Every day, Mehdi Kryeziu from Lipjan, Kosovo goes out in one of Prishtina’s main squares to sell musical instruments, which he makes by hand.
“Because I love them, when I was young, 3 years old, my father bought one for me. I slowly learned to play, while I was a shepherd. After some time, when I had turned 12 or 13, I asked my dad, who made this, was it a man who made it? Yes, he said. A certain Beqir Prelezi from Ferizaj. That is who I bought it from. And it is from that time that I started to build, sell and make a living out of them,”- said Mehdi Kryeziu.
But times have changed. Nowadays, very few people wish to own a çifteli. (a plucked string instrument with only two strings)
“Sales have soared. The pandemic has affected sales and everything. We cannot go outside every day so things have changed quite a bit. They were better before,” – says Kryeziu.
Before the pandemic, the return of the Kosovar diaspora would revive the whole country and it would consequently also help Mehdi with his sales.
“It was better before the pandemic. Much better, because immigrants would return home for a visit and surely, they feel a greater love for tradition and for this instrument. Now we are tired. There’s no money, no economy, just poverty,” – Mehdi continues.
Mehdi chooses to illustrate the poverty that has swept the nation through something that happened to him only one day ago.
“Yesterday, someone came to play the sharkia (a popular musical instrument usually with five strings) and he almost broke into tears. His soul was hurting as he didn’t have money, he couldn’t afford it. It requires a lot of work to make this instrument,”- said the salesman.
Mehdi’s prices aren’t cheap when it comes to the Kosovar standard of living.
“The sharkia-s range from 200 to 350 euros. The çifteli goes for 15 to 80 or 90 euros, depending on the quality. My çifteli-s are top quality,” – said Mehdi.
Even though the tradition of folkloric musical instruments runs in his family, he says that the younger generations have started to lose interest.
“My grandfather used to play it, my father sang but didn’t play and I play and sing a bit too but the people have started to forget as the youngsters aren’t feeling it like we used to,” – Mehdi said.
Another day went by and Mehdi didn’t sell a single musical instrument, hoping that the next year will change more than just its digits.