Turkish music is popular in the Balkans

Pop exports from Albania & Kosovo That's why Kosovo is becoming an R'n'B hotspot in Europe

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Turbo-Folk meets Balkan music, plus a lot of Dancehall, Arabesk and R'n'B - and that's Shqip-Pop, one of the weirdest European music phenomena at the moment. We tell you why R'n'B made in Kosovo is going uphill at the moment.

By: Malcolm Ohanwe

Status: 09/08/2016 | archive

An elaborately produced video, a blonde woman in a coat, an R'n'B beat. That could easily be the latest US import from Los Angeles - until the vocals start and you realize: It's not English. The Kosovar singer Era Istrefi stormed the international charts with the song "BonBon". Whether Italy, France or Australia - the song "BonBon", sung entirely in Albanian, always reached the top 10.

Shqip-Pop (shqip = Albanian) is the modern sound of Kosovars and Albanians. It's absolutely not what you imagine Balkan music to be - and it's going uphill right now. Some of the performers have easily over 30 million clicks on streaming portals. Artists like Istrefi or Enca Samanta are now internationally known. Due to the special cultural background, the music sets itself apart from the rest of Balkan pop.

Mix of Balkan, Orient and Tropical

The influences that make the sound so unique are not just rap and R'n'B - because of the proximity to the Mediterranean, a certain beach feeling is often audible.

The vast majority in the region are Muslim. Many of the songs therefore sound like Turkish Arabesk music, sometimes even like North African Rai. There are also Arabic samples that are used in the chorus.

Kosovo is young - and culturally in a spirit of optimism

It is no coincidence that this new sound is so popular in this region in particular. Kosovo is the country with the youngest population in Europe. The state has officially only existed for less than ten years, and the population - despite social problems - is in a spirit of optimism. Over 70 percent of young people are unemployed. Making big money with cool music has become a dream for many. Ardian Bujupi, German-Kosovar singer and today one of the stars of the scene, explains the hype: "Everyone in Kosovo listens to R'n'B, hip-hop and dancehall, no matter how old." Bujupi is also known to many in this country: in 2011 he was quite successful in 'Deutschland sucht den Superstar'.

On a cultural level, Bujupi describes Kosovo as mini Hollywood: "Every second person there is somehow in business, whether as a singer, video director or producer. Almost everyone there wants something from the pop music cake." This is also indicated by the unbelievable productivity of the local YouTube channels, which are producing one glossy video after the other at high frequency.

Through this enthusiasm for music, more and more artists from the region manage to become known across national borders and to carry their unique mix of R'n'B and dancehall, the Balkans and the Orient into the world. Maybe he will find you a place to stay at one of the next party nights. If you want to understand what you are dancing for, you should start learning Albanian.