Although a country of just under three million people, Albania has been at the forefront of the music scene these past two decades. That’s in large part thanks to many iconic stars in Europe and the US coming from an Albanian background.
From pop to soul, Albanians have made an indelible mark on music all over the world. Read on to check out our list of 13 of the greatest and most famous Albanian singers you might not know.
1. Dua Lipa
Superstar singer Dua Lipa was born in London to Kosovo Albanian parents. She grew up around music as Her father was the lead singer of Oda, a rock band from Kosovo.
She grew up studying music and learning to play the cello as well as singing. But, one music teacher told her she couldn’t sing when she tried to join the school choir, so she took singing lessons.
Though Lipa didn’t release her first album until 2017, she has rapidly become one of the most recognizable names in music.
Her song “Don’t Start Now” was the biggest commercial success released by a woman in the US in 2020. Her second album, Future Nostalgia, received multiple Grammy Award nominations and won Best Album at the 2021 Brit Awards.
2. Bebe Rexha
Bleta Rexha, more known by her stage name Bebe Rexha, is a singer and Grammy-nominated songwriter born in Brooklyn, New York, to Albanian parents.
Her musical interest started as a child when she played the trumpet and became self-taught on the guitar and piano. She has a coloratura soprano singing voice. While still a teen, she entered a song into the “Grammy Day” event and won.
She started her solo professional career in 2013. Since then, Rexha has collaborated with Nicki Minaj, Florida Georgia Line, and Louis Tomlinson of One Direction, among others. She’s enjoyed several top hits from each album and earned multiple Grammy nominations for songs she wrote and her performances.
She also served as a judge on the popular music competition show “The Voice.”
3. Rita Ora
Born Rita Sahatçiu, Rita Ora is an Albanian singer and songwriter born in Pristina, Kosovo. Her family emigrated to London when she was only a year old in 1991. In her youth, she also attended a performing arts school.
Her career started in 2009 with a cameo in one of Jay-Z’s music videos. In 2012, she sang vocals on a song for DJ Fresh. The first single she released from her debut album, “R.I.P.,” hit #1 on the UK charts, launching her into stardom.
She performed at the 100th Anniversary of the Independence of Albania concert in Tirana in 2012 as a special guest and participated in Mother Teresa’s canonization concert in 2016. Ora has had multiple hits from her two studio albums and has had roles in TV and film.
4. Ava Max
Amanda Ava Koci, popularly known as Ava Max, is a singer and songwriter born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to musically-inclined Albanian parents. Her father played the piano, and her mother was a classically trained opera singer.
She was so determined to succeed that she chose her stage name “Ava” at just 14. Sadly, Max struggled with drinking and poverty after leaving high school and having several demo records rejected.
Max started a SoundCloud in 2016 and released several songs that charted in Eastern Europe in 2018, such as “Salt” and “Not Your Barbie Girl.” Her release of “Sweet But Psycho” that same year performed well in the US and led to a career with multiple hit singles and albums.
5. Era Istrefi
Born in Pristina, Kosovo, to Albanian parents, singer Era Istrefi followed in the footsteps of her older sister and singing star Nora Istrefi. Their mother, Suzana, had a decade-long singing career, so music runs in the Istrefi family.
Istrefi released her first song in 2013, and by 2014, she had a song produced for release in the United States. She earned the nickname “The Rihanna of Kosovo” and had her worldwide breakthrough hit “Bonbon” in 2015.
She collaborated in 2018 with actor and rapper Will Smith and Nicky Jam to sing the official song of the World Cup and performed with them during the closing ceremony.
Elvana Gjata, known simply as Elvana, comes from Tirana, Albania, and has enjoyed a long career as a singer, songwriter, and actress. Her older sister, Migena, forged a musical career in Germany.
Gjata originally intended to direct films, but after winning a talent competition when she was 14, she dedicated herself to music. She released several songs without much success until 2011 when she won the popular Albanian music competition “Top Fest.”
Gjata earned several #1 hits in Albania, including an English language song, “Forever Is Over.” Her music regularly hits the top 100 charts in Kosovo and neighboring countries like Romania.
Bleona Qereti, known professionally as Bleona, is a singer and songwriter from Korçë, Albania, who released eight albums in her homeland before moving to California. She became a US citizen in 2011.
She started singing when she was five and became the lead singer for the Skampa Theater when she was 14. By age 15, she’d achieved fame in Albania. She has several singles in English like “Take It Like A Man” and “Take You Over,” which charted in the top 10 in the UK and hit the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart in the US.
Bleona speaks several languages and has appeared as a judge on Albania’s version of “The X Factor.”
8. Enca Haxhia
Ruensa Haxhiaj, professionally known as Enca Haxhia, is a singer from Tirana, Albania. She has more followers on Instagram than any other female artist in all of the country.
As a child, she sang covers of popular songs by Rita Ora and Lady Gaga and posted them on YouTube. She won several awards over multiple years of Albania’s “Top Fest” music competition.
The pop-dance song “A Po T’pëlqen” that she posted to YouTube in 2014 propelled her to fame in Albania. She’s been nominated for several Zhurma Show awards and won four of them, including Best Female Artist.
Born Rigels Rajku, Noizy is a singer, rapper, and songwriter from Sukth, Albania. His family is of Muslim and Catholic backgrounds. They emigrated to London in 1997 during the Albanian Civil War when Noizy was only one year old.
He competed on “Top Fest” in Albania in 2006 and 2007 and released a single in 2015, “Gangsta Love,” which did well in both Albania and Germany. By 2018, he had gold records in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria and amassed a following across Europe.
Noizy has six studio albums and has appeared in three films and the TV series Apartamenti 2XL.
Dafina Zeqiri, more known as only Dafina, is a singer born in Varberg, Sweden, to Kosovo Albanian parents. She grew up with an absent father and was raised solely by her mother, who’d been a singer in the 80s. Aaliyah was one of her biggest influences.
Zeqiri won the Polifest Festival competition in 2007 and earned an award in 2008 for the single “Adios.” She released her first album in 2008, which was successful enough to launch collaborations with popular artists Blero & F-Kay and to lead some of her songs to hit the charts in Albania.
Several of her songs such as “Dua Që Ta Di” and “Told Ya” have charted in Albania, Sweden, Switzerland, and other European countries from her four studio albums.
Zequiri also regularly supports social causes like mental health and the LGBTQ community.
11. Inva Mula
Born in Tirana, Albania, to parents who were opera singers, Inva Mula grew up in a musical household, so it’s no surprise that she began singing as a child.
Today, she’s one of the most celebrated opera lyric sopranos not just in Albania but also globally. Many people worldwide have heard her sing without knowing it because she sang the vocals for the Diva Plavalaguna, a mysterious alien performer in the film The Fifth Element.
She won awards and performed in Albania and across Europe in the 1980s and 1990s. Her performance as Violetta in “La Traviata” is her signature performance and is known as one of her finest.
12. Dhurata Dora
Dhurata Murturi, known professionally as Dhurata Dora, is a singer and songwriter born in Nuremberg, Germany, to Albanian parents.
Dora released her first single, “Vete Kërkove,” in Kosovo in 2011. Her second single was more successful, and each subsequent release seemed to build on the earlier songs’ popularity.
In 2019, her song “Zemër,” in collaboration with Algerian rapper Soolking, hit #1 in her homeland and charted in several European countries. The song has become a Certified Platinum single, and the associated YouTube video has racked up almost 700 million views.
13. Nora Istrefi
Singer Nora Istrefi comes from Pristina, Kosovo. She is the older sister of another popular Albanian singer, Era Istrefi.
Nora started her career when she was 18 and released her first album in 2005. The song “Taxi” from that album became popular across Europe.
In 2006, she participated in the Albanian competition “Top Fest” and won Best Singer and Best Pop Video Of The Year.
Although Nora is well-known as a musical artist in Albania, she hasn’t achieved the worldwide fame of her sister Era.
Final Thoughts On Our List Of Popular Albanian Singers
The Albanian singers and those with Albanian heritage we included in this list are all special in their own way, specializing in several musical styles.
You’ll find international pop, rap, and soul stars, as well as artists who enjoy more regional success in Albania and Eastern Europe. There’s even a world-famous operatic soprano.
No matter where your musical tastes lie, you can find music to enjoy and add to your playlist.