“The Nightingale of Kosovo,” “Queen of Albanian Song,” “Madam Butterfly.” These epithets encapsulate the remarkable woman who defied myths and shattered taboos through her commanding presence on the music and theater stage.
Meet Nexhmije Pagarusha, a cultural icon who left an indelible legacy with 88 songs and 5 albums. Beyond her artistic achievements, she fearlessly motivated and empowered girls and women in Kosovo, inspiring them through her courageous acts and impactful works throughout the years.
While also captivating audiences in Albania, Nexhmije Pagarusha left a lasting impression beyond her voice and performance.
One prominent Albanian artist, Inva Mula, vividly recalls the aura that enveloped Nexhmije during a concert in Tirana in the 1970s. “I remember her at the concert, not her voice, not her performance, but her aura, her aura stuck to me,” Mula evokes. She describes how Nexhmije seemed surrounded by a radiant energy throughout the entire performance, as if her body and being were infused with this ethereal glow.
In 2015, the Kosovo Women’s Network acknowledged Mrs. Nexhmije’s remarkable contributions by honoring her with Recognition for her Courage and Accomplishments in Motivating and Empowering Girls and Women in Kosovo.
And rightfully so. When Nexhmije Pagarusha first began her singing career, she faced numerous prejudices. However, with unwavering support from her family, she persevered and continued to pursue her education and artistic endeavors. Her resilience and determination served as an inspiration to countless women and girls, encouraging them not to abandon their dreams halfway. Alongside Katerina Josipi and Meribane Shala, Nexhmije was among the pioneering actors in the country who graced the stages of the Theater.
Reflecting on her journey, Nexhmije shared her experience as one of the first women cast in theater roles in the country. In an interview with a television station in Kosovo, she expressed her gratitude for the theater, describing it as a profound school that greatly influenced her life. The theater instilled discipline in her work and imparted invaluable lessons, shaping her in numerous ways.
She embarked on her musical journey in 1948, making her debut on Radio Prishtina. One of her most renowned performances is the song “Baresha,” hailed as a masterpiece. However, Nexhmije Pagarusha’s talent extended beyond traditional Albanian music. She mesmerized audiences by delivering captivating renditions of translated works by renowned composers like Beethoven, Puccini, and Verdi in a groundbreaking classical music concert. This performance marked the first of its kind. Surprisingly, despite the buzz surrounding the concert, none of the technical organizers remembered to record it, leaving those who hadn’t witnessed the extraordinary singer’s prowess in concert feeling somewhat captive to the moment.
Nexhmije Pagarusha concluded her active singing career in 1984 with a memorable concert in Sarajevo. However, after a 16-year hiatus from the stage, she made a triumphant return in 2000, enchanting the Albanian media with her rendition of the song “For You.” The accolades and awards bestowed upon this musical icon from Kosovo are countless, testament to her remarkable talent and contributions.
In 2018, Nexhmije Pagarusha received the Medal of Appreciation, proposed by an Academy in Florida, from US President Donald Trump. She was also honored with the title “Honour of the Nation” by the Albanian presidency, and the Kosovo presidency bestowed upon her the “Deserved Artist” award.
A recent acquaintance fondly remembers Nexhmije Pagarusha as a woman who embodied beauty, love, and a genuine connection with people. Flora Durmishi, who shared workspaces with Nexhmije at RTK (Radio Television of Kosovo), reminisces about her time together with Nexhmije, highlighting her role as an advisor for the music program at Radio Kosova.
Flora Durmishi expressed her wish for Nexhmije’s legacy to be preserved, suggesting the creation of a museum that showcases her belongings, photographs, recordings, films, and worldwide concert memorabilia. She mentions that these items can still be found in the possession of Nexhmije’s family or friends. Alternatively, Durmishi proposes the establishment of a house museum dedicated to Nexhmije Pagarusha, celebrating her life as a remarkable female artist.
Nexhmije Pagarusha, who was born in Pagarushë in 1933, sadly passed away in Pristina in 2020. She has become an enduring icon of exceptional sensitivity and talent.