Tonight at Festivali i Këngës — Albania’s Eurovision 2019 selection show — the genres came thick and fast. Dilan Reka updated the disco for today. Orgesa Zaimi mixed funk, soul, jazz and rock. And Soni Malaj slipped into a white body suit, serving an Albanian take on “Fuego” — replete with fire and her writing against an electric guitarist.
But in the end it was Jonida Maliqi who won the day with her song “Ktheju tokes”.
The spiritual ballad has a mysterious quality that seems to come from deep within Jonida. The title doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but it roughly means “come back to the land”. It speaks of the struggles of immigration and leaving one’s homeland — a reality known well to the Albanian diaspora.
“I feel in this song,” she told us in an interview after the semi-final. “It’s very important for me.”
“The lyrics are actually for Albanians, for immigrants, for all the people around the world.”
“I cry inside of me….it was very difficult for us — the immigration — and my sister lives in Cyprus. And for me it’s very difficult because my other half, she lives there. Maybe in every Albanian family we have someone outside our country. I feel it and they feel it. This is hard for me. This song is my emotion.”
You’ll remember that Eurovision 2018 stars Ermal Meta and Eleni Foureira were both born in Albania, but immigrated just before or during Albania’s civil conflict in the 90s.
Speaking to Albanian media in a post-show interview, Jonida confirmed that she will keep the song in Albanian for Eurovision. You don’t need to worry about an Eneda-style revamp to English.
Watching Jonida from the front row of the Palace of Congresses, we couldn’t help but think she looked like a young Cleopatra, controlling the Nile and enchanting many a passerby with her undeniable beauty.
When she sings her voice is magic, but so too is her presence. From her eye contact to the way her body sways, you can’t help but stare in wonder.
Festivali i Këngës — Albania’s traditional selection show for the Eurovision Song Contest — added a contemporary twist this year. Rather than only singing an orchestral version, the acts also had the opportunity to sing a more modern take replete with Eurovision-esque staging on a second night.
Despite being in its 57th edition, the show wasn’t smooth sailing. Early on microphone issues impacted both Marko Strazimiri & Imbro and Eranda Libhova. Her technical issues were particularly appalling — you couldn’t really hear her, and her backing vocalists were turned way up. A total disaster for artists that have worked so hard to make it to tonight.
Thankfully they were both given the chance to perform again after the 12 other acts had sung. Eranda was subsequently awarded the Critics’ Prize, which is determined by a vote among the media/critics.
FiK 57 finalists
Alar Band — “Dashuria nuk mjafton”
Artemisa Mithi & Febi Shkurti — “Dua ta besoj”
Bojken Lako — “Jeto jeten”
Dilan Reka — “Karma”
Eliza Hoxha — “Peng”
Elton Deda — “Qetesisht”
Eranda Libohova — “100 pyetje”
Gjergj Leka— “Besoj”
Jonida Maliqi — “Ktheju tokes”
Klint Çollaku— “Me jete”
Lidia Lufi — “Rrefehem”
Marko Strazimiri & Imbro — “Lejla”
Orgesa Zaimi — “Hije”
Soni Malaj – “Do vij”
What do you think of the final results? Do you think Albania will advance to the final at Eurovision? To revamp or not to revamp? To keep it in Albanian or switch to English? Sound off down below!