Era Istrefi

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Era Istrefi
Era Istrefi 2018.jpg
Istrefi performing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final in Moscow
Born (1994-07-04) 4 July 1994 (age 26)
  • Kosovo
  • Albania
  • Singer
  • songwriter
Years active2012–present
  • Nezir Istrefi (father)
  • Suzana Tahirsylaj (mother)
Musical career

Era Istrefi (/ˈɛrɑː ɪˈstrɛfi/; Albanian pronunciation: [ˈɛɾa isˈtɾɛfi]; born 4 July 1994) is a Kosovar singer and songwriter.[1] Born and raised in Pristina, she rose to international recognition with the breakthrough single "BonBon", which drew comparisons to the musical works of Rihanna and Sia. Due to the success, she signed contract with record labels Sony Music and subsequently with Ultra Music a month later.[2][3]

Istrefi's discography includes works in both Albanian and English among others "Shume Pis", "Redrum", "Nuk E Di" and "Live It Up". She has received a number of awards and nominations, including the European Border Breakers Award and Top Music Award. In 2018, she performed the official song for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, alongside Nicky Jam and Will Smith, at the closing ceremony of the grand final in Moscow.[4]

Life and career[edit]

1994–2014: Early life and success in Albania[edit]

Era Istrefi was born on 4 July 1994 into an Albanian family in the city of Pristina, then part of the FR Yugoslavia, present Kosovo.[5] Her father Nezir Istrefi, a journalist, died in 2004.[6] Istrefi's mother, Suzana Istrefi (née Tahirsylaj), a musician active between the 1980s and 1990s, took a break from her career upon her husband's death.[7]

In 2013, Istrefi made her debut in the Albanian-speaking world with the single "Mani Për Money", eventually releasing material sung in Gheg Albanian featuring English phrases.[8] A few months later, she released a follow-up recording, "A Po Don?", which was promoted with a music video; it similarly achieved recognition.[9] Her third single "E Dehun" was filmed in a desecrated Orthodox church. Upon its release, "E Dehun" assured Istrefi three Videofest Awards, including one for "Best New Artist". In December 2014, the singer made the pop ballad "13", which was produced in the United States, available for consumption.[10] Its accompanying music video was viewed almost 200,000 times within 24 hours on YouTube,[11] which later resulted in it being featured in V Magazine.[12] That year, she expressed her support of LGBT rights.[8] She received Albanian citizenship in 2016.[13]

2015–present: International breakthrough[edit]

Istrefi experienced international recognition with her single "BonBon", which was released on 30 December 2015 together with the music video shot in Brezovica, Kosovo.[14] The song became an immediate success, becoming viral on social media.[15] Additionally, the singer began gaining support from American actress Chloë Grace Moretz,[16] and various publications referred to her as the "Rihanna and Sia of Kosovo".[17][18] In February 2016, Istrefi signed to American labels Sony Music Entertainment and Ultra Music. It was reported that Istrefi will record her upcoming debut studio album in collaboration with RCA Records.[19] In June 2016 an English version of "BonBon" was released.[20]

On 24 February 2017, Istrefi released a new single, entitled "Redrum", which features producer Felix Snow.[21][22] Few months later, on 29 September, Istrefi released another new single, entitled "No I Love Yous", which is in collaboration with French Montana.[23]

She has started 2018 with a new single "Origami" featuring South African DJ Maphorisa. On 21 May it was announced that Istrefi had joined with American actor and rapper Will Smith and American singer Nicky Jam to release the Official FIFA World Cup Song on 25 May.[24][25] She performed the song, entitled "Live It Up", alongside Smith and Jam on 15 July at the closing ceremony in the World Cup Final.[citation needed] During the rest of the summer she dropped two more singles, entitled "Prisoner" and "Oh God", the latter featuring Konshens. She was featured on Steve Aoki's album Neon Future III and Jonas Blue's album Blue, both released on 19 November.

In 2019, Istrefi collaborated with Belgian duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike on her follow-up single "Selfish" which topped the Billboard Dance Club Airplay chart.[26] Two months later, she worked with her sister and Albanian singer Nora Istrefi on the single "Nuk E Di" which marked the first time that both artists have collaborated musically on a recording.[27] In the same year, she released "Sayonara детка" with Russian rapper Элджей and was featured along American rapper Offset on the single "Let's Get Married" by Dutch duo Yellow Claw.


Musical style[edit]

Era Istrefi characterises her own musical work as multi genre combining dancehall with hip hop, pop and electronic.[28] Her music also incorporates electronic dance[29], reggae, techno and alternative.[30] Diverse observers have compared her music style and appearance to that of Rihanna and Sia.[31][32][33][34]


Era Istrefi takes influence from the different genres of music she discovered when she was young and stated that reggae and Jamaican music were the major type of music she fell in love when she was sixteen.[35] She has named Rihanna and Lana Del Rey as her idols and biggest musical influences.[35][36] A Kosovo Albanian musician Nexhmije Pagarusha from the late 20th century has also inspired the singer.[37] Istrefi also praised Rihanna for having been able to constantly reinvent herself successfully throughout her career.[35]


Music video controversy[edit]

Istrefi received criticism from the Serbian Orthodox Church after the release of the music video for her third single "E Dehun". The video depicted a semi-nude woman dancing around the Church of Christ the Saviour in Pristina. The Serbian Orthodox Church called her actions "demonic" and "blasphemous".[38] Astrit Ismaili reacted to the controversial act, citing that there was no intention to offend Serbians and that he had the permission to shoot the video in the entrance of the church.[39]

Racism controversy[edit]

When her biggest song to date "BonBon" was originally released through NESËR, the lyrics contained the ethnic slur nigga. As the song's popularity increased, the English speaking audience began to notice the use of the slur. Since Istrefi is a Caucasian Southern European woman, it caused an outrage.[citation needed] After the video was re-uploaded to Ultra Music’s YouTube channel, the word was cut out.

Istrefi later apologized via social media for using the word:[40][41][42]

My apologies for the ignorance in using the N word. In Kosova there r no black people so we call each other that way in terms of “bro”. Thats why we should always think B.I.G
#noracism #weareone 🌏


Era 💌



As a lead artist[edit]

List of singles, with selected chart positions and certifications
Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album

US Dance
"Mani Për Money" 2013 Non-album singles
"A Po Don?" 2014
"E Dehun"
(featuring Mixey)
"Njo Si Ti" 2015
"Shumë Pis"
(featuring Ledri Vula)
"BonBon" 2016 1 46 19 39 95 38 29 10 68 39 13
(featuring Felix Snow)
2017 1 45
"No I Love Yous"
(featuring French Montana)
(featuring Maphorisa)
2018 21
"Prisoner" 22
"Oh God"
(featuring Konshens)
(with Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike)
2019 51 35 26
"Nuk E Di"
(featuring Nora Istrefi)
"Sayonara детка"
(with Элджей)
"No Maybes"
(with Ilkay Sencan featuring Arash)
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

As featured artist[edit]

List of singles, with selected chart positions and certifications
Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album

"Live It Up"
(Nicky Jam featuring Will Smith and Era Istrefi)
2018 7 21 65 42 21 68 71 78 59 32 Non-album single
"Let's Get Married"[68]
(Yellow Claw featuring Offset and Era Istrefi)
2019 Never Dies
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Guest appearances[edit]

List of guest appearances for other artists, showing year released and album name
Title Year Artist(s) Album
"Anything More" 2018 Steve Aoki Neon Future III
"Purpose" Jonas Blue Blue

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Event Category Nominated work Result
2014 VideoFest Awards Best Performance "E dehun" Won
Best Styling Won
Best Female Nominated
Best New Artist "Mani për money" Won
Zhurma Show Awards Best New Artist "E dehun" Nominated
2015 Best Collaboration "Shumë pis" Nominated
Internet Award Won
Best Song Nominated
2016 Top Music Awards Collaboration of the Year "Shumë pis" Won
Song of the Year Nominated
"BonBon" Won
Female Artist of the Year "Herself" Won
Avantgarde Artist Nominated
Kult Awards Song of the Year "BonBon" Nominated
Big Apple Music Award Hit of the Year Nominated
2017 Eurosonic Noorderslag European Border Breakers Award "Herself" Won
Public Choice Award Nominated
2018 Bama Music Awards Best Albanian & Kosovar Act "Herself" Pending
BreakTudo Awards New Artist International Nominated


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  2. ^ "Era Istrefi signed a contract with Ultra and Sony Music". Ministria e Punëve të Jashtme. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
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  4. ^ "Nicky Jam, Will Smith will sing this year's official FIFA 2018 World Cup song". NBC News. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  5. ^ "Kosovo's Istrefi Tastes Sweet Success With 'Bonbon'". 5 August 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  6. ^ "15 vjet pa babanë, këto janë fjalët prekëse të Era Istrefit". (in Albanian). Privé. 6 June 2019. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  7. ^ "Nora Istrefi në prehër të prindërve. Kush janë ata?". (in Albanian). 25 May 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Yjet shqiptarë mbështesin legalizimin e martesave gej dhe lezbike". (in Albanian). Privé. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
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  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 26, 2016. Retrieved March 2, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  21. ^ Wass, Mike (24 February 2017). "Era Istrefi's "Redrum" Video Is A Sexy, Red-Hued Fantasy".
  23. ^ Desk, Music News (29 September 2017). "Singer Songwriter Era Istrefi Returns with New Song 'No I Love Yous'".
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  25. ^ "Will Smith, Nicky Jam & Era Istrefi to collaborate on official 2018 World Cup song |". Retrieved 2018-05-23.
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  31. ^ "Ultra Music's Patrick Moxey on New Signee Era Istrefi, Rihanna & Sia Parallels: Exclusive". Billboard. 22 March 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
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  33. ^ "Introducing Era Istrefi, the Eastern European Singer With Pipes Like Rihanna". Vogue. 16 August 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  34. ^ "Meet Future Pop Star Era Istrefi". Forbes. 14 July 2017. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
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  36. ^ "Era Istrefi dazzles fans in Dubai". 1 May 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  37. ^ "Këngëtarët e rinj po frymëzohen nga hitet e vjetra". (in Albanian). 5 November 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  38. ^ "Serbian Church Slams 'Blasphemous' Cathedral Pop Video". Balkan Insight. Retrieved 2018-05-25.
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  62. ^ "Offizielle Deutsche Charts - Offizielle Deutsche Charts". 2016-07-21. Retrieved 2016-08-27.
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  66. ^ "Top 100 Canciones – Semana 25: del 15.06.2018 al 21.06.2018". Retrieved 2019-11-08.
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  68. ^ "Let's Get Married (feat. Offset and Era Istrefi) - Single by Yellow Claw on Apple Music". iTunes Store. Retrieved 2019-09-20.