Born into a highly artistic family in Tirana, Albania, in 1981, Elina Duni made her first steps on the stage as a singer aged five, singing for National Radio and Television. In 1992, after the fall of the communist regime, she settled in Geneva, Switzerland, with her mother, where she started studying classical piano and thereafter discovered jazz. She went on to study on the jazz programme at Hochschule der Künste in Bern. During this time, she formed the Elina Duni Quartet with Colin Vallon on piano, Patrice Moret on double bass and Norbert Pfammatter on drums. This project represented a return to her musical roots, a combination of Balkan folk songs and jazz.
In 2017, Elina Duni was one of the winners of the Swiss Music Prize, and in 2018 her first solo project Partir was released on ECM: In nine (!) languages she presents old folk songs, chansons and ballads of farewell and separation, accompanying herself on guitar, piano and frame drum.
For her latest project Songs of Love and Exile Elina is joined by guitarist and BBC New Generation Artist Rob Luft, one of the rising stars of London’s flourishing contemporary jazz scene. Luft’s playing incorporates echoes of West African high-life, Celtic folk and textural minimalism. His joyously original sound finds an ideal counterpart in Elina Duni’s vocals. Their first common album Lost Ships was released by ECM Records and longlisted for the German Critics’Award 2020 as well as for the German Jazz Award 2021.
“I come from a family who has already fought against fascism, this is why I abhor any kind of nationalism. Societies who seal themselves off, are fearful societies. We all have to learn again how to fight for things that we have come to see as a given and take for granted.” (Elina Duni)