Rafet Rudi: Alright, I am Rafet Rudi, a composer born on January 5, 1949, in Mitrovica.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Can you tell us about your family, your early childhood?
Rafet Rudi: I mean, I belong to a gjakovar family that moved to Mitrovica from Gjakova because of economic reasons, and I mean it was a family that migrated between two world wars. My father, for example, had a shop, he was a merchant, and this happened because Mitrovica was a more dynamic city. An industrial city, different from Gjakova, which had no movements, no employment, of course it didn’t even have factories and so on, and all of these were present in Mitrovica. Mitrovica, I mean, it was, we will also see later during the interview, it was a relatively open city, or I can say the most open city in Kosovo back then. Precisely for the fact that it was an industrial city, people from other centers as well as even from abroad were employed here and of course there was a more dynamic life, and that is where a bunch of families saw an opportunity. And, it is interesting how in Mitrovica, they lived as a kind of enclave, very, very weirdly. Why am I saying this, because until…during my entire childhood, I mean, they noticed me as a gjakovar, very interesting.
Meanwhile, I was born there as well as my brothers and sisters. I had two sisters, I mean one of them is still alive and two brothers who are still alive, and it is interesting, not a wealthy family, not wealthy but seems like, because of my father, very oriented towards education. That is why, I mean, I was the youngest in that family, I mean, all the others were older, and they all studied, and it is interesting that all of them studied outside Pristina. It is interesting. I mean, my sister Servet, who is deceased now, might be from the generation of the first intellectuals who studied in Belgrade, I mean this is in ‘55-‘56, I mean, when in Kosovo, let’s say… It is known that women were in the process of being veiled, I mean, and when it came to her it was a matter of being veiled or continuing her studies and she continued her studies. She studied Mathematics in Belgrade. Totally, totally strange. Looks like that was a wish of my father, and of course I had the luck of [belonging to] this family too.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Do you remember any detail from your life in Mitrovica…it seemed very interesting to me that you said that they identified you as gjakovar?
Rafet Rudi: Look, that, that is one, one, maybe not a detail, we don’t, I didn’t say it in a negative connotation…eh, but the issue is not that, that was a pretty closed environment, as it is know, that society, the Kosovar society at that time was very…I mean, isolated, cities, villages, right? There wasn’t much communication, right? And Mitrovica, let’s say, had its own rreth  and people knew each other there, the city was very small compared to the population it has now, and, that is why the differences were noticed, right? But I must say something, the Mitrovica of that time was heterogeneous in the sense of society. I mean, there were Turks, Serbs, yes…but there were no big divisions.
Let’s say in our rreth, which we called our mahalla, we also had Serb neighbors, right? That is why, my generation, I mean, people of my age have always spoken a relatively good Serbian, different from other cities, any other city. Not to talk about Gjakova, where people didn’t know Serbian at all. Then, they also spoke Turkish, but that was during the time when many Albanians began to emigrate to Turkey, as it is historically known. Even our house, the one we have in Mitrovica, we bought it from a person who emigrated to Turkey, and that structure, let’s say, the national heterogeneity made Mitrovica very specific back then. And that continued even later, right? And..l…let’s say, let’s say in the elementary and middle school and at the time when I started to engage in music, communication was totally normal, right, I mean…
What is it, what connects me with that environment? I learned a very good Serbo-Croatian, this is how we called it back then, and the literature was in Serbian, right, I mean, be it magazines, I mean, we had a library in our house, of course not as the one I have now, but that was a tradition, right. I remember it and feel bad that it wasn’t saved, but for example, my brother Agim, Myrvete and I, we, the younger children subscribed to the children’s magazines Kekec and Zavanik. There…why am I telling this? Let me mention it again that it was because that was a good means of [intellectual] growth, which couldn’t be provided by Albanian language, or even education and so on. And then, for example, there was a very active library, very active library in Mitrovica, which I…I remember it well that I often went there and read books in Serbian. I mean, that environment made it, I am mentioning this specifically, my development, and I would say that Mitrovica, as a society, is very different from other cities. When I look at it now, from this perspective, I think that it played a very positive role, I mean, in my later growth.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Can you identify where your father’s interest in education came from?
Rafet Rudi: First, I will tell you that my father…I don’t know him. He died when I was four. I mean, as a family we were connected to our mother, an extraordinary personality, I can say, very strange. I am mentioning this because they say that my father was pretty calm, very calm. You know, neat and so on, while my mother was more dynamic, energetic and in fact, she made it possible for us to grow, I mean, to educate and so on.
And now, I am saying this, I was mostly influenced regarding music by my brother Reshad, who is an economist, he was, but he belongs to a whole generation of students who studied in Belgrade. This is, I mean, this is already known, right? Year? This must be somewhere in the late ‘50s, in the ‘60s, and there were hundreds of Albanian students, and those students were connected to Mitrovica, right, my brother and my sister were among them. When they returned during holidays, they organized some activities, parties, gatherings, youth parties, I can say, that considering the time, they were more emancipated than the other people in the city.
And they had those meetings, I mean, or the way we call them now, party [English] and so on, right? They met and sang and those [gatherings] were a routine, once a week, I mean this structure of people met once a week. And as a little child, I started attending them and helping with my guitar. And it is very interesting, guitar was the first instrument I was connected to. Of course, that was totally amateur, I mean it was simply following the singing, the singing, right, and I mean, the musical activity, and the songs that were sung were songs of the entertaining genre of music, right, for that time. I mean, not folklore gatherings, they weren’t such, right. We don’t notice the difference now, but the differences were very sharp at that time, very obvious, and I mean, this is the environment where I had my first contacts with music.
Then of course they were enthusiastic because of the environment where they lived, because they were in, I mean he was just born…my brother was also active in the association Përpjekja [Struggle] in Belgrade, right. Belgrade and Zagreb were two centers where there were more Albanian students, right, and they were relatively developed centers. I even thing that they were very developed, because when you consider the system, which we lived in, right…I mean, it was a nominally communist system, right. But, as it is known, Yugoslavia was way more forward in the Eastern Bloc, and that is why it had a big influence, I mean, in our cultural environment through these students who studied in those centers. And so, I belong precisely to that environment, right, and these were my, I will repeat it, first contacts with music, but nothing bigger or more ambitious than that.
The essential contact, I would say, is in 1960 when I started the music school, the elementary school of music in Mitrovica, and this should be viewed in the context of Kosovo. Besides Prizren, Mitrovica also had the school of music, right, and I guess there was one in Pristina as well. But the school of music in Mitrovica was pretty active and specific because of many characteristics. My beginnings, I mean, are connected with this school of music, and thanks to the activity of professor Fahri Beqiri. He was young at that time, but he was a very dynamic, communicative person and he gathered…in the years, I mean, we are talking about ‘59, ‘60, ‘61, ‘62 right, when he gathered talented children from Mitrovica and helped them to get oriented towards music. And since professor Fahri was a friend of my brother and sister, they are the same age, right, I mean, he insisted to test me in music.
And I, I remember the moment when I went to the school of music, and I had to…of course the usual ways of testing the ear. I don’t exactly know how it happened, but I know something else, that I had to tell which instrument I wanted to take up, and I decided for the violin. Of course, without exactly knowing the difference, which is pretty big between the violin and other instruments, but this is how my life with music started. Of course, we are not talking about quality growth, right, because there weren’t music professionals at that time in Mitrovica. However, I took the elementary information about music in that elementary school of music, and somehow, that was crucial for me to continue the middle school of music in Pristina. Of course, that was important, right.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: When did you come to Pristina?
Petrit Çeku: I just wanted one… a little more about Mitrovica. What memories do you have about the professors of music there?
Rafet Rudi: Look, yes, yes, look, of course I don’t remember things from that time very clearly, but…I don’t, I don’t….For example, Fahri Beqiri was my violin teacher in the first year. He wasn’t a violinist, violin wasn’t his expertise. But, and I know this for sure, some teachers from Vojvodina and Serbia were involved in the school of music, right, mainly they. And I guess Fahri was the only one who started working at that time. Then, of course this composition of the school of music changed after some years, but in the beginning, there were no musicians…with differentiated expertise, right. You know we aren’t talking about that kind of educational level.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Shall we move to the time when you came to Pristina?
Rafet Rudi: Yes, after three years, after three years, after three years I continued the school of music in Pristina. It is interesting, I even feel bad for not saving the correspondence I had with my older brother who was in Belgrade, because my mother was against the idea of me going outside of Mitrovica. Here it should be clear that moving between Mitrovica and Pristina back then was a whole adventure, I mean, it wasn’t the same as it is today, and of course, as a mother she was afraid to let me travel alone at the age of 14. Can you imagine that for the admission exam, or for the first year of my classes, I travelled by train from Mitrovica to Pristina, Fushë Kosovë, and then from Fushë Kosova to Pristina by train again in order to make it in the morning, to catch the class. I did this every day.
Petrit Çeku: Approximately, how much did the journey last?
Rafet Rudi: I think I had to take off around two-three hours before the class started, because you know that classes started very early, right. I don’t exactly know, but it must have started before eight, or at eight, not like now. And you can imagine a 14 years old child who had to go to the train station from home, I had to take off at five in the morning, imagine this during the winter. I can’t even imagine it now, I mean, to make it to class very early in the morning. It generally was difficult, continuing my education outside my home was an adventure, and my mother had her doubts. But, strangely, I don’t know how I got convinced, and what pushed me to insist to go and I had the support of my brother who was in Belgrade and to whom I had to talk.
And here I am mentioning this part…my brother and my sister, because we have an age difference of twelve-thirteen years, and they played the role of parent to me. Alright, I mean this was, my insisting and then the agreement of my brother and sister was crucial, so I continued in Mitrovica. Then there was the financial problem, right. It wasn’t easy, continuing my education outside the environment where we lived had a cost, right. Alright, I mean I continued the school in Mitrovica, but I must admit, that time wasn’t much productive in the sense of…since the preparation I had, I was at another level compared to my classmates who had no preparation from the school of music at that time, right…
Erëmirë Krasniqi: We are talking about Pristina, right?
Rafet Rudi: Pristina, yes about Pristina. I had to be more ambitious in that phase. I don’t think that I had ambitions but I will mention…I would mention it that the school of music in Pristina had teachers…Let me mention this first, that the lectures were given in Serbo-Croatian and teachers were very good. This was very important for my further development, absolutely. When I compare that time when we were in the third and fourth year we wrote whole fugues, we wrote fugues, and when I compare that with the school today, I can’t understand how the level of the school of music went down, compared to the time when I learned at that school.
I mean, the level of teachers was relatively good, relatively good, not to say very good, but this was very important for my development, because there were some professors, I won’t name or rank them now, who encouraged me and some of my colleagues who distinguished themselves to go and study in Belgrade, right, and they did it precisely in the last years, in the third and fourth year. I am saying that they were very important for my development in the sense that I slowly started being aware of music, about how important music could be in my life. I mean, it seems like I was more ambitious at that time, and in the fourth year I had already started to understand the influence of these good teachers who were from Niš, Belgrade and so on, and I started to seriously think about my studies and continuing them in Belgrade. And the time was such that having studied music, you would immediately find the opportunity of employment, I mean, and…
Petrit Çeku: In the school of music?
Rafet Rudi: Yes, in the school of music. And I guess today it is not even possible or…I mean, continuing your studies, that was, you had to show a greater love and ambition, because you had another option of development, or of life in another job and so on, right. And, of course, I didn’t have that kind of dilemma, even though, before…I mean, the school…I didn’t continue the Academy and studies right after I finished the school of music, but after finishing it, I continued working for one year in the school of music as a preparation for Belgrade, I mean for my studies in Belgrade, and I mean, I got fully prepared.
Of course, not with anyone, but alone, I prepared alone. But let’s say, I had the knowledge that was required in the admission exam from my teachers and professor Fahir, who at that time had finished his studies in Belgrade and I mean, when I went to Belgrade, I sat and played my pieces at the piano. This was the form of presentation and I mean, the audition, right, for my studies. It is important that I played them, because it looks like that was one of the reasons why they even accepted me in Belgrade. I mean…
Erëmirë Krasniqi: In general, was this musical education a totally new thing after the Second World War, were people educated in these musical genres before?
Rafet Rudi: In school? In the school of music?
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Yes…in these genres?
Rafet Rudi: I mean, there was the school of music in Prizren, which was a kind of cradle of the development of classical music. In Mitrovica there was the second one as it is known, and in ‘61 also the school of music in Pristina, the middle school of music. We cannot talk about a high level, I mean we aren’t talking about a musical life, I mean a concerts life. I mean, this is a relatively low level of education, but it is very significant because that was a specific school, besides the gymnasium, I mean and I suppose that…it is exactly this element that made the qualification of the staff important, because those who went to the school of music were those who were more ambitious and talented, and they only thought about further growth. That further growth meant the Academy of music, right. But, let me say this, because as I mentioned it here, there were teachers in the school of music here who weren’t from a very low level. For example, I remember in the school of music, in the hall, which was here in the building of the school of music until recently, the symphonic orchestra held rehearsals all the time, I mean, a kind of a symphonic orchestra, right.
I remember one case when I was present, there was a family from Niš, their daughter is a famous cellist in Germany, Ksenia Janković. I mean, she was one of the children, I mean, she was a student. While, Olga Janković was a pianist, Pavli Janković was a conductor, and they developed a kind of activity, right. But, I don’t know why, but they did something that was very important for the students. I remember when I was in rehearsals, I mean in the rehearsals of the symphonic orchestra. I am saying that those are, let’s say, the first moments of my contact with professional music, a more professional music compared to what it had used to be before, right, I suppose that not even Prizren could have that at that time. I am talking about ‘64, ‘65, ‘66, ‘67, right.
For one moment, you also know it historically that, I mean, right after the war, Prizren was the capital, and then it was moved. Pristina became the administrative center and that is why the institutions began there, right. I mean, the radio, Radio Pristina, within which there were some activities, some collective activities, the choir of the radio worked as an amateur group, then the orchestra worked as well. And with this move, I mean, with the move of the center from Prizren to Pristina, there were some repercussions in the sense that, our first musicians went to Pristina. For example, Rexho Mulliqi, Lorenz Antoni worked there and then they moved to Pristina. We are talking about this time, Pristina started to become a musical center for the school of music, Prizren was not the center anymore, nor was Mitrovica, right…This is important, that period should be enlightened.
Petrit Çeku: In the third and fourth year your enthusiasm towards music grew…I wanted to ask you whether you had access to music, and in what way, in the sense of listening to music?
Rafet Rudi: Yes, of course, there were very few [occasions], very few of them. I mean, we are talking about school and I mean for a period of the development of this school and our schools, when I say this, I mean before…no, this is also a description of the political situation. That was, that was a very difficult time for Albanians and those were the last years of a system that was very harsh towards Albanian education and culture and so on. There were changes, but they were mainly done for the sake of external effects, politica, but in essence, there were very few musical events. There could be, I remember the contacts we had with similar schools, let’s say with other countries around Yugoslavia.
For example, I remember very well when we went, let’s say to a school of music in Belgrade or any school of music from Niš and Belgrade held concerts in our school of music. These were some ways, right. Then, there were some sporadic concerts. For example, I remember, since we are talking about guitar here, [Jovan] Jovicić, I saw him back then in the middle school of music.
Petrit Çeku: In Pristina?
Rafet Rudi: Yes, yes, in Pristina, in Pristina. This is very beautiful. I remember that it took place here in the military cinema back then, or when UNMIK [offices] were located, here in that building…
Petrit Çeku: Do you know where it is, I am interested to know?
Rafet Rudi: The military cinema, it was near Grand [Hotel] that center, it used to be the center of UNMIK. The building, that building.
Petrit Çeku: Aha. So that was the military cinema?
Rafet Rudi: Yes, the cinema. It was an ordinary cinema, but there were some halls and one of them was used by the military orchestra for rehearsals. This is interesting. Back then, there was also the military wind and brass orchestra, because these centers such as Pristina and let’s say Niš and so on, I don’t know much about military organizations, but I guess Pristina was among the most important military centers and had this element within it. Good that you mentioned it, this is very important, the development of the symphonic orchestra is connected to the military orchestra.
Petrit Çeku: In what kind of way?
Rafet Rudi: Because the first conductor of the symphonic orchestra of the…we are talking about the ‘60s, but also the ‘50s, when there was an activity of the symphonic orchestra and it was documented by recordings that to this day exist in the radio. And one of the first people who developed this activity was Vojnović, Bogoljub Vojnović, and he was the conductor of the orchestra…the conductor of the wind and brass orchestra of breathing in the garrison of Pristina. And, those instruments and that conductor were part of the first core of the orchestra. This is enough…this can be documented, right…and especially, when I say that there were sporadic concerts, I suppose that those were concerts or activities of this orchestra, of this wind and brass orchestra, which gathered musicians from various places, not from Kosovo. The players were from other countries. Let’s say, he might have been a member of the orchestra here, but two years later he could be a member of the orchestra in Niš or Novi Sad and so on.
 Rreth (circle) is the social circle, it includes not only the family but also the people with whom an individual is in contact. The opinion of the rreth is crucial in defining one’s reputation.
 Word of Arabic origin that means neighborhood.
 A European type of secondary school with emphasis on academic learning, different from vocational schools because it prepares students for university.
 Lorenc Antoni (1909-1991) was a Kosovo Albanian composer, conductor, and ethnomusicologist.