Category Archives: Arts and Culture

Born in Bulqize, Albania, Mira Kaloshi is a young Albanian singer who moved to Belgium together with her family at the age of five. She learned of her ability to sing at a young age and often performed at school and local events. At the age of 14 she started writing her own music and at the age of 16 she decided to learn to play the guitar. These activities provided her with the opportunity to network with a number of people in the music business who helped her become a better singer songwriter. “Those couple of chords that I learned on the guitar helped me to write the music I have today,” stated Mira. After many recorded demos, Nightgames was officially released on her birthday, the 25th of October, 2016. Nightgames was, produced, recorded, and filmed in Antwerp.

Mira Kaloshi: Creating connections through musicMira’s music is inspired by her life experiences as well as a diverse set of music genres. Her music is not limited to any particular genre but is a is a mix of styles such as indie pop, alternative RnB’ and acoustic pop. Another single released, titled Far Away, is written by her and music producer, Wekho. Right now, she is working with different people, trying to put together an EP that will define her style. She anticipates that her EP will be out soon as she has finished working on it. She envisions an EP that is both artistic as well as visually appealing, having a movie feel to it. She notes, “like making people feel like they are watching a movie-trailer instead of just a video clip. That’s what I intended to do with Nightgames in the first place.”


But beside the musical career she is committed and engaged in the diaspora community.  She has been a part of the student committee Vlera, that was created by Albanian-Kosovar students in Belgium a couple of years ago. Vlera is an organization that aims to help Albanian speaking students, such as helping them find internships, or by organizing events to communicate with each other. Currently, Mira is also focused on finishing her studies in Communication. She believes that Albania and Kosovo have some of the most talented people in the world. She considers the art scene in the region to be very vivid, changing and evolving everyday. She hopes that in the near future more art schools will open and more events or festivals will be organized in order to provide a space for many talented artists.

Mira Kaloshi: Creating connections through musicEven though Mira speaks Albanian very well, her songs are in English. She is often faced with the challenge of explaining why she chooses to sing in English. Having grown up in Belgium, she learned English from a very young age and listened to English artists. Therefore, English has become her her native language. She notes, “As much as I love listening to Albanian music, it’s hard for me to make it, because mentally I’m somewhere in the middle between Albania and Belgium right now.” Despite being in English, however, her single Nightgames was released by Albanian radio stations, and TV-stations. Another challenge for Mira is making connections in a country that isn’t her homeland. The specific art scene set in Belgium makes it a difficult place for Mira to develop her career as she envisions it. As a foreigner she finds it hard to be appreciated and recognized for her work.

On a simple dark stage underneath a single spotlight, the Albanian music artist known as Stanaj stands tall and confident ready to perform for his fans at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. He grabs the microphone and immediately the room becomes electrified by his powerful and smooth voice and his infectious presence.s4Stanaj, 22, has been performing for large audiences like this for quite some time now. Yet, he evokes such a level of pure joy and excitement when he sings that it feels like this could be his first big performance. It is with love, gratitude, and a huge smile adorning his face that Stanaj gives life to his beautiful songs and sends everyone home with a piece of his heart and a little bit of his charm. There is something truly admirable about the genuineness with which he performs.

Stanaj, born in New York to Albanian immigrant parents, has taken the music industry by storm and is quickly rising as a pop-star sensation. Within five months he successfully released two EPs, “The Preview” in 2016 and “From A Distance” in 2017. Aside from being featured on Spotify’s “Pop Rising” and Tidal Rising, he is selling out shows in every city alongside singer Jojo.


The world was officially introduced to Stanaj in October of 2016 through his first official television debut on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. By his own admission, that debut to him was a dream come true. But, to many people, Stanaj was already someone to watch out for due to his large social media following. After performing in bars and small gigs, Stanaj began to steadily gain popularity on Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. In a matter of a couple of years, he managed to go from a social media sensation to a respected recording artist. Stanaj has come a long way but he still thinks there is a lot of work ahead of him. “I am nowhere near where I want to be. However, I’ve been lucky enough to be recognized by so many people as a true artist,” he adds.

When he’s not on the road, Stanaj splits his time between New York and LA writing –he has written with some of the best writers and producers–and recording songs. But that burden is made easier by the tremendous support and the constant presence of his family—“my champions”, as he refers to them— to whom he dedicates his entire success to. In fact, his manager Mark is his brother. But the sacrifices his family has made along the way are finally paying off. Being a first-generation American and seeing the struggles that his parents have had to overcome inspires Stanaj to pursue his dreams and stay humble. His parents are Albanian from Malesia, Montenegro. “Having older siblings and parents who are so deeply involved in the Albanian culture helps me stay true to who I am, and my roots,” he says.

Growing up, Stanaj sang mostly Albanian songs, which he admits he still loves dearly. He often shares videos and images of his younger self joyfully performing in small Albanian weddings and gatherings. From a young age, his family has shared his passion for music. He says he developed a desire for singing from playing instruments with his brothers. “I am not sure that I would have had the same success without having my family guiding and supporting me every step of the way.”

When it comes to the styles of his music, Stanaj does not think he sounds like anyone in particular, but people have compared him to a mix between Sam Smith, Justin Timberlake, and Alicia Keys. Yet, he is unique in his own way. You have never heard anyone quite like him. You can listen to a song and immediately know it is his. This is a sign of a true artist and he plans to keep it that way. In a world full of mass-produced music, Stanaj thinks that being unique will prevail. As far as we are concerned, Stanaj’s dream built on hard work, determination, and team effort has already prevailed.

DIASPORA: DSP Project Grants

Kosovar Civil Society Foundation through the project Promoting Democratic Society (DSP), supported by the Swiss Cooperation Office in Kosovo (SCO-K), under the second component of the project, has opened up the possibility of applying for Diaspora grants.

The aim of this component is supporting civil society organizations in Diaspora through grants. The areas to be supported by this scheme cover i) Diaspora civic and political rights in Kosovo and ii) transfers of “know-how” by Kosovo’s Diaspora for social and economic development of Kosovo.

Project bearers must be Diaspora organizations whereas Kosovo-based organizations could be partners in projects implementation.

With regards to this, we inform you that application for Diaspora Grants is open and the deadline for application is February 1, 2017.

More detailed information concerning the call for application and required documents can be found in the link:,15.

Besa Neziri Rugova is a fashion designer from Kosovo whose work is characterized by a modern take on traditional elements. After finishing her studies at Parsons School of Design in New York and working at various fashion labels, she launched her own line in 2013. Besa describes her designs as “dreamy, ethereal, whimsical, feminine silhouettes.” Her signature touches are sheer fabrics such as silk organza, tulle and hand-made lace.

From Kosovo to New York, Besa brings authentic designs to the fashion world

© Arton Sefa

The following is an exclusive interview with Besa for KosovoDiaspora.

KD: Can you tell us a bit about your background and the work you do?

Besa Neziri Rugova: I graduated from Art Academy in Kosovo with a major in painting, before I attended The Parsons School of Design in New York, where I received a degree in Fashion Design.

After graduation, I worked in the fashion industry with various labels – where I gained a comprehensive knowledge on garment making and the business side of the industry. This really helped build the confidence to start my own line, something that I always wanted and dreamed of. In 2013, I launched my own line here in New York – with a small capsule collection. Since then, I have been expanding and evolving, as designers do.

Earlier this year, I opened up a studio in Prishtina, where I not only do my production – but I also have a curated showroom where I present my work, and meet clients. I also have private clients, for whom I do custom work as well. At the same time, I’m continuing my work in New York, and gathering inspiration and ideas that feed my artistic soul.

KD: What are some of the projects you working on now?

Besa Neziri Rugova: I just finished up a photoshoot for my new Spring/Summer 2017 collection here in New York, which will be in the store soon.  I have also started working on my Fall/Winter 2017 collection – by putting together my moldboard and initial rough sketches. Beyond that, another ongoing project, which is not that closely related to fashion, is coming to an end soon. I will disclose more information on that in the days to come. I am also back to school to get certified for bespoke men’s tailoring techniques, and I am absolutely in love with this class and learning so much.

KD: How do you see the art and design scene in Kosovo?

Besa Neziri Rugova: I think there are a lot of talented people in Kosovo, but succeeding there is still mostly contingent upon connections rather than merit, which troubles me. While being well connected is an important factor anywhere in the world, it shouldn’t be able to entirely substitute talent. I would love to see this change – and for young, fresh, talent to find more opportunities to present their work. Another challenge I see, quite often actually, is a lack of authenticity when it comes to some fashion designers in Kosovo. I have noticed a tendency to copy other’s aesthetics and ideas, rather than creating ones own. This is something that I find refreshing in New York- the underlying respect in the design community for individual authenticity and allowing others to retain their own ideas for themselves.

Maybe some fashion industry professionals, offering valid, authentic, unbiased critique- is needed to alleviate the above mentioned problems. This could really help improve the overall quality and respectability of the fashion scene in Kosovo.

KD: What are some of the challenges you face as an artist from Kosovo?

Besa Neziri Rugova: To be honest, I never faced specific challenges related to my Kosovar origin. On the contrary, I always felt and feel welcome, and people are genuinely intrigued by our history and country here in the US. In school, I did struggle a bit initially when I got here, due to minimal computer skills, poor English, and the challenges of adapting to a different school system. However, overall, being from Kosovo and another place in general, I really feel like I’ve come to develop a unique style, based on my native culture intermixed with the creative inspiration I access day to day, everywhere I look, being in a city like New York.

KD: How can diaspora members help better the image of Kosovo?

Besa Neziri Rugova: I think we are on the right track here, especially when it comes to the younger generation, represented prominently by Dua Lipa or Rita Ora. It’s important to lead by example, conveying proper values and authentic talent as the key to success, no matter what field you may be in.

To see more of Besa’s designs, check out her Instagram or Facebook page.

Artist-in-Residency Program

Hajde! Foundation presents an Artist-in-Residency Program
in collaboration with the Kosovo Environmental and Education Center (KEERC) in Junik from 31 July – 9 August 2016.  

In collaboration with the Kosovo Environmental and Education Center (KEERC), Hajde! Foundation is offering a cross-disciplinary artist-in-residency program in Junik, Kosovo. Set in the foothills of the National Park Bjeshkët e Nemuna, the residency aims to foster rich collaborations between artists and scientists. The program was founded on the principle that the integration of art, science, community engagement, and education can create innovative and effective ecological interventions.

This is a program for visual artists, writers, musicians, architects and other creative media. The recipient of the residency will stay in Junik for 10 days. Daily expeditions into forests, wildlife sanctuaries, mountains and the research lab will be enriched by biologists, naturalists and experts, rendering this a unique possibility for interested artists for research. Although it is not necessary for the resident to produce work during the program, collaboration with the biologists, nature observers and the local community is highly encouraged. KEERC and Hajde! hope that the residency will facilitate connections of different kinds between all participants and lead to collaborations, new discoveries and new synergies between nature, science and art.

The residency program encourages dialogue between disciplines to bring positive change to the environment and encourage environmental thinking in the region and Kosovo at large. Applicants should have a deep interest in the cross-disciplinary potentials between art and nature and their previous work as well as their planned project should reflect this interest and engagement. Applicants may be emerging or established artists who are able to communicate fluently in Albanian as well as English or German. The recipient should be able to commit to the full period of the residency (31 July – 9 August 2016) and will be provided with a round-trip ticket to Junik from his/her residency in Kosovo, a room and a per diem. A stipend will be provided to cover additional costs for materials. The recipient is invited to give an informal presentation of his/her work to the group of biologists at the beginning of the residency and is free to organize a concluding event at the end of the residency.

Please send your application materials (compiled into one pdf) by 20 July 2016 to [email protected]

  • Artist portfolio (3-5 works that best represent your artistic practice or projects related to the residency).
  • Statement of interest in the program with a short description about your planned research / project / interest in Junik (not more than 700 words).
  •  A short CV.

For more infromation please see:


The historic Stage 48 NYC opened its doors to a sold out crowd on Sunday, March 27, 2016 for Albanian Fashion Week 2016. New Yorkers welcomed international Pop Rock Prince Matteo Brento to NYC’s largest and hottest club in Times Square.

The X-Factor Albania Star, Matteo Brento opened the New York show in front of a packed house of 400 adoring fans with his newest single #21 (Goodbye My Love). The new hit #21 (Goodbye my love) is composed and written by award-winning artist Michele Bisceglia, writer and showrunner of ‘IF, winner of “Best Original Song”. The song is arranged by Alessandro Di Lascia in collaboration with vocal coach Cristina Bisceglia.

Matteo treated the crowd to an evening of greatest classics performing Italian hits like “Caruso” by Lucio Dalla, “L’ultima occasione” by Mina, “La donna cannone” by Francesco De Gregori and “E penso a te” by Lucio Battisti.

“It was truly an honor to perform at the Albanian Fashion Week in New York some of the greatest classics and most beloved Italian songs. Caruso by Lucio Dalla is a classic of Italian music known all over the world. What I respect about a legend like Lucio Dalla is that he is a great artist who is not just writing songs, but he is telling real poems,” said Pop Rock star Matteo Brento.


“Congratulations to Mrika Krasniqi, the organizer of the Albanian Fashion Week in New York for such an incredible and successful event. Albanian Fashion Show is the biggest show in USA for Albanian top designers. A very sophisticated show, a pleasant night and highly entertaining. Thank you for having Matteo Brento as special guest at such a fantastic evening,” said Armando Roberto, Matteo Brento’s manager.

Other highlights of Matteo Brento’s performance included the popular Albanian anthem “Xhamandani vija vija” by Ilirët (composed by award-winning Zef Çoba) and “Summertime sadness” by Lana Del Rey, winner of MTV Music Award and Grammy nominee. The later song “Je Ti” by Albanian superstar Alban Skënderaj was dedicated to X-Factor Albania and Matteo’s worldwide Albanian fans. Matteo Brento first performed “Je Ti” to millions of fans during the live broadcast of the biggest talent competition in Europe, The X-Factor Show.

“It was a dream week! The performance at the Albanian Fashion Week NY was a huge success. The shoot of the music video in New York was amazing,” said superstar Matteo Brento. “It was even more incredible to have known special people. Thank you for treating me like a great artist, a great team! Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone! See you soon,” said successful European artist Matteo Brento regarding his debut in United States.

Albanian Fashion Week 2016 is organized by Mrika Krasniqi, founder and CEO of Albanian Fashion Agency and Nil Production in New York. The Albanian Fashion Show presented the best looks from the biggest night in fashion in Manhattan. According to the press release published on the official website of Matteo Brento (, the artist was accompanied by his Italian manager Armando Roberto and his NY Management for the Red Carpet VIP Fashion Show.

“The evening was even more grandiose with Matteo’s performance. It was such a special honor for us to have Matteo Brento at the Albanian Fashion Show. He brought such a classy and warm atmosphere for the public with all the songs that he performed, especially with the ‘Xhamadani Vija Vija’ song. He sang it so well that I got very emotional hearing it,” said Mrika Krasniqi, organizer of Albanian Fashion Week 2016 in New York.

Ambassador H.E. Ylber Kryeziu welcomed Matteo Brento and Armando Roberto to a meet-and-greet at the General Consulate of Kosovo in New York on Monday, March 28, 2016. Matteo Brento said that it was a great privilege and pleasure and thanked Ambassador Kryeziu for the warm welcome and he looks forward to his next projects in Albania and Kosovo.

“I am very excited about my new collaboration with Michele Bisceglia. We are preparing something special for Kenga Magjike in Albania later this year. I would like to present a traditional Albanian song in this great festival to represent the beautiful Albanian culture,” said the internationally known Matteo Brento.