Thursday, March 15, 2007


On a recent visit to Skopje in Macedonia (or FYROM), I was asked by several people what what the night life was like in Pristina. I was wary about answering this. Being someone who has been lucky enough to know nightlife in NYC and London, I can be excused if I tend to soak up reviews of other cities' night life like a drainer. I ended up telling the inquiring minds that nightlife in Pristina was okay and growing. There are always cafes open up late (though mot serving coffee by 10 pm). 24 hrs casinos are still up and running. Taxis are always around to take you anywhere. I have heard of many a club but have only been to a couple. SPRAY might be queen amongst knights when it comes to clubs. Always a different vibe there but always full of young and beautiful Kosovan people indulging in all sorts of debauchery. Babuka is a favorite for internationals in Pristina. Better known as the Jazz Club, the live music in Babuka is good. The owner is also a constant drummer in the bands and a cool dude. There is actually an American vibe to this as some who work there used to in the USA. Cubed Club is also a god chillout place, nice eclectic music dj'ed by bartenders; mainly Kosovan patrons. There is always the OSCE happy hour every Friday night but I got a feeling that this is where internationals hook up and break up, the only time I was there. It seemed like a good networking event though. Here is a site talking about a couple more places to go to at night. Also check out article below about clubbing in Kosovo, though it is more about clubbing in Pristina and reads more like PR campaign for Babuka ;)

Clubbing in a new Kosovo
By Patrick Jackson
BBC News, Pristina
As Kosovo awaits the UN Security Council's decision on its final status, BBC News asks Pristina's night clubbers if there is a place for Serbs, in a city where inter-ethnic tensions still resonate. Where does Europe's youngest population - 50% under the age of 25, according to the UN - go on a Saturday night? If you have a few euros, and can get past the bouncers, let Pristina's packed clubs entertain you with live rock and jazz. With pizza lining your stomach - or maybe a Bondsteel burger, named after a US military base - the beer bottles are glinting, the music is good and you could think you are in a club in any EU state. What places you in the Kosovan capital, other than the male-female imbalance (which grows as the night wears on), is the Albanian being spoken around you.

I cannot forget [the war] but I try not to think of it because we have to go forward - otherwise there is no chance
Besim Gashi Babuka
jazz club owner
But don't be discouraged if you don't know it - people here have a command of English to put other nations to shame, the product of schooling and "kitchen-table" private tutoring. And many older Albanians are no strangers to German or other west European languages, learnt from years of labour or exile abroad. Only Serbian, the one second language that just about everyone who grew up before 1999 knows as a citizen of the former Yugoslavia, stands outcast in Pristina. This city of 550,000 is now home to 12,000 Serbs, according to the OSCE, which includes suburban Serb enclaves. Serbs themselves say no more than 50-60 live in the centre of a city where they officially made up 13% of the population in Yugoslav times. Could they come back? This Saturday night some Albanians, at least, genuinely seem to be keeping the door ajar to a life together in Kosovo's capital.
Trying to forget
"We want to have a real good life here like young people have in Europe and everywhere else," says locksmith Jener Lleshi.

[My message to Serbs is] be Kosovans! And come and live in Pristina like you used to
Jener Lleshi
Pristina clubber
There was a time, he continues, when Serbs should "maybe have been afraid but not anymore". His message to them is that if they embrace Kosovo as a nation, they will be welcomed in and can enjoy the fruits of a euro-fuelled economy. "Accept that this is Kosovo and reject disintegration and separation because nowadays in Pristina you can travel, you can go about freely," he says. "That's my message to you: Be Kosovans! And come and live in Pristina like you used to." Besim Gashi Babuka is the owner of the jazz club where we are trying to talk above the music. Speaking in between sessions with the band, the man everyone knows as Babuka clearly has no illusions about the gulf between the two communities. He himself "lost everything during the war". "We [Albanians] were a million driven out of our homes, we had women and children killed, the anger was very strong," he says. "I cannot forget it but I try not to think of it because we have to go forward - otherwise there is no chance." Serbs, Babuka says, should try to understand that Albanians were hit hard during the war. There is intolerance on both sides and Albanians should also try to understand Serbs, he adds, but that "is much harder". As for the political situation, he argues that Kosovo's statehood will soon be a reality and he looks to the EU for examples of a multi-ethnic society. "I have just come from London and I studied in Amsterdam and I have seen all those millions of people from different places, of different nationalities and different religions, successfully living together." Many Serbs still living in the Pristina area avoid the city, some commuting to the Serb stronghold of Mitrovica on a train specially organised by the UN. Pristina's Serb population fell from an estimated 40,000 to a couple of thousand in the space of a few months in 1999, the UN refugee agency reported at the time. Expulsions by ethnic Albanians, it said, appeared to be "systematic" with entire blocks of flats reportedly emptied by militants using threats or actual violence.
Given the chance...
As the night winds down in Babuka's club, journalist Dukagjin Gorani offers his own view of Kosovo's future.

Kosovo will become a state but not a nation-state
Dukagjin Gorani
"It's not much of a country, just a small and extremely modest entity which I believe is very ambitious, ambitious in its idea that it does belong to the wider family of democracies, and it has certainly made up its mind that its road to wellbeing lies to the West," he says. Kosovo, he predicts, will "become a state but not a nation-state" if the Serbs accept democratic values and come aboard. By democracy, he means not just "the will of the majority but... but respect for minorities". And Dukagjin asks for the world to give Kosovo a chance: "Considering the way we have been governing ourselves for the past seven years, I cannot say I am much proud of anything but I sort of expect myself to become proud, hopefully with the serious reforms and changes which Kosovo will inevitably have to undergo." As for Babuka, his club is a symbol of the kind of place Kosovo should be. "Through my jazz club, something which is very European, I like to show that we are normal," he says.


Anonymous said...

sounds like you found something exciting to get into :-)


Anonymous said...

Thanks Selam, but who are you? Sowwy...