The Fëstivali i Kënges in Albania will once again officially open the Eurovision Song Contest national final season. The festival, held in December, is used as Albania’s mechanism for choosing its entry since 2003, when Anjeza Shahini won and went on to be the country’s debut in Istanbul 2004. However, this year will mark the 54th edition of the festival that has been a part of the Albanian culture since 1962. Here’s your chance to know some of the historical Fëstivali i Kënges entries through the years!
1962: Vaçe Zela – Femijë i parë
The very first festival was won by the 23 years old Vaçe Zela. Actually, she also won the third festival, and the fifth one, the sixth, the seventh… and eleven times in total – 1962, 1964 (2 wins), 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1973, 1976, 1977 and 1980. During her life Vaçe won various persidential awards. She passed away in her home in Switzerland on 6 February 2014. Watch also a recorded message from Vaçe, followed by Anjeza Shahini singing her winning song from 1976 Nënë moj do pres gërshetin in a special show produced for the 80th anniversary of the composer, Avni Mula.
1974: Alida Hisku – Vajzat e fshatit tim
Alida Hisku has no less than ten participations in the festival, taking the first prize in 1974 and 1975. Under the communist era of Albania, her songs were mostly dedicated to the daily life of Albania’s workers as can be seen in the videoclip shot for her winning song Vajzat e fshatit tim (The girls of my village). Get a feeling of the festivals of the time with an excerpt from the broadcast of Festivali 1974
1985: Parashqevi Simaku – Në moshën e rinisë
Parashqevi was the star of the 1980s in Albania, participating in the festival six times between the years 1983-1990, winning the first place in 1985 and 1988.
1987: Irma & Eranda Libohova – Nuk e harroj
Irma and Eranda are probably the most famous sisters in the Albanian music industry. Irma is ten years older than Eranda. They have participated seperately in the festival during the 1980s, but only together they managed to reach the first place, in 1987.
1989: Redon Makashi, Bledar Sejko & Morena Reka – Jemi zëmrat e çdo moshë (Qeshu rini)
The festival of 1989 was held during the fall of communism in Albania and was the first one which did not feature the red star in its logo. The event was moved from the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Albania which hosted it for 20 years, to the Palace of Congresses, where the contest is being held until today! Frederik Ndoci who represented Albania in Eurovision 2007 won that year, but Redon, Bledar and Morena brought new winds to the festival and finished 3rd with their uptempo song Jemi zëmrat e çdo moshë.
1995: Luan Zhegu & Ledina Çelo – E doni dashurinë
Almost a decade before representing Albania in the Eurovision Song Contest, Ledina Çelo went all the way to the second place with E doni dashurinë (Do you want love?). It was reported to be the most applauded song in Festivali i Këngës history to date, with a total applause time of 7 minutes and 11 seconds.
1998: Mira Konçi – Zëmrat prësin
Mira was among the most popular faces of the festival in the 1990s, having an entry almost every year in that decade. She won the contest in 2002, and when Albania was rumored to debut in 2003, she was highly tipped as their first representative. Unfortunately, Albania had to wait to the semi-final system introduction a year later and Mira had to stay at home. This is her Top 3 entry from 1998, a year that marked the first win for a singer from Kosovo – Albërie Hadërgjonaj.
1999: Aurela Gaçe – S’jam tribu
We all could feel her passion on the stage in Düsseldorf 2011, but that came after Aurela‘s third win in the festival, winning previously in 1999 and 2001. Aurela also helped West Side Family to get the third place in 2008 and won different festivals and contests in Albania and abroad: Kënga Magjike in 2007 and 2014 and the Balkan Music Awards for the best Albanian song in 2011 (with Origjinale)
The 54th Fëstivali i Këngës will be held on 25, 26 and 27 December. The winner will go on to represent Albania in the Eurovision Song Contest 2016. You can already watch snippets of this year’s entries here.