Ahead of Festivali i Këngës 57 she won the wiwibloggs fan poll and was hugely popular with the Wiwi Jury — our in-house panel of music unprofessionals. And during the grand final of FiK 57 Jonida Maliqi proved to be just as popular with Albanians, as she took her ethnic electro-ballad “Ktheju tokës” to the top of the scoreboard.
Now — in grand Albanian tradition — the song will undergo nips and tucks in the coming months to reach its fullest potential. But amid any and all changes, one thing is certain in Jonida Maliqi’s mind: the song must remain in Albanian. Our friends at Eurovision Albania first reported moments after the contest, when Jonida made her wish clear during the Post Fest show on Albanian television.
Composed and written by Eriona Rushiti, “Ktheju tokës” translates roughly to “Return to the Land” and speaks to the struggles of emigration from Albania, which has at times stemmed from civil conflict and the Kosovo War.
Speaking to wiwibloggs ahead of the final, Jonida made it clear she has been touched by the topic. She said: “It was very difficult for us — the immigration — as my sister lives in Cyprus. Maybe in every Albanian family we have someone outside our country. I feel it and they feel it. This song is my emotion.”
Her song is fitting given recent events at Eurovision: in 2018 the Albanian diaspora had a major impact on the song contest. Besides Eugent Bushpepa — who managed to reach a respectable eleventh place — two other Albanian-born talents made the Top 5 with critically lauded entries. They were Italy’s Ermal Meta and Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira (who, coincidentally, were both born in the city of Fier).
Keep in mind that the Albanian broadcaster, RTSH, is yet to confirm which language they want their artist to sing in and the artistic direction they wish to take. Jonida’s wish isn’t the final word, as the broadcaster typically has the final say. Just ask the country’s recent artists who have disagreed — often publicly — with the whims of state television. However, with the relative success they saw with the Albanian-language entry “Mall” in Lisbon, it’s hard to see them objecting to Jonida’s request.
Their English language entries have not had as much luck, with their debut entry, Anjeza Shahini’s “The Image of You” being their only English-language entry to figure in the top ten. Mixing Albanian and English has not seen much success either, with their only two instances of multilingual entries failing to make the final in 2007 and 2011.
If the song is kept in Jonida’s native tongue, this would mark the sixth time overall that the Balkan country goes with an Albanian-language song, and only the second time they would send back-to-back entries in Albanian. Before Eugent’s “Mall”, there was “Identitiet” in 2013, followed by their best scoring entry to date, the emotionally-charged “Suus”, that shot all the way up to fifth place in Baku.
What do you think? What does Jonida’s song need to reach its full potential for Tel Aviv? Do you want it in Albanian or in English? Let us know in the comments below!