Erëmirë Krasniqi: Can you…
Petrit Çeku: Now, right?
Erëmirë Krasniqi…your name and lastname? Can you please speak about your early childhood memories, the family and rreth you grew up in?
Sevime Gjinali: I am Sevime Kabashi, Gjinali after marriage. I was born in Prizren in 1937 in an educated family. My mother knew how to read and write. And I spend my childhood in Prizren until 1954. Then I continued my studies in Belgrade.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: What do you remember from that time, from your childhood? Do you…
Sevime Gjinali: As a child, I was loved as a child because I was the youngest. I was not that quiet. I constantly caused troubles, I was active. I loved music, because also my family, namely my father, they say that he wrote songs and had a beautiful voice…he was very dear to his friends. And they enrolled me in the elementary school when I was five. I knew how to read and write as a five-year-old, and I went to the Bajram Curri elementary school in Prizren, in the first grade. There were several classrooms with various teachers in that school. Nuri Sherifi was one of them, he played piano and had a piano in his classroom.
I had another teacher, he was from Albania, but once I found that teacher Nuri Sherifi plays the mandolin and piano, I left my class and went to his, and nobody knew about this. I don’t know how I did it, I was free and I thought that I could do that. My teacher had called my father and said, “Your daughter has done this, I just wanted to notify you.” “She did a very good thing, that’s a very smart move.”
And there, I was a very good student, I knew how to sing, I was excellent. I had some friends who were also excellent, we would compete. And after elementary school, as usual, there was the gymnasium with three years, the semi-matura. I went to the gymnasium, yes…
Erëmirë Krasniqi: I wanted to ask you, when you went to school, was that the period when you were in Albania, ‘43? Which year was it…when did you start?
Sevime Gjinali: No, from ‘37, ‘8…in ‘41, ‘41 the time after the war. Yes, a very difficult time. It was not a time…under the occupation of…
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Wasn’t this period under the occupation of Serbia…okay…
Sevime Gjinali: Yes.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: You mentioned that you had a teacher from Albania?
Sevime Gjinali: Yes, he lived in Prizren but his origin was from Albania. Otherwise, teachers at that time knew how to play at least one instrument, that’s how it was. It was part of the wide culture. During my education in the gymnasium, the elementary school of music was opened in Prizren. At that time, since my family were art lovers, I enrolled in the elementary school of music in Prizren. And right after the semi-matura, I enrolled in the first grade of middle school.
There I distinguished myself because of my talent, and at that time schooling was done by some unqualified teachers. Lorenc Antoni was the director as well as a teacher. So, Lorenc Antoni learned the music’s subjects together with us under the supervision of the professors from Belgrade, because they would constantly come to control and assess our knowledge and give advices on how to act. I distinguished myself there. They selected me, they said, “You will come to Belgrade to study.”
In 1954, I enrolled in the then Academy of Music in Belgrade with the recommendation of my solfeggio teacher to continue my studies there, but since I distinguished myself in playing the piano, I choose piano as my major and pedagogy as my minor.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Can we go back to your family, Ms. Sevime?
Sevime Gjinali: Yes.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: You mentioned that your sister was…
Sevime Gjinali: Yes, yes. My family….My family was a well-known patriotic family. The Kabashis, they are known for their patriotism. There are also folk songs about their bravery. They always fought for the rights of the Albanians in a way. My father didn’t show that to his children, I mean, that education was kind of inherited, but the situation played a role as well. My older brother, Ruzhdi Kabashi, was, he had a vocation for radio, for radio technology, and at that time, that time was very difficult, they didn’t allow him to become… he had created a radio station of his own in Prizren. That time was difficult, somebody spied on him and told about that. They said, “Ruzhdi is creating radio stations,” and that was considered hostile and they imprisoned my brother. He was kept in the cell for two months, he slept on concrete. So, that is where he got the burning of the lungs from, then he died from tuberculosis.
That tragedy… then my sister, influenced by the lack of rights for Albanians, got connected to Balli Kombëtar. An activist of Balli Kombëtar, she also worked for the court of Prizren… the court of Prizren. A very distinguished employer. She printed all the materials for that party, then some other came from her….Some others in that party were…we didn’t know as children. Then she was soon imprisoned because of her activism. She was imprisoned by Serbs and was sentenced to eight years of prison. She did six years of prison, and two years under conditional release.
So, my family constantly had, how they say, the posteqi in prison (all laugh). The feeling of our sufferings, because of my brother, my sister, made us very careful even among our friends, and created a sort of psychological complex for the family, because it was very difficult to experience these things. And the rreth always somehow treated us as enemies. But we were a pretty well-known family for our education, we were all educated, my sisters, all of us.
There were no women teachers at that time. My sisters were the first women teachers. Nedime, the first woman teacher in the elementary school of Prizren, she also taught…there were courses for illiterate women at that time, she taught women. As a 13-year-old, at that time they transferred them whenever they wanted, they sent her to Zhur, she worked everywhere. She was engaged in music as well, she was in the Shoqnia Amatore Agimi [The Amateur Society Agimi].
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Was the teaching done in Albanian at that time? Had it already started…
Sevime Gjinali: The schooling was done in Albanian, but under the ruling, of course, of the occupier. In…
Erëmirë Krasniqi: You mentioned that your father composed. Can you tell us something…?
Sevime Gjinali: My father…
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Can you tell us what kind of compositions?
Sevime Gjinali: My father….Look, there were no writings, no registering of music at that time, there were not even notebooks or pentagrams with musical notes. He was a rhapsode, sometimes he did the text and music on his own. But nobody wrote them, because he had no chance to record them at that time…
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Were they passed from a generation to another?
Sevime Gjinali: From generation…I mean, that became our family education. And he decided about my education, he decided that I become a musician, that I study music. Because at that time, there wasn’t… it was something unusual for a woman to go to music school with a violin. People would throw stones at us when they saw us on the street, because I was going to the music school with a violin… it was unusual for me as a woman.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Were there other women?
Sevime Gjinali: There were other women, there were talented women. Prizren is known as a city of talents, not only for music but also for drama, painting and… there is no need for me to mention people who came out of Prizren. Prizren has proven itself that it really is a city of arts.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: What kind of public cultural activities did you have at that time?
Sevime Gjinali: Eh, the concerts of the Shoqëria Agimi were organized at that time. The concerts of the music school, as a student I participated in the school concerts. I would play the piano and violin, we had also established a small students orchestra where we would play music. The first records of Radio Pristina were with my sister, a duo of my sister and I, we recorded folkloric songs at Radio Pristina.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Can you mention names, when you say sister, mention their names as well so that we can have it as a reference.
Sevime Gjinali: Nedime Kabashi, as the first active teacher in the Shoqëria Amatore Agimi.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: How did you go to Belgrade? Can you tell us about this part?
Sevime Gjinali: Belgrade… the destination was very important to me. I was young, 14 years old, I enrolled in the Academy. All my wishes could not become reality, because piano was my main instrument, but I had no material possibilities because that required me having a piano at home. I was living in the student dormitory, there was no room. I started paying a lady to rehearse at a private house, but I couldn’t make it, I had no financial means.
At that time, my sister was in prison in Pozarevac. I was forced to sell my food coupon, lunch or dinner, in order to travel to visit my sister. We lived in very difficult conditions, so I was forced to not have piano as the main subject [major], but as a plan B [minor].
Erëmirë Krasniqi: What was your main subject?
Sevime Gjinali: Educational Session of Pedagogy, the pedagogical subject was the main one for me. But I distinguished myself in subjects such as… especially in the subject of solfeggio, harmony….So, I graduated with composition of a toccata form, this is how they call it, fugue, inventions written by old composers… Bach… with excellent grades. I graduated on time after four years and I returned to Prizren right after that to continue working at the middle school of music.
Petrit Çeku: Do you remember the pedagogues in Belgrade?
Sevime Gjinali: Pedagogues…
Petrit Çeku: The professors?
Sevime Gjinali:… the most famous ones who were also composers, I was…because each professor had a maximum of ten students attending their class. In the main subjects, harmony and polyphony, Stanojev Rajcić was my professor, he is a well-known composer, Petar Bingulać, Aleksandar Obradović, Stefan Vuk… the young Mokanc…
Petrit Çeku: Mokranjac?
Sevime Gjinali: Yes. I was very loved by them, even the professor of my main subject called me, in Serbian, ćerko [girl]. He would say, “Girl, I want you to remain here as my assistant.” I didn’t know the value of being an assistant professor back then, because we didn’t have assistant professors back then, we only had professors who taught us music. I didn’t take that seriously. During my studies, I was also an activist in a society of students there, we were together Albanian and Serbs…there were Croatians as well as people from Bosnia…I had applied to Radio Belgrade, there was a call for an editor for serious [classical] music.
As a young girl, I went to apply. And I was accepted. My friends would ask me, “Are you thinking about staying?” “No, bre,” I said, “I only want to see what will happen.” I mean, I was accepted. But I returned to Prizren right after my studies as a teacher in the middle school of music.
Petrit Çeku: Do you remember the concerts life there? Concerts…?
Sevime Gjinali: During our studies, we were obliged to attend every musical event, the many concerts that came from abroad, the events that took places in Kolarceva, there was the University of Kolarc. The opera existed as well… so, they would give us free tickets and it was our obligation to go to every event, every opera show, philharmonic, solo concerts, recitals…Otherwise, there was nothing else…computer didn’t exist at that time. And that’s what kept us, and we developed a classical music culture, we knew the composers as well as the performers and various artists. That was a big plus for us as students to know such things, now…this is what they lack nowadays. And we took knowledge, we advanced, to us that was…
Petrit Çeku: Your colleagues at that time…
Sevime Gjinali: Yes…
Petrit Çeku…how, do you have any impression that…
Sevime Gjinali: Our impression was, we were a circle of four-five people who went there from Prizren, and we came out of the middle school as a family. The relations between colleagues and the care towards women at that time were very important, it was important for them not to leave us alone in order for us not to feel…because that was a total different world for us. Our colleagues were constantly my caretakers… my parents had even left an amanet to my older colleagues to take care of me. I was always pampered and spoiled, because I stood above them with success as well. When…
Petrit Çeku: When you said, “That was a total different world for us…”
Sevime Gjinali: Yes.
Petrit Çeku: Did you notice at that time that you were actually changing society?
Sevime Gjinali: We, that time was ours because we experienced great progress and as students, as the descendants of our culture, we contributed a lot to our country. It was a big pleasure for us knowing that we would lift up our culture once we’d get back, we would contribute so that Kosovo would reach the same level as Belgrade or other metropolises.
Petrit Çeku: A lot…
Sevime Gjinali: We also had opportunities to go to cities such as Zagreb and…because they existed, festivals started from that time. But because we lacked financial means we were a bit constrained in our coming and going. Excursions were organized, group travels by train, to cities, for example Zagreb, in order to see an opera.
Petrit Çeku: Do you remember your previous education in Prizren before going to Belgrade? How substantial was it compared to the one in Belgrade?
Sevime Gjinali: Eh, that was very important. It is important to mention that we differed from those coming from Belgrade as far as success goes, they were…I had some colleagues who came to the University by cars. They were aristocratic families back then and they ranked higher. We were, I didn’t even have shoes to wear back then, I would wear sandals. I would wear the shoes of my friends (laughs) when I went to concerts. Poverty right after the war, and the family situation brought us to such position. But we differed as far as success goes, we were on a higher level than those who lived in Belgrade, or those coming from Novi Sad or Niš. When students got together… we distinguished ourselves because of our success and talent. Otherwise, talent is what determines the success.
Petrit Çeku: What about the professors in Prizren, whom would you emphasize, from those before…
Sevime Gjinali: Well, among the professors of my generation I was the first to return, because my colleagues remained there [in Belgrade] for another year. Some began working there and some couldn’t manage to graduate on time, there were three of us who returned from Belgrade to the music school in Prizren, Engjëll Berisha, Mark Kaçinari and I.
Then I worked in Prizren for three years, on the request of Radio Pristina because here [Pristina] was the capital…Radio Pristina started gathering professional staff for some news desks, for journalism, music. And the editor of Radio Pristina invited me to work for them at the news desk of serious [classical] music.
Petrit Çeku: I am interested to know a little more about Prizren at that time, in those three years…
Sevime Gjinali: In those three years, I was very engaged in teaching many subjects because there were no other professors. There were some who taught in Serbo-Croatian. We were the first ones who needed to translate musical subjects, the history of music, harmony in Albanian language, and our role there was to prepare lectures for children, for the students in their mother tongue. I took over the lecturing of five subjects right away, solfeggio as the main subject, piano, the reading of partitures, contrapuntal, otherwise polyphony and Albanian musical folklore. The age difference between my students and I was around, they were two to three years younger than I.
Petrit Çeku: Can you mention some of…
Sevime Gjinali: They were, they are famous composers now, Zeqirja Ballata, an instrumentalist, Isak Muçolli, Reshat Randobrava, Musa Piperku and many others…Bahri Qela, Bahri Qela as the director. And I would go to classes so prepared. Let me tell you something that happened to me. Shaqir Hoti was a flautist…I went to my class, I was very strict but I also knew how to get the humor, and they were sitting near each other, Isak Muçolli with Shaqir Hoti, they laughed a little. I said, “What is funny?” “Ku-ku, professor, if I only told you what he said about you.” I said, “What did he say?” “Ku-ku bre, if we put the photograph of this professor in water bottles, we would sell all of them.” (all laugh).
But they honored me very much, as far as I knew, I projected knowledge and they loved me very much. They would constantly listen behind the door when I played piano. I played Chopin’s compositions with a lot of pleasure. And during the class, when I saw that they were not interested anymore, “Please professor, perform something.” I would perform.
I started working for the radio after the music school, my contribution to Radio Pristina was very big because I advanced the news desk of serious music and I wrote…I told about all the compositions, I made formal analysis in order to provide the listener as well as every composer with information.
Petrit Çeku: This is very important…
Sevime Gjinali: Yes, because serious music wasn’t presented much at that time, even though the philharmonic orchestra existed at that time with some international instrumentalists. I arranged the news desk of the serious music very beautifully, the comments, I wrote comments, I minimized the duration of operas…because operas last one hour and longer, I would minimize the duration with comments in Radio Pristina because it was 60 minutes long and who would listen to it for 60 minutes? So, I would give comments while the music was playing. So, it was good for me too, because I had a very great knowledge and I learned even more there.
When the director of Radio Pristina saw that I arranged the news desk of serious music very beautifully, they moved me to popular music. So, I was also a composer and I started creating for the needs of Radio Pristina. I created many songs in the spirit of popular music. I worked with a children’s choir and wrote songs for it.
Petrit Çeku: Do you remember, when you were writing the texts, the explanations, I mean, the analysis of great works, what kind of audience were you thinking of?
Sevime Gjinali: Look, that was very important, because radio phonics has its own laws, for example if you go in the morning, you should adapt the music you to the morning time. At lunchtime, you should play other music because it is a whole different atmosphere, then in the afternoon another, as well as in the evening. So, the time of classical music was usually in the evening. That is when you wouldn’t have contacts with the listeners, but I received many appreciations. And the competitions of the shows of Radio Diffusion Department existed at that time, the competitions in Yugoslavia on which show was better, and we would always win with the Kosovo shows.
Then, after my work at the news desk of classical music was done, I started working on popular music. Popular music is very rich, but there are only few records of it. Together with popular music, there was the Albanian folklore and we started producing music based on folklore. And the session of music production opened. That is where the circle expanded. Composers such as Vincent Gjini, Lorenc Antoni, Rexho Mulliqi joined, and we started composing, and we were obliged to do ten compositions per month. That was what helped the music collection to get richer, with ten compositions.
Of course, only the best were selected to be broadcasted in shows. Then there were compliments, they became hits and were listened to. Then the Festivali i Akordeve të Kosovës [The Festival of Kosovo Chords] made it possible for the music collection to expand. That is where singers would appear, because how else would we be able to discover popular music singers? We organized a festival, Kosovarja Këndon [The Kosovar Sings]. For example, it was held in Ferizaj, and there we would select the singers for the radio recordings . These were all the projects, just like the projects nowadays, these were my projects at that time, a big collection got richer.
At that time when I was working at the radio I also continued working at the middle school of music as a piano teacher. So, I never stopped the pedagogical work.
Petrit Çeku: Do you remember Akordet e Kosovës, its beginning is interesting as a…
Sevime Gjinali: Akordet, yes. The festival was held once a year, and there were three genres: children’s songs, songs in the spirit of popular music, and entertainment, back then it was called easy music. That was a party for Pristina.
Petrit Çeku: Where was it held?
Sevime Gjinali: In Pristina, at the National Theater, because there were no other appropriate halls back then. There are no halls even today. There was the Albanian, Serbian and Turkish music there, depending on the compositions. The commission would select the ones who would move forward and also who would win the first prize for the most beautiful song…it was similar to Zambaku i Prizrenit [The Prizren Lily] nowadays.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Was there censure at that time?
Sevime Gjinali: Of course, of course there was! The censure cost me a lot. We know how the relations with Albania were at that time. We had songs from Albania in our collection as well, usually popular music. As a composer, I dedicated my first song to Pristina. Those were the days of liberation for example, for the day of liberation, I dedicated my song to Pristina, with my text, and it was liked very much. At that time, there were Albanian people who worked for…
Erëmirë Krasniqi: The system?
Sevime Gjinali: To stop, to stop Albanians from moving forward. A colleague came to me at the news desk and said, “You have copied the song of Tirana that is sung in Albania, you made it as if it was for Pristina.” Because they were amateurs. I said, “How come you think that I have copied the text?” “No, but it is similar to the song of Tirana.” I said, “Do you know the musical notes?” “No, but I’ve listened to it, you have recorded it.”
So, that obstacle was eliminated because we played both songs. That made no sense at all, but the fact that I dedicated the song, that was similar. And I became like an enemy there. But that was eliminated and my colleagues there denied it, it has nothing to do with that….They both were original. Otherwise, my own style was similar to old songs, of course with elements of our popular music.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: What…
Sevime Gjinali: We always had many obstacle, we always had many obstacles, but with a great desire and commitment we managed to keep our opinions and we succeeded. After working at Radio Pristina and at the middle school by correspondence, the High Pedagogical School was opened with working groups of music. I started working as regular staff there from 1970. I left Radio Pristina. I worked in the session of music, there was dramatic art, painting and music.
Erëmirë Krasniqi: This is before the University was founded, right? Only the High School?
Sevime Gjinali: Yes, the High Pedagogical School was before the University in 1975. Eh, in the High School I was also in charge for too many subjects, the subject of solfeggio, piano, reading of partitures, because there were no qualified people. In…
Erëmirë Krasniqi: Was this mainly a Western culture, I mean, part of the Western musical traditions…
Sevime Gjinali: Yes, of course. Look, music is the same everywhere. It has its own basis. It cannot be for example… it is with national basis, but classical music is international. And those are laws that every subject had…just like you have them in justice, justice is the same in laws (laughs), is it true? Music also has its own laws that were written based on something and were established long ago by scientists and wise people.