Trying to describe Dardan Islami is a bit like describing a snowflake on a hot day. By the time you’ve got him pinned down, he’s already melted and perhaps evaporated into another state of consciousness. Kosovo 2.0 caught up with Islami as he drank rakia rrushi at Hamam, the jazz club and restaurant he co-owns in Prishtina. Islami’s resumé reads like that of a renaissance man, with stints as a dishwasher, guerilla fighter, journalist, filmmaker, bartender, standup comic and extraterrestrial enthusiast.
What was the first song you remember singing in the shower?
“Definitely the Beatles. ‘Here Comes the Sun.’ I had a few of their albums growing up.”
When you’re cooking for two, what’s on the menu?
“Always good pasta with mushrooms — as many as possible. Tartuffe (truffles) if possible.”
How do you take your coffee?
“Espresso, one sugar. Short.”
On Facebook, are you more likely to friend someone — or the other way around?
“The other way around. I do make friends, but only 10 percent as many as they make me.”
Do you do ever dance when you’re alone?
“Oh, yes. Naked.”
If you could make a movie, what would it be about?
“Oh, you got me here. It’s my dream to make a movie. At the moment I’m working on a script … an interesting script. It begins in ’98 and ends 2010. It Involves Kosovo, huge powers and technology. It’s all I can say.”
Who makes the best coffee in Prishtina?
“Papillion used to make it. But it burned down. Now it’s Metro, for espresso. Good, short, fresh, quick service.”
What are you currently reading?
“Actually nothing. The last one was ‘Blood on My Hands.’ It’s a book about a doctor, an Australian, during the war. It brings me back memories.”
What household appliance could you not live without?
What band would you bring to Prishtina?
“Alive? I had a chance to meet jazz musician Wayne Shorter in Skopje. I would bring him to Hamam.”
Do you look before you cross the street?
How do you define what you do?
“My year is divided into blocks. During the summer I run a bar in Albania and I watch the sky. I sleep out in open air. During the other period I run this place, Hamam. I also work at INIT Productions.”
How do you know when something is good?
“I have to like it. For me to like it, it must have some standards … meet some standards.”
What’s your rakia of choice?
How do you answer the phone?
How many cigarettes do you smoke a day?
“None. I don’t. I hate cigarettes. If I could I’d bomb all the factories in the world. I’d kill all the smokers. Especially the ones who smoke in my face.”
Do you have a Schengen visa?
“Always. I travel a lot. I move around. I don’t like Europeans, or European policies toward us. Those motherfuckers. Kosova and Albania are the only countries that didn’t build our roads with money from Europe. Everybody else got the money. We’re the Illyrians. It’s known. It’s recognized. Ancients, Romans, Illyrians. Somehow we just disappeared for seven fucking centuries. Off the radar. The Greeks turned out to be a hoax.”
What’s your favorite piece of clothing?
“A good pair of shoes. A good old jacket. A nice scarf. Can’t do without those.”
It’s 11:30 p.m. on a Thursday, where are you?
“Hamam. Getting ready to go to Albania. Since it’s snowing, we’re stuck.”
Where would you rather be right now?
“Southern Albania, eating fresh fish.”
What was your first job?
“A dishwasher. It was 1992 in London at a small restaurant. I thought I spoke English. When I found out I didn’t … I couldn’t understand shit.”
Agnostic, atheist or god fearing?
“None of those. I do believe in god. I believe in the sun. I don’t believe in these religious bullshits. Never did. I’m not an atheist. I do believe in extraterrestrials.”
To Tweet or not to Tweet?
“I’m going soon. Let’s do this today. Let’s try it together.”
Who’s the last person you’d call?
“The prime minister.”
What’s the first song on your mix tape?
“Again, the Beatles. ‘Stars on 45.’ It’s a disco remix with Beatles songs. I was getting formed musically when I heard it for the first time. It was a mix of my two favorite things (disco and the Beatles).”
Would you rather be notorious or anonymous?
“Both. Notorious for a while, anonymous for a while. But then again, in the age we live in, what’s the fucking point of being anonymous?”
Describe your most ideal situation.
(Drinks rakia.) “The ideal situation for me … if we ever know the truth, whatever that is and be fine with it. I believe people will take it easy and enjoy the things we have around.”
Cher asks, “Do you believe in love after love?”
“Yes … never enough.”
By: Nate Tabak
Photography: Atdhe Mulla