One could be forgiven for presuming that Rona Nishliu possesses a comprehensive back catalogue. The singer is practically a national treasure in Albania, after securing the country its best ever Eurovision result with “Suus” in 2012. Since then she’s campaigned against gender violence and sat on the Festival i Këngës jury. However, it’s only now that she’s finally gotten ’round to releasing her debut album “Me Motive Tonat” (With Our Motives).
Rona Nisliu “Me Motive Tonat”
It’s been five years in the making, and the result is a moving collection of traditional music that envelops the listener in organic Balkan sounds. Nishliu uses her signature vocal techniques to reinterpret Albanian classics — some of the songs date back to the 14th century — for modern audiences. Infused with emotion, the record takes the listener on a voyage set in simplicity. There’s no distracting instrumentation, just Rona’s voice and a piano. Some light percussion adds a jazz flavour. The record contains no stand out tracks. Instead, it approaches music differently, refusing to conform to commercial standards. This is a musical journey best experienced in album form.
Rona Nishliu “Moj e bukura more”
Speaking to us recently, Rona explained that the album is driven by introspection and a desire to connect with her heritage.
“Me Motive Tonat” is my attempt to map my Albanian heritage, and re-interpret a cultural milestone. I am doing all of this and at the same time questioning the accepted national and social role of music in entertainment. However, I am very happy that I was able to work on this project since 2010, and deliver it to Europe now. It’s very simple, just listen to it and smile. I’m making it available for free because I feel the culture of my country is isolated. We need to be heard, and I really want to use this as my opportunity. This project is rare, especially as it is produced in my country. “Me Motive Tonat” is a live recorded album mixed and mastered with great names such as Kirk Yano and Chris Athens. It is my first album, and it showcases many songs from my childhood memories.
Rona Nishliu “Vare Vare”
Clearly, these are songs that have touched her deeply. Any listener, regardless of language or background, can draw a sense of the mood. Rona herself doesn’t shy from describing the profound impact that these songs have had on her childhood.
“Po shkon goca”, “Amon kom nji babe” and “Moj a mair e holle e gjate” are the songs that basically I was singing when I was a child, although then I didn’t fully understand the stories. However, they meant a lot to me. The first two were on my grandparents cassette tape, the others are songs that I used to sing in the city choir. I come from Mitrovica — a divided city, and I am unable to visit my childhood home. My freedom of movement is denied and everything that related to my childhood, I haven’t been able to connect with for more than 15 years now.
Rona Nishliu “Po Shkon Goca”
If there’s an album that encapsulates the totality of building bridges between traditional Balkan sounds, jazz and trip hop, it is “Me Motive Tonat”.
Rona Nishliu at Eurovision in Concert 2012
Rona Nishliu at Eurovision 2012
Photo: Rona Nishliu Official Facebook