

Kosovo’s Bob Marley

Kafu earned his reputation from singing Qur’anic verses. But then he found Bob Marley and was inspired to created a new music band , Gypsy Groove, fusing Balkans Roma music, mixed with jazz and reggae.

Egzon Avdullahi

His grandfather played the violin and his uncle was a singer. Bajram Kinolli, known as Kafu, is one of a long line of Gjakova musicians. They were his first inspiration and he started to hone his musical talent early while reciting verses from the Qur’an.

Kafu is grateful for the good people who surrounded him as a child, but he also deserves praise for not stopping at that. He invested great effort in establishing his identity, and, in this process, he created his artistic ego.

Between 2004 and 2007, Kafu sang around Gjakova with his band “The Strings”. Gjakova always had close ties with Albania, so one day Kafu decided to challenge himself there. He cherishes many fond memories from his time spent with different singers there over an entire year.

Finally, one day he found his most significant source of inspiration – the reggae music hero Bob Marley.

After coming back to Kosovo, alongside with his friend Mirsad, he started to work as an educator at the Social Dancing Theater, an organization that promotes social equality, justice and human rights. Together, they also performed Rock n’ Roll music.

“One day, I said to myself: why don’t we create a band that sings about what we belong too. People told us: “wow, that is a great idea”,” Kafu said.

In 2010, a group of individuals from different communities established “Gypsy Groove” and Kafu says that it gelled immediately. The band plays Roma music from the entire Balkans, and is influenced by other musical genres such as jazz, reggae, funk and drum n’ bass.

“The inclusion of music from around the world in a genre of our own is very cool. I think that we’re the first band that creates such music,” said Kafu.

Initially there were struggles and opposition, as this community’s music was not widely known. “However, we were lucky enough to find a common language within the band,” he says. “This is proof to other people that Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians are able to make not only tallava music, but also jazz, rock, funk and what not.”

Kafu is also an actor, and recently played in the “Yue Madeleine Yue” theatrical play, in Pristina. He says that each individual should follow his dreams.

There is discrimination from Kosovar society and institutions, he adds, but certain communities are discriminated against all over the world.

“We have to find ways (of integration), such as our multiethnic band comprising Albanians, Ashkali, Roma and a half-Turk,” said Kafu. “My family claims we’re Egyptians, but I don’t feel Egyptian, and I don’t feel Roma or Ashkali. I feel more like a Kosovar, as I was raised in this spirit.”

Similar to many other artists, Kafu is a skilful preacher of social policies and identities, speaking from a personal viewpoint. In essence, “Gypsy Groove” has to be listened to for the diverse ways in which it addresses mainly one topic – love and life. Much like his Jamaican inspiration, Marley.

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