You are currently viewing 🇦🇱 Sneak Peek: Festivali i Këngës 62 – Night 1

Photo credit: RTSH

It’s time to kickstart your Christmas with the 62nd edition of Albania‘s annual song competition Festivali i Këngës, more commonly known as FiK.

Just like last year, the festival will be held from 19th-22nd December, across four nights comprising of two semi-finals, a nostalgia night (where acts duet with famous Albanian artists) and a final. Kosovar actress Adriana Matoshi and Albanian-Italian dancer and TV personality Kledi Kadiu will act as the show’s hosts, alongside Xhuliano Dule and Krisa Çaushi. The show will be hosted at the Palace of Congresses in Tirana.

Last year, the winner of the festival itself was decided by jury, while Albania’s Eurovision representative was decided exclusively by televote. The changes to the system worked well for Albania last year, who qualified for the Grand Final in Liverpool with Albina and Familja Kelmendi and their song ‘Duje’. Therefore, it’s no surprise that RTSH have decided to keep this voting structure again this year. Can we except even more success from Albania in Eurovision 2024?

31 artists will compete for the top prize this year, showcasing a mixture of new and established artists, with last year’s FiK winner Elsa Lila making a return! However, there have been some setbacks on the road to FiK this year, with Kejsi Tola, Samanta Karavella and Sardi Strugaj withdrawing in the lead up to the contest. As all three are established names in the Albanian music scene, fans will be eagerly anticipating how this has impacted the competition.

Although we won’t hear the songs until they’re performed in their respective semis, we’re still here to bring you a run-down of the artists performing in Night 1. Keep reading to find out more!

Stivi Ushe – Askush si ty

Sometimes billed as STIV, Stivi Ushe has been releasing music for some time, participating in the sixth series of The Voice of Albania in 2017 as well as the 2022 edition of Kënga Magjike with the song ‘N’ëndrra’ (‘In Dreams’). Stivi is also a protégé of Albania’s 2021 representative Anxhela Peristeri, who performed her song ‘Karma’ in Rotterdam. Together, Stivi and Anxhela released the single ‘Morena’ in February 2023, which you can listen to below:

Could the support of a former FiK winner and Eurovision alumni help catapult Stivi, and his song ‘Askush si ty’ (‘Nobody Like You’), to success?

Besa Kokëdhima – Zemrën n’dorë

Besa Kokëdhima, sometimes known monomously as Besa, knows her way around the stage, having been performing since 2003. Well-known in Albania, she has competed in a number of song contests, including Top Fest and Kënga Magjike, the latter of which she won in 2013. She has also featured as a judge on the Albanian edition of The Voice.

This won’t be Besa’s first time attempting to grace the Eurovision stage: she previously competed to represent both Romania and Albania in Eurovision 2009. In Romania, she reached the semi-finals of Selecţia Naţională with the song ‘Nothin’ Gonna Change’ and in Albania she entered FiK with the song ‘Ajer’ (‘Air’), which placed fourth overall. You can listen to ‘Ajer’ below:

Will Besa’s long-awaited return to FiK finally result in a win and the chance to represent Albania at Eurovision? We’ll have to wait to hear her song ‘Zemrën n’dorë’ (‘Heart in Hand’) to find out!

Mal Retkoceri – Çmendur

Kosovan singer Mal Retkoceri is clearly keeping his cards close to his chest as little information can be found about him online! Hailing from Pristina, Kosovo, he will be making his FiK (and indeed musical) debut with his song ‘Çmendur’ (‘Crazy’).

There’s nothing like the largest Albanian song contest to make your mark on the music industry so we’ll be wishing Mal the best of luck.

Eldis Arrnjeti – Një kujtim

From a complete unknown to a more well-known figure on the Albanian music scene, Eldis Arrnjeti competed in Kënga Magjike last year with the song ‘Lutem’ (‘Please’). However, FiK fans may also recognise Eldis from the 60th edition of the contest, where he competed with the song ‘Refuzoj’ (‘Refuse’) and placed third overall. You can listen to ‘Refuzoj’ below:

Having lost out to Ronela Hajati and her song ‘Sekret’, can Eldis snatch the title this year with his song ‘Një kujtim’ (‘A Memory’)?

Shpat Deda – S’mund t’fitoj pa ty

Shpat Deda is a well-known musician in both Albania and Kosovo who has competed in Top Fest on a number of occasions. On the first occasion, back in 2008, Shpat’s song ‘Ëndërroj’ (‘I Dream’) helped him win the Best New Artist award and became a known hit in Albania. You can listen to this below:

This year will mark Shtap’s first year at FiK. He will be making his contest debut with the song ‘S’mund t’fitoj pa ty’ (‘I Can’t Win Without You’). We wish him the best of luck!

Jehona Ponari – Evol

When she was just 17, Jehona Ponari participated in the sixth series of The Voice of Albania, blowing the judges away with her cover of Lana del Rey‘s ‘Blue Jeans’ and inspiring them all to turn their chairs around. You can watch her blind audition below:

Now 23, Jehona will be hoping FiK will be her big break and she’ll be performing her song ‘Evol’ (‘Evolve’).

Peter Pan Quartet – Edhe nje here

Peter Pan Quartet are a punk-folk group who were brought in as a replacement act when Kejsi Tola and Samanta Karavella withdrew from the competition. They consist of guitarist, composer and lyricist Rael Hoxha, bassist Klodian Burri, percussionist Arnold Halili and pianist/keyboardist Kristi Koçi. They are active in both Kosovo and Albania and their lyrics mainly discuss socio-political problems. You can listen to their 2020 single ‘Mos u Mërzit’ (‘Don’t Be Bored’) below:

Peter Pan Quartet will be making their FiK debut with the song ‘Edhe nje here’ (‘One More Time’).

Festina Mejzini – Melos

Festina Mejzini first made her mark on the Albanian music scene back in 2012, when she auditioned for the first season of X Factor Albania, eventually placing fifth overall. However, most will recognise Festina from the 2020 edition of FiK where her song ‘Kush je ti dashuri’ (‘Who Are You, Love?’) placed third. Of course, she lost out to Anxhela Peristeri and her song ‘Karma’. You can watch ‘Kush je ti dashuri’ below:

Festina is back in 2023 with her song ‘Melos’. Could this be the year she wins it all?

Kastro Zizo – 2073

Returning to FiK for the fifth year in a row is Kastro Zizo, who can always be counted on for a unique entry. Last year, his efforts with 2Farm and their song ‘Atomike’ earned Kastro third place in the competition. You can remind yourself of the song below:

Can Kastro Zizo win FiK and represent Albania with his song ‘2073’? One thing’s for sure, it will be an entry viewers are unlikely to forget!

Luan Durmishi – Përsëritja

An experienced singer, Luan Durmishi is a tenor for the Kosovo Philharmonic. You would be forgiven for thinking this means Luan is likely to bring a classical, operatic sound to FiK. However, if his 8 minute music video ‘MAKTH’ (‘Nightmare’) is anything to go by, Luan is also capable of bringing a powerful, experimental sound to the stage. Watch the video below:

With this being Luan’s first appearance at FiK, all eyes and ears will be on him and his song ‘Përsëritja’ (‘Repetition’).

Melodajn Mancaku – Nuk jemi ne

FiK fans may recognise Melodajn Mancaku from last year’s contest, where she made her debut with the song ‘Gjysma e zemrës sime‘ (‘Half of my Heart’). You can remind yourself of her song below:

Melodajn is back again with her song ‘Nuk jemi ne’ (‘It’s Not Us’), which she co-wrote with her sister Wendi Mancaku, who is herself a well-known singer in Albania. With the support of her sibling, can Melodajn wow the juries and viewers again?

Olsi Ballta – Unë

Olsi Ballta is a creative director who has been working in the advertising industry for 17 years. However, he is also known for being in the Tirana-based thrash metal band Crossbones, which consists of Olsi on vocals, Theo Napoloni on drums, Ben Turku on guitar and Arlind Zerdja on bass. You can listen to their song ‘Man-Made God’ below:

Making his FiK debut and stepping out as a solo act, Olsi will be performing his song ‘Unë’ (‘I’).

Andi Tanko – Herë pas here

Andi Tanko is no stranger to FiK, having previously competed in both the 2015 and 2021 editions of the contest, the latter of which was with Urban Band and their song ‘Padrejtësi’ (‘Injustice’), which you can listen to below:

Back again as a solo act, can Andi enjoy success at FiK as well as the chance to represent Eurovision with the song ‘Herë pas here’ (‘Occasionally’)? Tune in to find out!

Sergio Hajdini – Uragan

Sergio Hajdini, usually billed as Sergio HD, is a well-known Albanian singer-songwriter who initially began participating in song competitions in 2011 when he competed in Top Fest with the song ‘Nuk Je Me’ (‘You Are Not Anymore’). This will be his third FiK appearance, having initially competed as a duet with Luka Hajdini in 2016 with the song ‘Koha Plaket’ (‘Time Grows Old’). His second appearance at FiK was last year, as a solo effort with the song ‘Vështirë’ (‘Tough’) where he reached the final. You can remind yourself of this below:

Could it be third time lucky for Sergio and his song ‘Uragan’ (‘Hurricane’)?

Santino De Bartolo – Dua të rri me ty

Santino De Bartolo is a Kosovan-Italian musician who was born in Calabria, Italy and has resided in Germany for a number of years. He has been releasing albums since 1994, beginning with his debut ‘Europa’. You can watch him perform his song ‘Kur na arbereshet jemi bashke’ (‘When We Disagree, We Are Together’) below:

Speaking on his Facebook of his upcoming FiK appearance, Santino said:

I am honoured to have been selected and take the opportunity to thank the committee for accepting me at this fantastic event.

Santino De Bartolo

Santino will compete with his song ‘Dua të rri me ty’ (‘I Want to Stay With You’).

Olimpia Smajlaj – Asaj

The last performer of the night is Olimpia Smajlaj who was born in Shkodër, Albania and originally made her mark competing in The Voice of Albania in 2011 and performing in bands before pursuing a solo career in 2017. She competed in the 2021 edition of FiK with the song ‘Dua’ (‘I Want’), making it to the final that year. You can remind yourself of her appearance on the show below:

Olimpia is back for a second time with her song ‘Asaj’ (‘Hers’). How will she fare this time?

Now that you’ve met all the artists performing in the first night of FiK, whose song are you most excited to hear? Let us know in the comments and be sure to follow us on all our socials.

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