Photo: Matthijs Keim.

14th DAM Festival brings ‘love for classical music’ to Prishtina

With thirteen successful editions under its belt, this year’s edition of classical music event DAM Festival started on Tuesday evening with a performance from the Paris Quartet in Prishtina’s Palace of Youth and Sports.

A wave of applause came rolling in for the musicians of the Paris Quartet as they finished the last notes of their Mozart rendition. The standing ovation that followed from the crowd in the Red Hall of the Palace of Youth lasted not seconds, but minutes. The quartet from Paris, with the Albanian Vlorent Xhafaj in their midst, returned the public’s gesture with warm smiles.

This year’s DAM Festival features musical artists from all over the world, varying from classical quartets and pianists to folk and electronic music bands. Apart from concerts, the five-day festival also sets the stage for lectures on classical and contemporary music. The events will take place in three venues spread over Prishtina.

What started as a place for young and talented musicians to present their work has grown into an international festival with musicians coming annually to Kosovo to be a part of the event. As DAM festival’s celebrity has grown, said the organizers of the festival, its aim has stayed the same.

“We are still a platform for young artists to promote themselves,” said Dardan Noka, artistic director of DAM, with a smile. “At least, we try to be.”

New to the festival’s schedule this year is the Balkan Composers Competition in Prishtina, which showcases young breakout classical music composition talent in the Balkans.

“The competition was open for the six non-EU Balkan countries,” said Noka. “Each participant had to send in three pieces which were judged by three members of DAM and the nine members of the Dutch Orchestra Oerknal.”

Throughout the week, members of Oerknal are providing lectures, workshops and masterclasses for students from the Faculty of Arts in Prishtina.

The six finalists of the composer’s competition, two Kosovars, two Serbians and one North Macedonian, are on the verge of making a name for themselves, said Noka.

“The winner will receive a medal and money to compose a new piece. The winner’s new work will be premiered at Oerknal concert in Amsterdam and will feature on the new CD of the Dutch Orchestra,” said Noka.  

On Friday, the final of this competition will be held at the Red Hall. After a week of rehearsals, Oerknal will play the pieces composed and conducted by the finalists. After the concert, the orchestra itself will select the winner.

Despite its success, every year, organizing the festival proves to be a challenge. Rreze Kryeziu, general director of the festival, explained that even finding a proper venue is difficult since Prishtina lacks a concert hall.

Proponents of a proper artistic venue in Kosovo tried to settle on the former Germia building on the main boulevard in Prishtina to be transformed in a concert hall. After protests from citizens and architects in 2018, however, the project was put on hold.

“We have no proper halls here,” said Kryeziu about Kosovo’s capital. “We tried to experiment in other halls, but still we returned here [Palace of Youth].”

Photo: Matthijs Keim.

To make organizing such a music event in Kosovo even possible, said Kryeziu, “you have to be very passionate about classical music.” Without a proper concert hall such as the site of the Germia building, DAM Festival can not legally earn from ticket sales, Kryeziu explained, and is also lacking the digital infrastructure required to sell them.

The festival receives funding from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, along with other public institutions. Sponsoring has not been stable in recent years, according to Kryeziu, and the Ministry previously cut the festival’s funding by 70 per cent.

Still, DAM Festival survives. “Through the passion and love for our profession: music,” said Kryeziu. A musicologist and professor at the faculty of music at Prishtina University, Kryeziu explained that supporting budding musicians keeps her coming back to DAM Festival.

“When you love it, you do it. You continue. Maybe, one day, I will get tired. But until now, I’m very happy,” she said. “There are some editions when you say: okay, no more. But then, when you see that the audience is happy and that you’re supporting young talent, you say: let’s continue.”

DAM festival is a free event that will be held from March 26 to 31. The Red Hall in Prishtina’s Palace of Youth and Sports will host the classical music schedule, while Menza Ramiz Sadiku will host folklore and electronic music events. The lectures will be held at Shtatembedhjete. For more information, check out their Facebook.

27/03/2019 - 15:43

27 March 2019 - 15:43

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.