Elina Duni in between Worlds: Jazz & Albanian Folk Songs

If you are a Jazz fan, you might consider looking at the astonishing collection “Matane Malit” of the jazz singer Elina Duni. I have to admit that I was quite impressed by her artistic way of transforming Balkan folk into a transfixing jazz improvisation. Her quartet plays these mournful melodies with deep respect to core traditional subjects such as; love, hardship, honor, lust, and death. Though you might not understand the Albanian lyrics, you certainly will be moved by her terrific interpretation and nuanced songs. She also has a wide repertoire in other Balkan languages. Find more @ http://www.elinaduni.com


Credit: Photographer © Blerta Kambo

A Toast to Futuristic, Stylish & Over-regulated Singapore!

How about spending the New Year’s Eve in Singapore? Why not actually. Singapore is simply mind-blowing in its ultra-futuristic style. We hear a lot about Dubai as the new hot shit and quite superb tourist destination. But not really about the Lion City, though it’s incredibly modern, stylish, a mega city with a lot to offer.


I guess it’s due to the over-perception of being a dull, strict, and over-regulated. Bearing this in mind it made me careful on everything, just not to get in trouble during this short stay.
We land in Singapore. Heading toward the immigration check point I’m sort of nervous. I never used drugs, nor I ever committed any illegal activity, but I’m still a little agitated. I just filled a declaration for immigration authorities which has it written in bold capital letters “WARNING DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS UNDER SINGAPORE LAW”. Of course while approaching the immigration desk the damn brain starts processing faster those Hollywood’s images of someone placing drugs to your luggage. I know its totally foolish of me thinking fiction-wise. I so wanna get rid of these silly thoughts, the only medicine in my handbag is Vitamin C.
The immigration officer looks fixedly at my Albanian passport. He scans it, he goes carefully through it, and then he asks his colleague in some odd language. Let me guess: ” Are citizens of Albania eligible to enter Singapore without a visa?” My foreign ministry said yes, but what if…? Am I going to wait for 2013 at the airport transit area? With a little reluctance he stamps the passport while wearing an official smile he adds:

Welcome to Singapore Madame!

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As mentioned earlier exploring Singapore was overwhelmingly impressive. The Marine Bay Sands area, the famous Infinity Pool, the botanic gardens, XXL shopping malls, museums, exhibitions, cloud forest, ION sky, little India, are just few attractions which engage in simultaneously with multicultural diversity and religious heritage of the city. What a great city to celebrate New Year’ eve! The midnight fireworks’ show staging at the Marina Bay Sands was unbeatable. Therefore, hundred of thousands people were gathered there to celebrate. The show was magnificent, but who thought that sharply 30 mins after midnight all downtown streets would be shut down. Instead little corridors were assigned for walking crowds, who were guided by traffic police. It was obvious that being squeezed in mid of party crowds can not end well. In a wave of mass panic we would be crushed to death If it wasn’t for the well behaved and patient Asians. One daring  European woman, who leaped over the yellow bars to cross the empty boulevard was immediately stopped by a dozen of police. Who knows what New Year lucky fortune was for her!!! Going around in circles with baby steps took about 2 hours. Finally our lucky fortune, a toast from the ultimate party lounge at New Asia skyline.

Cherio Singapore!


At Painter’s Heaven in Ubud

Without even knowing that I was about to visit the only official art school in Ubud, I find myself in front of Semar Kuning Art gallery. A visit to the Balinese art collection sounded thrilling, so here I was at the exact same place where Julia Roberts stayed while shooting the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”. I was excited although I couldn’t meet Ketut (the famous fortune teller that is real and not just a fiction production on “Eat, Pray, Love”), I got to enjoy the authenticity and pleasantness of this place. A cooperative of 100 painters, some working in this temple-looking gallery and others just bringing their work here for sale.

At the entrance hall, the painters were busy working on their masterpieces. That did not impede us on looking closely to their work, a wide collection from traditional to modern and contemporary paintings. These amazingly professional paintings were placed in various exhibitions rooms. As the service was very pleasant, I took my time to go through with an inexplicable desire of buying something to bring back home. Such a tough choice! Finally after one hour hanging out there I made up my mind and got the traditional Balinese girls’ painting. Since no fixed price was set, I could even bargain it, and feel happy to make a small contribution to the painters’ cooperative.

Here’s a photo collection of creative souls who have crossed Bali’s paths  – enjoy the view slideshow!

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Breezy People of Lembongan, Bali

At heart of Bali stay its people. Very friendly, repeatedly wearing a smile, genuinely pleasant, and always curious where you come from. I never came across to such relaxed, casual mannered, breezy folks in my life. I found that pretty striking.

Taking one of this island cruises by a speed boat that lasted 30 mins, we reached the dream beach in Nusa Lembongan island. Less crowded then Bali, a car here and there, crystal blue waters with coral undertone, buttery white sand, all summed by the magic tropical summer that never ends all year. It felt as simple as that – a heaven on earth. A cozy grass-roof hut should do it, at least for three nights…

A walk by the seaside after a stop over at a welcoming Coconut beach bar which soothed our souls with live reggae and fruit explosion juices is the next obvious thing to do. Taking a small turn into the nearby village opens a new door all of the sudden. It’s the entering gate to the local lives of Lembongan. Some little boys selling souvenirs, a man sleeping in the temple, fishermen cleaning their nets, while other farmers are busy drying seaweed as every family owns approximately 3-5 acres of seaweed farming ‘bed’ and earns their living in this non industrial island. The lifestyle of a Hindu which lives in peace and adheres to custom and religious values is the cornerstone of the islanders’ mindset. No wonder why there’s zero crime rate and people are so free spirited in here.

Lets have the photos take the stage and do the talking further. A snapshot on how the life of a villager in Lembongan looks like.  (View Slideshow)

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