By Senad Nikshiqi
Memorie.al / She does not hide that she was one of the favorite singers of the communist leadership. He sang at gatherings, delegation meetings, even on the dictator’s birthday. Naile Hoxha, one of the biggest names in Albanian popular music, tells how he started on the path of music, how he came to Tirana at the request of Enver Hoxha, to build a nearly 60-year career. Naile Hoxha, there is no reason to complain. He was chosen by Enver Hoxha himself, he sang for foreign delegations, even on the dictator’s 60th anniversary. She does not hide that even having the same last name as the leader of that time has helped her a lot. With a melodious voice, smiling face, one of the most successful and beloved singers for the public and the communist leadership, performer of dozens of songs, tells how she entered the path of singing, when she was only 13 years old, how Enveri brought her to Tirana, trips abroad and relationships with other singers.
As for today, she says its better, but she doesn’t like singers stripping on stage. “Are you going to sing or show your body”?!, she asks in surprise, since she has been singing and wearing folk costumes all her life, and yet, she has been very successful. Naile Hoxha says that he was not afraid of the past system, but he is not nostalgic either. She was good at what she knew how to do.
He sang beautifully and with feeling, such as songs about love, such as the famous song “Xamadanin kuq si kalkusi”, “Moj e mir synin larush”, “Djal i dashtun”, “Seç po fryn fllad ververe”, etc., as well those for the Party. And when you ask her how she resisted that regime, she simply says: “I was wise. I didn’t do anything else but sing.” She confesses more herself in this interview
Ms. Naile, do you remember when you first came on stage? How did it happen?
I was 13 years old when I went on stage for the first time. I worked in a printing house. I sang there for fun and when they heard me, they liked my voice. They told me to go out and sing. I was successful the first time I went on stage. Then Radio-Shkodra took me and from a young age, I made several recordings.
It is said that you were chosen by Enver Hoxha himself to sing. Is it true?
Yes, true. He came once to Shkodër, to the House of Culture. We were told that we should sing, on the occasion of Enver’s visit. He came. When he climbed the stairs, the beauty of the land was…! He was 42 years old then. Luçije Miloti, Ibrahim Tukiçi, Xhevdet Hafizi, Bik Ndoja and all the others sang. They left me for last. I sang the song: “In the spring that you have ashes/the dandelion is blooming…”, a song that makes my voice sound good. I sang and greeted him. I got ready to go to my place. He spoke in Shkodran: “Yes, come on, come here.” I went to where Enver was and put both hands on his arms. He asked me if I go to school. No, I told him, only at night school, because I work in a printing office.
“He works and sings, very well,” he said. “But who is that boy over there?”, Shkodran asked me again. “It’s the fiance,” I told him. My husband came and shook his hand, asked where he works and told him he was a driver. He asked her about her age. Then he was 18 years old, and I was 15. “Driver and with courage”, said Enveri. Since he liked my voice, he said that we should go to Tirana. We got married and went to Tirana, after 3 years from that day. When I went, the Ensemble had not yet opened and I was sent to Estrada.
You have many beautiful songs, which you sing about love, youth, nature, etc. What about the party, did you sing?
I sang a lot for the party. They had gatherings, even foreigners came. I don’t know how it will sound to say it, but I liked my voice very much. So I sang a lot about the Party. Who knows how many times I have sung “Long live Enver as our mountains”.
It is known that folk songs and traditional art in general are served as value and pride to foreign delegations. Were you invited during the time of communism, to sing in front of foreign delegations, or in general in front of foreign visitors?
I have sung about him many times and met many strangers. I have forgotten the name of a King (it is about the Prince of Cambodia, Samde Norodom Sihanouk. Our note), who once came to visit Tirana. He had come to an evening with Enver Hoxha and the top leaders of the state at that time. I dressed up as a mountaineer and went out and sang. The king said to Enver; “The one who sang before was very beautiful and the one who danced was also very beautiful.”
Enver replied that; “It’s the same, the one who sang and the one who danced.” So I sang and danced. Since I was little, the toy boys would come and I would go with them, sing and dance with them. I sang for all the most important foreign delegations. But I didn’t talk to foreigners, because I didn’t know foreign languages.
Which of the former senior leadership loved your songs the most?
I can’t say about that. Anyway, I really liked Enver Hoxha, but also Mehmet Shehu, Kad ri Hazbiu and other high functionaries of the time. I generally liked them all. Especially when I performed Shkodra songs.
Has it happened to you that senior APS officials have invited you to sing at their family celebrations?
Yes, I went when Enveri turned 60 years old. They took me to sing for his birthday. I sang the song: “Marta gathers with women/ the old man is miserable who has it/ there is no greater trouble my sister/ when you see the man next to you/ He has turned 60…”! When I said “60 years old”, it was as if I fainted and felt ashamed, because Enver had his 60th birthday and it didn’t seem like much to him. I immediately changed it and shouted: “The truth is the party/ I forgave many of my days…”!
So for the same song, I changed the lyrics from hand to hand. Then, when I was going down the stairs, to go to where I was sitting, Enveri said to me: “Naile, I didn’t recognize you.” I was left and I had nothing to say, I didn’t speak at all…! The steppes. He saw that I was afraid and said to me immediately: “Come, come here to our table.” I went to their desk. (During the evening, a game was played. A woman handed out some folded cards. Whose one fell through the hole was lucky).
Enver had the letter without a son and I also without a son. He told me: “Naile didn’t lose anything.” I said: ‘Yes, yes, I do’. “No, he said, it didn’t happen to us.” I said: ‘I am very lucky to be at your table’. Because to whom the card fell was considered lucky. Nexhmija, Mehmet Shehu and all the others were there at the table. For others, I did not sing at family parties, only for Enver.
You bear the surname Hoxha. Did you favor this last name during communism, which was also used by the former leader of the APS, Enver Hoxha?
My maiden name was Tula, while my husband’s name was Hodžič. Since Enveri had Hoxha, they approached me and made me Hoxhaj. I told him: Comrade Enver, my last name is not Hoxhaj, but Hoxha. “But why did they change it”, he told me. I don’t know, I told him. “Okay, he said, I’ll fix it.” I wanted to do it as the leader and it happened. The surname favored me greatly.
Did you go abroad to sing during the communist system? If so, did it ever cross your mind to run away?
Yes, I have been out of Albania a lot, to sing. I have been in; China, Vietnam, Korea, Bulgaria, Romania, France, England, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy and many other countries. I loved Albania so much that on one occasion, when we were out, the manager came and told Luçije Milot. Luc, we will stay for 3 more days. “Ah, how good,” said Lucia and asked him; will they give us money”?
“Yes, he said, – I’m going to get them.” “I know what you have, I told him, gone get that ALL; I will leave for Albania tomorrow”. I did not love the foreign country. We were in Egypt when this happened. I was not tempted to run away. I have my daughter in Germany. I lived there for 3 years and I couldn’t take it anymore, I ran away. I love Albania. I never thought of running away. I have never been afraid of that system.
A life with the folk song, have you tried to sing the easy song?
No, never, because I didn’t like it. Only the folk song. I had Vaçe Zela as a close friend. We loved each other very much and I liked Vacja very much when he sang it, but it was very heavy as music. Only Vacja sang it, while I wanted folk.
It has been talked about a lot that the singers of light music have had rivalry and espionage between each other. What about the singers of popular songs, how were the relationships, were they jealous of each other?
Once we were told that you have a meeting and we were told that we would sing and talk about the Party. I neither spoke nor sang in that meeting. When we had a show, Drita Papajani said to me: “You didn’t sing or talk about the Party”?! I said: “Do you know what the Party said? The word I speak, said friend Enver, tell him on stage that he spoke the same way about me, when a singer is the lady on stage. Even I’m on stage, I’m a lady”.
After this conversation, Papajani did not speak about me, because his father was a priest and he could not. There was no espionage among us singers of popular songs, because the Party “gathered us” and no one could. No one dared.
Has it happened to you that a colleague complains about you in the party or anywhere else?
No, no one complained, because I was very nice to my friends. The lady at work, yes, and they didn’t need it.
How did Naile Hoxha manage to escape the system that has punished many other artists?
I was wise. I did nothing but sing.
Were you harassed by women from the leadership?
No, no, not for me. I don’t know any others either. I have never felt bad. Nexhmija also loved me very much. When it came to going abroad, he put me first on the list and then left the other places empty, to place the others. Every government loves an artist and artists love every government, because I don’t need anything like how someone runs the country, because the job of an artist is only to sing beautifully.
Better then or today?
No, better today. Albania has changed completely. I have no nostalgia for that time. One thing was good, I used to go to sing and stay until 2 in the morning, and no one said a word.
And the singers were they better then or today?
They were better then. Today, female singers strip naked. It does not work. Will you sing or show your body?! Once, the director of Estrada sent me to sing at a wedding, because a friend of his was getting married. I had to listen to him, because it was the director…! I went and told my husband: ‘I’m going to sing, because the director told me, he’s marrying a friend of his.’
Very well, he told me, and didn’t make a sound. The next day I went to work and my husband came to the director and said: “I want to fire Naila.” He wondered why, he said, it is the best. “No, he said, I put him to work, to sing to the people, not to your friends who are getting married.” Since then, the director never told me again. Enver couldn’t tell him that, of course, because we were afraid.
Are there singers today, like; Luçije Miloti, Xhevdet Hafizi, Ibrahim Tukiçi, Bik Ndoja and others?
No, they don’t, they don’t come anymore. All are dead and no one has replaced them. I will also die, because I am 82 years old and there is no one to replace me. Memorie.al