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!