Erza Muqoli

Hallelujah 2020

Listening Post 248. At 14, Erza Muqoli has already led an eventful life, her success framed by a dramatic family backstory. The heart of her biography is her incandescent voice, at once floating and penetrating, girlish and mature. She burst on the French music scene at age 9, singing on a TV talent show, which led to her joining Kids United, a vocal group formed in 2015 to promote UNICEF programs. In three years the ensemble released three number-one albums; they performed at Olympia in Paris, at the United Nations and met with Syrian refugees and orphans in Lebanon, echoing the young artist’s own trajectory—born in France to an Albanian-speaking family that fled Kosovo during the serial wars that followed Yugoslavia’s breakup. In Fillim (Beginning), Erza takes 90 dazzling seconds to link her heritage to the land that welcomed her family (video 1). She sings that first track on her debut solo album in Albanian, followed by 11 songs in the language she ennobles much as Piaf, Aznavour, Montand, Gainsbourg and legions of other immigrants or children of immigrants who have embodied chanson française. Erza’s album mentor, the singer-songwriter Vianney, wrote in his protégé’s image, and with her collaboration, ballads of optimism, anthems of gratitude, questions for humanity and divinity. Can she sing of love? Hear Dommage (Pity, video 2) and be reminded that she is older than Shakespeare’s Juliet. In Je chanterei (I’ll Sing, video 3) she finds her métier in a complicated world. She carries her angelic “Hallelujah” to heaven’s door in Ma prière d’enfant (My Childhood Prayer, video 4); and in Devant (Just Ahead) remembers that—like the world—she is still growing up (video 5). In our 2020 confinement, with all pilots grounded, Erza Muqoli has the power to take us above the clouds and return us safely to earth. (Tôt ou tard)

 

Fillim / Beginning
Lyrics: Naim Frasheri/Music: Vianney

(From the Albanian)
O France, to you I owe my honor
O Albania, to you I owe my name

 

Dommage / Pity
Lyrics & Music: Vianney

(From the French lyrics)
Hands in my pockets and the pockets are empty/
Empty just thinking about it
I didn’t see it ending with tears in my eyes/Life isn’t ugly, no it’s not
It’s almost beautiful/First time I’m cursed for having dreamed

I’m not saying we had something, no/I don’t know enough
I’m not saying we had something real

But it’s a pity/Even if it’s a shame, sometimes it’s better
Better than the storm/Better than lightning flashing in my eyes
But it’s a pity/And if it’s a shame it’s better
Too bad, we seemed happy/We seemed happy

You can call me clumsy/And I’ll agree
But don’t tell me I’m difficult/That’s not true
Is it the fault of the times?/Of straightened hair?
We know how to recover from shock/Better than from love

I’m not saying we had something, no/I won’t say another word
I’m not saying we had enough for tomorrow

But it’s a pity/Even if it’s too bad, sometimes it’s better
Better than the storm/Better than lightning flashing in my eyes
But it’s a pity/And if it’s a shame it’s better
Too bad, we seemed happy/We seemed happy

Hands in my pockets and the pockets are empty/Emptied out
I didn’t see it all ending in a verse/It wasn’t long, the life we had together
Never mind/I’ve said everything
I’ve told you everything

 

Je chanterai / I’ll Sing
Lyrics & Music: Vianney

As a child I imagined a perfect world/So beautiful, but so unreal
I wanted to forget that we’re all human/Good people, good intentions
We were asked to imagine tomorrow/But tomorrow was far away
I had no idea about growing up, nothing/And I didn’t want to

Suddenly the singer went “yo yo yo”/And then everyone yelled “yo yo yo”
If that’s a life, singing “yo yo yo”/Then it’s settled, I’ll do “yo yo yo”
I’ll sing

As a child I thought we were all equal/It was beautiful, but it was pretend
I didn’t want to fly too fast/Take it slowly, I was little and it was early, so early
Someone asks you to imagine tomorrow/But tomorrow is so far, isn’t it?
You have no idea about growing up, nothing/And I was like you

Suddenly the singer went “yo yo yo”/And then everyone yelled “yo yo yo”
If that’s a life, singing “yo yo yo”/Then it’s settled, I’ll do “yo yo yo”
I’ll sing
I’ll sing

 

Ma prière d’enfant / My childhood prayer
Lyrics & Music: Vianney

Talking to heaven/As we talk to people
I never knew we could do that, mother
So tonight I’ll try/It’s my childhood prayer

My God, you are God/But you cry nonetheless
God, as I understand you/Consider the earth
And what your children do with it

Hallelujah
And then what?/Answer a little
Hallelujah
My God/If you are for real

I’ve often said
“I’m sorry, I have nothing”/To downtrodden beggars
Remind me that we should always/Save a little for them

And the sick/Who have no choice
Tell me why, father/Whether they are humble or kings
Do you not heal them?

Hallelujah
And then what?/Answer a little
Hallelujah
My God/If you are for real

Curse the heavens/While clenching their teeth
Men often do it
But who makes wars, Father?/If not your children

Talking to heaven/As we talk to people
I tried, mother/I’m sorry if it’s not clear, Father
It’s my childhood prayer

Hallelujah
And then what?/Answer a little
Hallelujah
My God/If you are for real

 

Devant / Ahead
Lyirics & Music: Vianney

I often cursed on winter mornings/It was cold on the way to school
And there wasn’t another hand to warm mine

I wanted to swallow the whole earth/But I didn’t have a bike or a compass
Let alone a hand to guide mine

Is it in books or on screens/That we become freer as we learn?
I was alone/And I just thought
I have only my voice, and yet…

I’ll go far/I’ll grow up
The path/Is before me
I’ll go far/I’ll grow up
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow
It’s just ahead

And if I admit I’ve sometimes wanted to give up/Tired of the people holding me back
I never thought of stopping

And if I admit I’ve used my voice/So that theirs doesn’t affect me
I never thought of being silent

Is it in books or on screens/That we become freer as we learn?
I was alone/And I just thought
I have only my voice and yet

II was alone
I was alone

I’ll go far/I’ll grow up
The path/Is before me
I’ll go far/I’ll grow up
The path/Is before me
I’ll go far/I’ll grow up
Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow
Is just ahead

 


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