Label: ECM Records.
Elina Duni was born into an artistic family in Tirana, the capital of Albania, in March 1981, and by the age of five, was already singing on national radio and television. Those that heard Elina Duni sing, realised that she was already prodigiously talented, and had a great future ahead of her.
After the demise of the tyrannical communist regime in 1992, the democratic party led a coalition and set about implementing liberalisation policies, which resulted in social unrest and the collapse of the economy. Fortunately, Elina Duni and her mother had decided to leave Albania and move to Geneva, in Switzerland, where she started to study classical piano, and later, discovered jazz which became one of her musical passions.
Having discovered jazz, Elina Duni later enrolled at the jazz programme at the prestigious Hochschule der Künste in Bern, in Switzerland. That was where she founded the Elina Duni Quartet which featured drummer Norbert Pfammatter, double bassist Patrice Moret and pianist Colin Vallon. The nascent Elina Duni Quartet allowed its leader to return to her musical roots as she combined Balkan folk songs and jazz. This was the start of Elina Duni musical career, which would soon blossom.
In 2007, Elina Duni won the Friedl Wald Prize, which was the first of several prestigious musical awards she won in her adopted home of Switzerland. Elina Duni would win another prize in 2008, which was the most important year of career.
Having signed to Meta Records, twenty-seven years old Elina Duni released her much-anticipated debut album Baresha. It lived up to the expectations, and later in 2008, Elina Duni won the Coup de Coeur and the HKB Prize, which were both presented to her in Bern, in Switzerland. This rounded off 2008 for Elina Duni, which was the most successful year of her career.
When Elina Duni returned in 2010, it was with the Elina Duni Quartet’s debut album Lume Lume, which was released on Meta Records and featured a mixture of jazz and Balkan folk music. Lume Lume was released to plaudits and praise and later in 2010, won the Pro Helvetia award. By then, Elina Duni was already regarded as one of jazz’s rising stars although she had only released two albums.
Given that Elina Duni’s star was in the ascendancy, it was no surprise when she signed a recording contract with one of Europe’s leading jazz labels, ECM Records. In September 2012, the Elina Duni Quartet released their sophomore album Matanë Malit (Beyond The Mountain) which explored Albanian folklore to critical acclaim on ECM Records. Later in 2012, Elina Duni travelled to Essen, in Germany, where she won the prestigious Jazz Pott Prize. The following year, 2013, Elina Duni returned to Tirana, in Albania, to pickup the Kult Award for Matanë Malit which was the most successful album of her career.
In 2014, Elina Duni embarked upon a new project, which was very to different to everything that had gone before. This was Muza e Zezë (The Black Muse), which marked the debut of Elina Duni as a singer-songwriter. Elina Duni self-released Muza e Zezë which was released in Albania and Kosovo, and marked the start of a new chapter in her career.
Following the release of Muza e Zezë, Elina Duni decided to turn her attention to the Elina Duni Quartet, who released their third album Dallëndyshe (Swallow) in April 2015. It was another album that focused on Albanian folklore, which once again, found favour with critics who lavished praise on Dallëndyshe. Later in 2015, Elina Duni traveled to the Kosovo Embassy in Switzerland, where she was presented with the Diaspora Award. This was another honour for the thirty-four year old singer, songwriter and musician.
As 2017 dawned, Elina Duni knew that it was going to be an important year in her career. She planned to start three new projects over the next twelve months. Elina Duni formed a new duo with London-based guitarist Rob Luft, and embarked upon her Tribute to Billie Holiday with pianist Jean-Paul Brodbeck. The third new project was the quintet Aksham which included pianist Marc Perrenoud and trumpeter player David Enhco. These three new and exciting projects were part of what was another successful year for Elina Duni who also won the Swiss Music Prize. By then, Elina Duni had already recorded her next solo album Partir.
Before Elina Duni recorded Partir, she chose the twelve songs that she planned to record. This included one of her own compositions, Let Us Dive In. It was joined by Domenico Modugno and Enrica Bonaccorti’s Amara Terra Mia, Alain Oulman, Jose Carlos Ary dos Santos’ Meu Amor, Muhammad Abd al Rahim al Masloub’s Lamma Bada Yatathanna, Itzik Manger and Philip Laskowsky’s Oyfn Veg and Jacques Brel’s Je Ne Sais Pas. They were joined by five traditional songs from different parts of Europe. From Kosovo was Vishnja and Kanga E Kurbetit, which joined the Armenian song Lusnak Gisher, the Macedonian song Ani Kaj Lulije, the Albanian traditional song Vaj Si Kenka and the Swiss song Schönster Abestärn. These twelve songs would eventually become Partir.
Recording of Partir took place at Studios La Buissonne in Pernes-les-Fontaines, in France during July 2017. Elina Duni played piano, percussion, acoustic guitar and added vocals while Manfred Eicher took charge of production. When Partir was completed, the release was scheduled for the spring of 2018 when the album was released by ECM Records.
When Elina Duni released her third solo album Partir, which opens with Amara Terra Mia it which gives way to her own composition Let Us Dive In and Lamma Bada Yatathanna. By then, it’s already apparent that this is Elina Duni’s most intimate offering, and a recoding that is very different to her two previous solo albums and three albums by her Quartet.
The Tirana-born vocalist accompanies herself on piano, acoustic guitar and frame drum, whilst interpreting and reimagining a disparate section of songs. This ranges from folk songs including Vishnja from Kosovo, which is followed by Lusnak Gisher from Armenia. Seamlessly, Elina Duni continues switch between languages and delivers the lyrics with a tenderness and emotion as breathes new meaning into songs like Oyfn Veg and Kanga E Kurbetit another traditional song from Kosovo. Sometimes, there’s a sense of sadness and longing in Elina Duni’s voice. Soon, though, Elina Duni continues on her journey around Eastern Europe, as she covers the Macedonian folk song Ani Kaj Lulije and then the Albanian song Vaj Si Kenka. After that, it’s all change.
Very different is Elina Duni’s cover of Jacques Brel’s Je Ne Sais Pas which is breathtaking in its beauty. After that, she closes Partir with a heartfelt and beautiful cover of the traditional Swiss folk song Schönster Abestärn. This seems fitting as Elina Duni has called Switzerland home since 1992.
Elina Duni has come a long way since arriving in Geneva twenty-six years later, and nowadays, is regarded as one of Europe’s top jazz and folk musicians. Proof of that is Partir, where the multitalented and multilingual Elina Duni delivers twelve songs in nine different languages. Seamlessly she switches between Albanian, German, French, English, Italian, Portuguese, Armenian, Yiddish and Arabic during Partir, where the thread that runs through this powerful and moving album is a sense of longing and loneliness. This is apparent as Elina Duni delivers emotive and expressive vocal delivers lyrics against understated arrangements.
They provide the perfect backdrop for this talented singer, songwriter and multilingual musician, as thirty-six year old Elina Duni embarks upon yet another chapter in her career on Partir, which was recently released by ECM Records, and is the perfect introduction to a prodigiously talented artist who was always destined for greatness.