Albania 2024: Besa
Photo: Josef Jean Renault

Besa from Albania: "It would be less risky not to change my song"

INTERVIEW The song that Besa will sing for Albania in Eurovision 2024 has suffered major changes since Festivali i Këngës. Ahead of Eurovision the singer sees the revamp as an opportunity to engage with a larger audience, viewing Albania with fresh eyes

Besa Kokëdhima, simply known as Besa, will represent Albania at the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 after winning the public vote at the Albanian contest Festivali i Këngës #62 back in December.

This participation marked Besa's third attempt in the festival and, just like Aiko, the third time was a charm for the Albanian singer who admits she's been a bit out of her country's music scene. Taking part in Festivali i Këngës #62 was an emotional ride for her:

– I decided to return to the festival because I have been a bit absent from the Albanian music scene. I've been working on an international album in France where I reside half of my time, she explains.

– There was a lot of anticipation about my participation and, to be honest, I didn't expect to have that much support. I really felt that people missed me and it made me feel loved.

She also admits that with the anticipation comes the responsibility:

– I really want to do well for my fans and for the people who support me and believe in me.

What did you learn from your past experiences?

– Every time you participate, you always learn something and you grow as an artist. For me, being someone who has taken part in multiple music festivals in Albania and in the Balkans, I feel like it all led to this song.

A fun fact is that back in 2009 Besa attempted to represent Romania in Eurovision with "Nothing Gonna Change."

– Given the success of my song "Amelia," which went viral in Romania, my writers suggested I do it as they saw it as a good opportunity. I actually didn't think we would be selected to compete, but we did it!

From "Zemrën n'dorë" to "Titan"

When Besa was shortlisted for Festivali i Këngës #62, she competed with an Albanian song titled "Zemrën n'dorë." Since then, the song has gone through a drastic revamp: the structure changed, it's no longer in Albanian, and was mixed with different genres that weren't in the original version. It's now titled "Titan," and it's what Besa will take to Malmö.

As someone who gets bored easily (and here's a reason for the revamp), Besa sees both songs as different chapters in her life:

– When we worked on "Zemrën n'dorë" it was about that moment when you're still in a bad place. There's a lot of drama, a lot of contrast, emotions, and you still feel toxicity, she says.

– When we did "Titan" it was more about finding that strength to come above it all, when you feel empowered, stronger, and as the master of your fate. That was the progress of the song.

Besa – "Zemrën N’dorë"

For Besa "some tweaks here and there" weren't enough as it has been a process for her too. What her life was when she wrote the song with Kledi Bahiti is not the same as it is today:

– It no longer represented my emotional state. I've grown and I needed the song to grow as well.

She goes on to add that making "Titan" internationally appealing was another goal as the original version was "more rooted for the Albanian music culture."

Did you ever feel like you were going against the Albanian people who chose "Zemrën n'dorë"?

– What I asked myself was, "Do we want to put our odds in getting the best exposure and the best result for the song, or are we just going to hold close to what may be dear to us?" That was my dilemma, and I am aware that some people would choose the other way around, she says.

It no longer represented my emotional state. I've grown and I needed the song to grow as well.Besa

– I think it would be less risky not to change the song, because if you're aiming for an international feel you're directly up against a lot more songs than if it was a more ethnic flavored song. I also decided to take the risk because I wanted people to understand my song without having to translate it.

Going through the lyrics of "Titan" it's really no longer about the hurting, but more about the healing. It's an empowering song, something that usually resonates with the Eurovision audience, it features a timeless message:

– We all go through difficult times. We all have our chains, our demons, we all feel vulnerable, powerless and weak a lot of times. For that reason, the message of "Titan" is still important and will never die, she explains.

– As long as there will be people and there will be struggles in life, there'll always be the need of empowering messages so we can find our strength and be the titans of our lives.

Albania 2024: Besa – "Titan"

For her Eurovision performance, Besa has been working with people from Finland and Sweden:

– Reija Wäre, Melissa Thompson and Fredrik Rydman are involved. We want to create something cool, fresh, innovative, and global in the sense that unites people and anyone can understand, no matter their background, she explains.

Besa doesn't go into detail when describing what we'll see on stage, but shares that she won't be alone and that there will be some choreography, "just not hard dancing." She also guarantees that she's extremely involved in the creation of the final product:

– You have to be, and it requires a lot of time, even from myself. Maybe it's not my primary call to deal with every aspect of it, but I do it with dedication and pleasure to serve my duty the best I can. Albania is a small country with limited resources and we want to make sure we offer a show as great as the countries with a bigger budget.

Once she's done with her performance, she wants people to think of her as a "big voice, emotional and cool."

Fans make Eurovision so worth it

We go on to speak about the contest and what Eurovision means to her:

– I'd assume that every musician or artist watches Eurovision, it's the biggest stage and the biggest festival in Europe in which every country goes through a process of selecting amongst their domestic music, she says.

– On a personal level, it represents a place where we come together and all the countries have an equal chance of displaying their culture. It's also a way for you to communicate with international audiences.

– I love when that cultural exchange happens, we all need to come closer together. Even though we represent countries, I think boundaries should be felt less and less.

That is Eurovision. How's your experience been so far?

– If I am honest with you, in the beginning, I wasn't aware of all of this but the fans are so passionate. Even when they're naughty, because I see what they post on Twitter, I think they're funny and cute, and they're also careful. The fans make this experience so worth it.

With four albums released and a new one coming soon after Eurovision (which will be half in French and half in English), Besa has been making music for a long time. When we speak about her journey, the thing she says she should've done more often would be trusting her gut feeling.

That's exactly what Mustii told me!

– Really? Oh, I love him, but that is it! You always listen to other people's opinions in a way or another and, of course, they're not always wrong. But most of the time you just know what's right for you.

As we reach the end of our conversation, we speak about her goals with this Eurovision participation:

– I would like to have a performance that will make people who follow, support, and believe in me feel proud, and that will also make Albania be seen in a fresher and more international way, she says.

– Finally, I'd like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart who has been supporting me, and I hope you'll continue to do so. Albania is a small country competing with bigger countries, but we're all given the same opportunity.

Besa will represent Albania with her song "Titan" in Eurovision 2024. She'll compete in the second Semi-final on 9 May.

About the author: Pedro Santos (Portugal)

authorPedro comes from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 30 years old and graduated in journalism. He has attended Eurovision Song Contest three times live - 2018, 2019 and 2022 - and covered the show twice more (2021, 2023) but his first Eurovision memory takes him back to 2007 when Sarbel delivered his catchy "Yassou Maria" performance. Pedro's favorite Eurovision song is Albania's 2015 "I'm Alive" by Elhaida Dani which is also his favorite Eurovision edition.

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