Dinner with a legend.

Oh where do I begin to tell the story an unforgettable night with the 80-year old Kosovar legend Ismet Peja and his wonderful son Vegim.

From left to right: Vegim Peja, Ismet Peja and Marcel Baaijens.

I have known a popular Kosovar song ‘Martese Jone’, by Ismet for some 35 years now. It has been part of my ‘cultural make-up’ as much any song of my native culture. To meet this man after a two-year search was a highlight of an already wonderful visit in this unknown part of the world called Kosovo.
 
Ismet does not speak English, but his son did briliantly. We had so much to talk about, all equally curious about each other’s life story and journeys. We laughed so much. This man has, besides an amazing career as a singer, an amazing spirit. His 50-year old son, a doctor, but also a traditional singer, is a true son of his father. To witness the loving, joyful interaction of the two a was a treat in itself.
  
Details of traditional Kosovar wedding dresses. Courtesy of Mona Lisa, wedding dress shop, Pristina, Kosovo.
Ismet still sings today. His song, Martese Jone, especially composed for him, is like a classic sung at  Albanian/Kosovar weddings. It has been covered by many contemporary artists, but in my view none are as good as Ismet’s version. At 80, Ismet still sings at weddings. He has taken good care of his voice by never drinking or smoking, eating right, and sticking to a regular sleeping pattern. 
 
We spend a night at a local restaurant. Sometimes interrupted by other diners and the restaurant owner wanting to pay their respects. I so wished I could have filmed the whole night, as it was so special and rich, but it just did not feel appropriate. I did take a selfie  at the end though.
You can find videos of Ismet performing online. Just search Youtube for Smet Peja, or his son Visar Peja to enjoy their music (if it is your cup of tea of course).
Bride’s crown. Courtesy of Mona Lisa, wedding dress shop, Pristina, Kosovo.
I will use Martese Jone, Albanian for ‘Our Marriage’ for a Sitdance. The tutorials have already been filmed in a traditional Wedding dress shop. I trust that this Ismet’s amazing voice will encourage and inspire the elders who take part in Sitdance to dance to their hearts content. Music is an international language, its vibration has the power to resonate with our souls. This ability resonance is what makes us feel human, no matter what life’s circumstances might be.
Video still of the ‘Our Marriage’ Sitdance.
‘Our Marriage’ will feature in the ‘Sitdance through Europe’ programme, expected to be released in 2018. It is a Sitdance journey from Armenia in the far southeast to Scotland in the far northwestern corner of the continent. The link below is for Martese Jone (Our Marriage) performed by Ismet Peja.  (https://youtu.be/oB4OKTHH_Rk) I feel privileged to have been granted permission to use this song for Sitdance. I am invited to return next year to Kosovo and be Ismet’s guest and see him in action during the wedding season. Can’t wait!

Getting ready for Kosovo.

Ismet Peja performing on television.
Tomorrow I will fly to Nis (Serbia), to get to neighbouring Kosovo. The main reason is to film a Sitdance tutorial there and to meet Ismet Peja, the singer of the song I am using for the sitdance. After a 2-years search I have been able to trace him. He is now 81, his son Vegim 60 is also a singer. Luckily Vegim speaks English as my knowledge of Albanian (most common language in Kosovo) is zero. I am really looking forward to meet them. I learned a choreographed, traditional style dance called Bracno Oro to this music, some decades ago and have loved it ever since. The sitdance will express the essence of the song as well as the dance. The title ‘Martesa Jone’ means our marriage, and if you google it you will find many Youtube clips of people singing it at weddings.
 
Kosovo has experienced war and instability. It has declared independence in 2008 from Serbia and is Europe’s newest country. Not quite recognised by all yet, but it is safe to travel there. Guess what my biggest concern is? Not the political situation, but the fact that I won’t have mobile services as I transit Serbia to get to Kosovo, as it will require yet another (Serbian) sim card. I will need one in Kosovo as the roaming charges of my UK one are just outrageously expensive. So I will have to find my way around the old fashioned way: with maps and asking people :).
 
Who would have thought that one would worry about mobile connection above anything else, say 30 years ago LOL. Below is a link to the video clip of Smet Peja performing the song on television.
https://youtu.be/oB4OKTHH_Rk

A journey of languages

Above is the longest place name in the world: It is Welsh and has 58 letters and many double or even quadruple consonants in a row! The top tongue twister place name I have come across.

Since I left Australia in April I crossed many languages zones, some familiar, others total alien to me.

After I left Australia I had a short stop in Malaysia on my way to Nepal. Bahasa Malaysia I cannot claim to speak, but I can read some of the menu, and speak some basic words, because it is similar to Indonesian, where I have spend some time in the past.

I have been to Nepal many times, so the sound of Nepalese (related to Hindi) is familiar and I can say some basic words to get by. Tibetan was also spoken in the area of Nepal where I was. That is a much harder language for me, so I stuck to English only and lots of smiles. Both languages have their own alphabet, un-decypherable to me.

Next stop was Armenia and Georgia. Armenian is a language related to no other, just like Georgian. If you look at the tree of languages, both languages are on their own on a branch. Both have their own alphabet, especially designed. It took me a while to remember the first few words because my brain could not find any reference for remembering even basic words.

Dutch (and double-Dutch)is my native languages, and despite having left 30 years ago, I understand it all, speak it all, but I doubt it if my grammer is fully up to scratch. I was also fluent in German, but due to the lack of practice I am much less fluent nowadays. In Switzerland I spent time in the Swiss-German speaking area. Swiss-German differs greatly from high German, but previous exposure means I can understand some. Speaking it is a different matter though. I also learned French at school, but that never got beyond the basic conversation level. through my knowledge of French I can decipher some Italian and Spanish as they are all related.

I love the sound of Goidelic languages: the Manx, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. I have been many times to Ireland, including to the Gealtacht area where Gaelic is still spoken. I even learned some songs in Gaelic. In Ireland all signs are bilingual and I was surprised how many words I still remembered after having been away for decades.

The Brythonic languages; Welsh, Cornish and Breton Gaelic, are a different cattle of fish and do not sound like the Goidelic ones to me at all. My ears have not had much exposure to them and listen with a puzzled look on my face.

Somehow I manage to make myself understood no matter what language is spoken. Possibly because I am very used to non-verbal and intuitive communication through my work with non-verbal art students  with intellectual disabilities, and recently through my work with non-verbal people living with advanced dementia.

Non-verbal communication requires a different way of ‘tuning-in’ to a person, it requires being 100% present, and lots of intuition. It forces one to be fully present. It intensifies a connection and can make interacting very enjoyable.

It all depends on the weather…

The weather has been just appalling since yesterday, but just as I was about to leave the location I had selected to shoot a video tutorial for the Welsh dance ‘Farewell Marian’, the very wet drizzle stopped (and started, then stopped, started and then stoped again), juuuuuust long enough to film the 2 tutorials, PHEW!

Luckily I was prepared with a sheet of plastic to protect my laptop that needs to play the music, and an umbrella to protect my camera. There was a walking track next to where I was doing the filming. I could hear passers crunching their brains trying to figure out what on earth this guy was doing when they saw an empty folding chair standing in the rain, and me huddled next to the tripod with camera shielding it from the drizzle with an umbrella. Gives them something to talk about tonight doesn’t it 🤣.

I was looking for a pond, as it features the story behind the dance. What I got was not just a pond but also a castle, and not just any castle, but the one where Henry the 8th was born (Pembroke, Wales).

This dance will feature in the ‘Sitdance with the Celts’ programme, a Sitdance journey through the six celtic nation on the edges of Europe. I Visited 5 nations thus far: Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, Cornwall and Wales, the last one is Brittany, the far west corner of France.