Elina Duni is a classically trained vocalist and composer who melds the folk music traditions of the Balkans and other European regions with jazz, blues, and other elements. Duni was born in 1971 in Tirana, Albania, into a family of artists. She began performing publicly at the age of five and studying music seriously while in high school. At the age of 20, as the government of Albania fell into strife -- and eventually disintegrated amid sectarian violence -- she and her family fled to Geneva, Switzerland. Between 2004 and 2008 she studied singing, composition, and teaching at the University of Arts in Bern.
It was while at university that she formed the Elina Duni Quartet with pianist Colin Vallon, bassist Patrice Moret, and drummer Norbert Pfammatter. She recorded Baresha, her debut album with the group, in 2007; it was issued in 2008 by Meta Records. Its meld of root sources and modern jazz met with favorable reviews throughout Europe. In 2010 she followed it up for the same label with Lume Lume, which was much more oriented toward blues and jazz standards, though it did contains some folk songs.
Due to her association with Vallon, she garnered the attention of ECM's founder, Manfred Eicher, who signed her. Her debut for the label, Matanë Malit (Beyond the Mountain), featured numerous traditional songs of obscure and modern origin. She arranged the set to tell the story of Albania, its people and history, and the troubles that have enveloped it since the fall of communism. Matanë Malit appeared in the fall of 2012. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi