Standing as the embodiment of Dancehall’s permeation of Pop culture is Era Istrefi, the Kosovar vocalist behind the hit single ‘Bon Bon.’
Inspired by sights and sounds created by the likes of Beenie Man, Patra and Lady Saw, the gifted Era rose to fame when the aforementioned single (which was recorded in her native tongue) was carried above and beyond her domestic market by fans online.
Keen to celebrate her rising star TGJ caught up with her in London to discuss what is shaping up to be an exciting journey.
TGJ’s ‘Freshly Squeezed’ meets Era below…
I started music as a teenager and sharing it on YouTube but before that I really was singing for fun. Growing up, I listened to a lot of R&B and Hip-Hop artists like Brandy, Christina Aguilera, Monica and Eminem and that helped to shape my sound away from the traditional Albanian music I loved listening to my mother and sister make.
The song doing what it did came as a huge shock to me because it isn’t that different from my earlier material. That’s because I wrote them all. That made its success so meaningful to me. You can hear all of my influences, Dancehall, Reggae, and Electroin it and I’m happy that my first hit was one which really embodies who I am. It’s so strange, growing up Kosovo’s unrest made me wish I was born in America so I could b an American girl. Now I realise now that being from where I’m from is what makes me and my music so unique.
The album has seven songs on it so far and so much of what I’m doing now is giving myself the space and time to explore new sounds and genres and write from a place of honesty. Things are complicated now because when I didn’t have the recording contract I have now when I wrote the songs that got me the deal so there’s a pressure that’s there that didn’t exist before.It’s exciting at the same time though because I can sense where the project is going. It feels…limitless.
I want to be known as a girl from Kosovo who gave her people hope by believing in her dream and never giving up on it…as someone who proves that anything is possible.