Albanian-Serb musical duo breaks Balkan stereotypes in Italy

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 27, 2017 09:57

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  • “From the very beginning we thought about the impact it would trigger among Albanian or Serbian nationalists and it was exactly for this reason that we thought of overcoming prejudices to unveil the spiritual, cultural and arts terrain in the two countries. Through music we noticed both countries have many things in common such as the musical sounds and other aspects such as food, common words etc.," says Albanian singer Jonida Prifti

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music duoTIRANA, Jan. 26 – At a time when tensions between ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Serbia are escalating, an Italy-based Albanian-Serb female musical duo is breaking stereotypes by playing with historical and cultural ambiguities and misunderstandings, but also pointing out similarities in art, customs and traditions.

Opa Opa, a duo composed of Albanian poet and performer Jonida Prifti and Serbian musician and producer Iva Stanisic, both based in Italy, have been working together since 2011 when the project was launched with a selection of traditional and modern tunes from both Albania and Serbia.

Dancing to electronic and turbofolk music, drinking traditional Albanian raki and carrying Kalashnikov rifles, the two singers have released their latest sixth “Buongiorno Italia” hit.

Jonida Prifti, a native of Berat who left Albania in 2001 to study modern Italian literature in Rome, said the duo was launched quite spontaneously after meeting her Serbian colleague at a Rome music venue.

“From the very beginning we thought about the impact it would trigger among Albanian or Serbian nationalists and it was exactly for this reason that we thought of overcoming prejudices to unveil the spiritual, cultural and arts terrain in the two countries. Through music we noticed both countries have many things in common such as the musical sounds and other aspects such as food, common words etc.” Prifti has told Mapo magazine.

Her Serbian colleague, Iva had already started her musical career in Italy where she arrived in 1993 from her war torn split former Yugoslavia.

“We think of living the present day because historically the two countries’ past is troubled and much complicated. We are interested in linking the two different worlds of two women aspiring to freely express themselves through art despite their origin,” says the Albanian singer.

“Many Italians don’t know where we are geographically located at a time when only a sea separates us. This way we thought of capturing the ‘the wild eastern barbarian’ image and we played with this image and absurd labels of prejudices. On the other hand, Turkish coffee, music and raki are common things in our cultures,” she adds.

The duo’s song lyrics are mainly in English but also include phonetically similar words in Albanian and Serbs such as raki, balkania.

Based in Italy, the duo does not attract much interest among Italians who are not aware of the historical past of Albanians and Serbs.

“It is true that Italians are not much impressed of our origin because they are not aware of the historical events, but in the meantime our origin kind of annoys them. This feeling is historically related to the influxes of Albanian and Serb migrants who found their homes in Italy,” adds the Albanian poet.

Two years after Prime Minister Edi Rama’s historic visit to Belgrade and one year after the establishment of a joint Albania-Serbia center, the former tense and Cold War-like relations between Albania and Serbia have taken a U-turn and 2016 was considered the best year in cooperation between the two countries in the past seven decades, experts said at Tirana round table organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), one of the country’s top think tanks.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times January 27, 2017 09:57