Olimpia Smajlaj is a young singer from Albania. Before starting her solo career she was part of two bands. Albanian audience got to know Olimpia after being the main-singer and actor at a late-night show “Xing” hosted by Ermal Mamaqi In June she released her second single “BB Wine”. Olimpia is making her Festivali i Këngës debut with the song “Dua”.
Hello Olimpia, your popularity rose with the role of the Xing Band lead vocal which later brought you many job offers of TV companies and lead to your decision to fully pursue your singing career. How was the whole experience and what made you decide to fully go back to singing? Do you plan to go back to acting and working on a TV station?
-I want to go quickly back in time when I first started making music as a teenager with my bands. Being in a rock band in a small country like Albania, doesn’t generate much hope that you can actually take your passion to the next level and make a career out of it. I used to think that this was temporary and eventually I’d start an “actual” job and music would be secondary, occasional. I guess I hadn’t fully realized my potential yet, and that I was meant to do this. When I first started working on TV and making live shows that payed well, trying out new genres and styles and not limiting myself anymore in just two genres I started realizing even more that this is what I wanted to do. And not just that, but actually getting in the studio and recording music. Not with a band, not someone else’s music, but mine. At the moment I’m not planning to go back to working on TV. I am fully focused on producing music.
-I have been eyeing my participation to this festival for two years now. As a child we used to watch it with my family and loved to see if Albania would choose a decent representation for Eurovision song contest. I kind of knew that one day I’d participate too, if not only for the experience alone. To be truly honest, a big prompting was the Eurovision winning song from last year, the Måneskin song and performance. It was like a reminder to the world that Rock ain’t dead and can still be cool and enjoyable for a large audience. It really inspired me to participate and bring my own touch to a festival like Fest60. Let’s see how the public will feel about it!
As a teenager you formed a band Indigos with which you took part at many rock festivals and at one you even won the grand prize being the first female-fronted rock band in the period of 14 years to do so, later in university you were part of another band “Sore Mountain”.How were those experiences? What is your favourite memory?
-They were great. In fact being in two rock bands, writing lyrics and our own music has taught me extremely much. Rock will always remain my biggest inspiration and influence, no matter the genre I go for now. In the end life is so much easier without labels :’)
My favorite memory (although hard to pick) is probably one of my live performances in Kosovo. Prishtina alone had a great rock scene, both bands and fans. They were always so warm and welcoming to us ever since the first time we performed there back in 2015.
Last year you made several covers on your YouTube channel, which of those is your favourite?
-I’d probably say Love & Trust because I exceeded my expectations there and proved to myself I can perform in any style I want. I never thought I could sound that smooth & vibey in rap too. Plus as always I add my personal touch with melody and even some lyrics. My apologies to Shaolin Gang but my version sounds so good people think of it as the original one. Ask anyone! ….Myself I like my version better. Sorry (Hahah.)
In some of your interviews you tend to reflect towards the state of Albanian music scene and you claim that it needs to be more diverse. What do you think it can help in creation of diversity? Do you see festivals as Kenga Magjike and FiK as something helpful to the change?
– One thing that helps is more promotion for new artists and some sort of filtering for what people are given to listen to. Festivals like these two and other new festivals are needed precisely for this, but frankly not even them aren’t inclusive enough. Most participants are accepted with only a certain genre and style and even when they include new different artists, they are overshadowed by already famous participants with typical “victory” songs.
The filtering and inclusiveness should start by the media first.
Can you share with us more about your entry “Dua” and how was it to work on the creation of it? Will it resemble your one of your singles “Buzzin” or “BB Wine” or it will be something completely different?
– “Dua” means “I Want”. The process was very exhausting but in the same time very rewarding. Creating a song that matches the format and requirements of this festival it’s not a very easy thing to do. Me and my composer we had to work a lot on finding something that suits me and the festival at the same time. It definitely cracked some nerves and it took quite some time, but I’m happy with the result. So no, it has nothing to do with my other singles.
You are also a lyricist and song writer do you have favourite lyrics or line of a song which competed at Festivali i Këngës?
-Yeah, I’ll choose a line from my own song since I also wrote my lyrics. “Ka ma shumekjobote per mu me dhan” – There’s so much more to be gifted to me by this world. Believe me, it sounds way more poetic in Albanian! (hahah)
Which artist competing at FiK 60 you see as your biggest competitor/s? And whose song are you most excited to hear?
-I can’t say. The artists competing will be very different from each-other and at the end of the day what truly makes the difference and raises the bar is the live performance. I would have a clearer idea of who’s a tough entry after I saw everyone performing their song live! I’m excited to hear all the songs, same way I used to be while I watched as a spectator.
If you become the next Albanian representative at the Eurovision Song Contest what would it mean to you?
–A once in a lifetime opportunity. I’d make sure to use it well and not waste a single bit of this amazing moment of exposure, make proud my family, my country and myself.
Have you watched Eurovision in the past and do you have a favorite song of the contest?
-Yes, mostly as children me and my sister were very ‘faithful’ to Eurovision, we’d never miss it. The song that truly remains our favorite is ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’ by Lordi. I think it might have been my first confrontation with a truly Rock performance and for sure sparkled something inme. Their costumes, their singing, their performance was absolutely mind-blowing for a 2006 kiddo like me. I knew they’d win the first moment I saw them. And they did. Just like Ruslana with ‘Wild Dances’.( A very honorable mention, an amazing song). Hard to choose between them!
What do you do when you are not creating music and singing?
-Dwelling in movies and TV-shows. I’m obsessed with cinematography. It’s my second biggest passion. If I’m not watching a movie then I’m probably reading.
What are your plans after Festivali i Këngës?
-I have two songs that are waiting to be launched and have been postponed because of Fest60. I’ll be quite busy with them and more.
Thank you so much for your time Olimpia. We wish you the best of luck at Festivali i Këngës.
You can listen to “Dua” below
Don’t forget to vote for your favourite at Festivali i këngës 60!
- Alban Ramosaj - Theje 18%, 652 votes652 votes 18%652 votes - 18% of all votes
- Ronela Hajati - Sekret 17%, 624 votes624 votes 17%624 votes - 17% of all votes
- Janex - Deluzional 9%, 337 votes337 votes 9%337 votes - 9% of all votes
- Mirud - Per dreq 8%, 285 votes285 votes 8%285 votes - 8% of all votes
- Rezarta Smaja - E jemja nuse 8%, 279 votes279 votes 8%279 votes - 8% of all votes
- Ester Zahiri - Hijena 7%, 240 votes240 votes 7%240 votes - 7% of all votes
- Olimpia Smajlaj - Dua 6%, 204 votes204 votes 6%204 votes - 6% of all votes
- Kelly - Meteor 5%, 177 votes177 votes 5%177 votes - 5% of all votes
- Eldis Arrnjeti - Refuzoj 5%, 169 votes169 votes 5%169 votes - 5% of all votes
- Gjergj Kacinari - Ne enderr mbete ti 5%, 168 votes168 votes 5%168 votes - 5% of all votes
- Endri and Stefi - Triumfi i jetes 4%, 161 vote161 vote 4%161 vote - 4% of all votes
- Urban Band - Padrejtesi 3%, 98 votes98 votes 3%98 votes - 3% of all votes
- Evi Reci - Me duaj 2%, 60 votes60 votes 2%60 votes - 2% of all votes
- Kastro Zizo - Kuje 1%, 46 votes46 votes 1%46 votes - 1% of all votes
- Denis Skura - Pse nuk flet, mama? 1%, 39 votes39 votes 1%39 votes - 1% of all votes
- Shega - Nje 1%, 27 votes27 votes 1%27 votes - 1% of all votes
- Sajmir Cili - Nen maske 0%, 16 votes16 votes16 votes - 0% of all votes
Let us know your impressions of “Dua” by Olimpia Smajlaj in the comments below and at our social media links!