ALBANIA: Jonida Maliqi “Ktheju Tokës”February 23, 2019
As winner of the 57th edition of the Albanian National Final, Festivali i Këngës (FiK), 35-year-old Jonida Maliqi is no stranger to the Albanian stage, appearing at her ninth FiK, and claiming victory with this powerful and moving entry, Ktheju tokës. Jonida - a very popular and celebrated artist in Albania - has judged on The Voice, hosted Dancing with the Stars, won "Best Pop Song" at Top Fest in 2010, and gained overall first place at Kënga Magjike in 2008. She is one of a very select group of artists to win a section at all three major Music Festivals in Albania.
Although Ktheju tokës does not have a direct English translation, the title of the song is closest to “Return to the Land” – referring to the emotional heartache of immigration and leaving your homeland. A sentiment that resonates strongly with Albanian and other diaspora around the world. Jondia’s bold, Cleopatra aesthetic, with equally striking vocals, adds for an attention commanding performance.
Ktheju tokës utilises drumming, chanting, eerie instrumentation, and passionately delivered lyrics to capture the essence of the turmoil she has felt herself. Stating in an interview with wiwibloggs “…maybe in every Albanian family we have someone outside our country. I feel it and they feel it. This is hard for me. This song is my emotion”. It also features ethnic realness in the instrumental backing and one of the most delightful orchestra breaks in a song I have ever experienced.
The entry is striking, authentic and mesmerising – and although in a language the vast majority of us will not understand, her pure passion and performance has incredible storytelling ability. The sound is very unique from the other Eurovision entries we have to date, which creates a point of difference for Ktheju tokës. It was confirmed shortly after the night of Jonida’s victory, her firm wishes for the song was for it to remain in Albanian, although the final decision remains with the broadcaster. In keeping with the success of last year's Albanian entry, Mall, she has a strong case, given the sentiment of the song is dedicated to Albanians, and that Ktheju tokës does not translate seamlessly into English.
For those unaccustomed to strong Albanian female vocals and the dramatic instrumentation, it might take a few listens to hook into Ktheju tokës. Personally, this was not a song that stood out to me before I watched it live – now it is my favourite entry thus far at ESC. I highly recommend watching her National Final performance first. Her stage presence, staging and passion truly bring a whole new dimension to the studio song.
Albania has delivered another unique, heartfelt, vocally powerful entry that sets itself apart from the rest of the competition. I wish Jonida all the best in Tel Aviv with her incredible song.
Thank you to my friend @yaalbanias on twitter for his local insight.