Sofra festival brings on songs, food, raki and summer cinema

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Over six thousand citizens gathered at “Sofra” (traditional dining table), a festival which has been organized along the last three nights of August in the town of Gjakova. The festival was held at the Grand Bazaar, precisely at the location “Loma e Drithit” (Grain square), a public space, which revitalization was implemented by CHwB Kosovo during 2013 within the project “Welcome to Dukagjini” and was funded by the European Union.

The primary objective of the festival was revival and reintroduction of this part of the town to the younger generations, in particular of some of the traditions of the town of Gjakova. The town of Gjakova is  well known in Kosovo and beyond due to its many features, but two of the most unique features are the local folk music and production of raki (national alcoholic beverage), a ritual taking place for many years in this town. The festival aimed combination of these two traditions, brought together precisely at  sofra (traditional wooden-made dining table) celebration, another significant “institution” of this town.

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On the first night, the festival has presented to audience the characteristic music band “Arshikët” and “The Grand Master of Music” Bujar Qamili, who has lived up a great atmosphere in the premises of Gjakova Grand Bazaar. “Gjakova always knew and knows to organize such events that not only entertain people, but, also show the values ​​and traditions of this town,” said the singer Bujar Qamili following his performance.

On the second night of the festival, participants were entertained by the music band “Hadi Bajrami”, another characteristic group of old Gjakovar music. In fact, this group consists of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian citizens from Gjakova, who with excessive zeal have preserved the tradition and style of Gjakovar music being performed 100 years ago by Ymer Riza and other Gjakovar musicians and singers of that time.

And in order to prove that the tradition of Gjakovar music is preserved until the present days, organizers of this event, on the third nights of festival presented to the public a group of young singers from Gjakova, led by Halil Mala, Emil Tafarshiku and Ardian Këpuska, who performed old Gjakovar songs.

During these three nights, local folk music was sung in sofra, filled served with variety of traditional foods, another inevitable value of Gjakovar tradition. Apart from the singers of sofra, yet several other sofras have been set for different guests.

Meanwhile, along with local folk music, organizers have also put entertaining music in the program, with intent to safeguard the link of the past with the present and the future. In this regard, various groups and singers have performed during these three nights, such as Valon Shehu, Albi Xhepa, Jericho, NR and others. The very intertwining of old music with the new one, perhaps has been the most beautiful part of the festival, for revealing such a phenomena not often seen in Kosovo. Both genres have attracted different ages in the Bazaar, originating an interesting scene, with young people listening to old folk music with interest and attention, whilst on the other hand older people having a good time with Jericho’s rock music or rap music of the NR group.

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During the three nights as the festival lasted, throughout all time, a cauldron was placed in one corner of “Loma e Drithit”, a dish used for production of raki. This has attracted many visitors, especially young people and those coming from other cities of Kosova, getting firsthand information regarding maturation process of raki, explained without laziness by some of the best “artisans” of Gjakova in producing of raki.

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Yet, another innovation being brought by this festival is the summer cinema, featuring documentary movies for two nights for interested citizens. With more than 200 interested spectators, it has been demonstrated that the Grand Bazaar of Gjakova might have such a function, as well, in terms of public and cultural nature.

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The festival acquired positive feedback from the citizens of Gjakova and other Kosovo cities. Hereby it has motivated organizers to think for future editions and turn the “Feast of Sofra” into a traditional festival. “The festival aspires to become a feast, that will identify Gjakova in Kosovo and beyond,” cited event organizers.

The project was implemented by NGO “Bashkohu edhe ti” which is also part of the Local Cultural Heritage Forum of Gjakova, a platform, that beside civil society  gathers also partners of local and central governancel. This Forum has also drafted the Local Plan of Cultural Heritage of Gjakova. The said event besides the citizens of Gjakova was followed by central and local media in Kosovo, as well.

This project is part of the “Culture Days in Gjakova” initiative to be held during 2014 and is co-financed by CHwB Kosovo, municipality of Gjakova and other partners. This project has been identified within the Local Plan of Cultural Heritage of Gjakova, drafted under the program of Local Plans of Cultural Heritage 2012-2015 in 7 municipalities in Kosovo. For more information about this program click here.

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