Quick, who is the most famous person you’ve ever heard of from Kosovo? One more: where exactly is Kosovo?
If you’re drawing a blank on both questions, don’t worry. Rita Ora is ready to introduce the world to her home country.
If you want to locate it on a map, Kosovo is a small, landlocked country in southeastern Europe. It’s north of Greece, west of Bulgaria and bordered by Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. On the world stage, it is remembered by most for the 1999 Kosovo war, during which millions of Albanians either left or were driven out of Kosovo. But Ora tells CBS Local, there is a lot more to her country than ethnic strife.
“My country is the most supportive country I ever have come across,” Ora said. “They are so, so proud and I’m happy to say that I’m from there. I say it in every interview…It’s always a shock and I love that. They’ve had my back since I started. I met the ambassador, the president wants to meet. I feel like it’s a very big honor. It’s one of those things where we don’t get those opportunities and there’s a lot of talent in my country. I’m happy to be one of the first to say that.”
She is easily the most notable musician on the world stage from the country, although her music is not quite in the style of the country. While popular music is embraced in Kosovo, there is also large audience for Albanian music.
“Kosovo music, how can I put it? It’s very, very specific,” Ora explained. “We have individual instruments that no one really uses. We have a çifteli, which is basically a guitar with…I know it’s got a small amount of strings. It makes a specific noise that you know is from my culture. It’s things like that, the individuality of my music came from the individuality of Kosovo music. I like the fact that you could tell it was from Kosovo. That’s what amazed me and I wanted people to tell that it was from Rita.”
The çifteli is a Turkish instrument with two strings, often used in modern popular Albanian music. They also use the šargija, another type of Albanian guitar that is unique to the area and dates back to the Ottoman Empire.
“Inspired me on that level, but I will never go where I can play the çifteli because I can’t compete with the people that have been doing it for years,” Ora laughs. “They completely destroy it. It’s a bit Arabic mixed with, it’s just got an Eastern European feel.”
And Ora told 97.1 AMP/Los Angeles that she’s going to export a bit of Kosovo to the UK — by recently shooting her video for “Shine Ya Light” in her home country. “I shot the video there because that’s where I was born…I wanted to show you guys and everyone who’s not familiar with it how great a place it is.”
-Courtney E. Smith, CBS Local