Driton Berisa – the musician
“Getting Roma’s voice to be heard louder”
by Nadine Kreuzahler, Emilie Sok, Dardan Zhegrova
Fancy trousers, a black shirt, smooth sun glasses and a friendly smile: Driton Berisa walks down the muddy pathways of Plemetina, a small village 20 minutes by bus from Prishtina. On his way to the youth center of Balkan Sunflowers NGO (BSF) he is bumping into friends hugging him, making jokes. Here, in the stone house tagged with graffiti, it all got started for him: working with children, making music and soundtracks for movies by local artists. In his music he wants to express the feelings of the Roma community in Kosovo dealing with different problems, but still going on.
Plemetina is placed between two powerplants: Kosovo A and B. The air is heavily polluted. The nearby Sitnica river is toxicated. Trash is dumped everywhere. Most people are unemployed. Driton Berisa could leave Plemetina for a better life, but he wants to stay.
How would you describe Plemetina to strangers?
Plemetina is inhabited with silent, sometimes weird but very natural people. People in Plemetina do not need much to be happy. They are simple people that easily find happiness. Unfortunately they have problems with basic survival like poverty, normal jobs, housing and similar stuff.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Obiliq, a small town that is about 3 to 4 km away from Plemetina village. In 2000, I moved with my family to Plemetina as we were forced to so. We had a lot of problems with Albanians because of our nationality, being Roma.
- Roma are accused of having fought for the Serbian troops during the war
- Though there were Roma who chose to support the Serbs, the overwhelming majority of Roma did not choose a side during the war in Kosovo
- After the war, many ethnic Albanians turned against Roma
- Thousands of them had to flee their homes
- Plemetina used to be a refugee camp for displaced Kosovar Roma
Source: European Roma Rights Center
How has it been for you in Plemetina at the beginning?
I remember being not happy to change my home, making new friends, starting at a new school. I still rathered being in Obiliq, even though I felt safer in Plemetina for me and my familiy‘s lifes.
How have you started playing the guitar and compose music?
When I was a small boy I liked the guitar, but I thought that I was too stupid to ever learn it to play. However, when I got my first chance to try out my cousin’s guitar that had only three strings I learned in 2 hours to play 2 songs by making solo. I realized that I can do it. Later I found a guitar to buy for two Euro, bought strings for it for seven Euro. That was my first guitar! I enjoyed learning music and did better every day. Then I realized my need to express myself, and I found out that form e it is the best way to do it through guitar.
Where and when do you compose your music, do you have any favourite places?
I don’t have a favourite place. I only need to be alone, really alone while i’m composing so that I can talk only to the guitar. My inspiration so far has been love and life.
What are you doing right now?
I work part time as assistant coordinator where I am monitoring five education mediators out of 15. My job is to read their weekly reports, visit them, support them in keeping the minorities of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians children in school by maintaining good relationship with school-parents-education center.
Where is “home” for you?
My home is just my home in peace. I am lucky enjoy the peaceful normal days in my family where everyone is healthy. This is where I charge myself with energy. I have three sisters. Two of them are married and one is living with me and my family. I have parents, I have a wife and two beautiful children. My daughter is three years old and my son is one.
What is the best thing in Plemetina?
The warmness of the friendship you can get here. Truly, that is special
What is the worst thing?
The poverty and that people are not very open minded.
Are there moments, when you just think: I want to leave Plemetina to live somewhere else?
At least two times a week I think: if I had a normal job where I could just live in a clean place happily. I hate being here seeing the stupid power plant throwing dust on everything surrounding me. I hate thinking that the rate of the cancer in this municipality is higher then in others. I hate to think that maybe it was one of the factors to influence my mother getting cancer.
Talking of your future – where do you see yourself in five to ten years?
Having a good job, living in a better house, and definitely working on getting Roma’s voice to be heard louder.