Thousands of music fans flock to Albania beach festival despite Covid

·3-min read
<p>Unum open-air music festival in Shengjin, Albania</p> (AP)

Unum open-air music festival in Shengjin, Albania

(AP)

Music fans flocked to a festival in Albania in the tens of thousands despite the threat of coronavirus, organisers said.

Festival goers came together to enjoy days of non-stop music by the sea, despite only 10 per cent of the population being vaccinated against Covid-19.

Crowds from across Europe partied on the beach and clustered under the pine trees in Shengjin, 45 miles from the capital Tirana.

The Unum beach festival was highly anticipated after being cancelled last year, with this year’s event given the go ahead following the country’s low contagion rate.

Albania recorded five new coronavirus cases and zero deaths on Monday.

Organisers sold all 10,000 tickets for the festival which ran from June 3 to 7 featuring 50 international and local musicians.

Music lovers jumped at the chance to hear non-stop tracks for five days at Thrown Sand beach.

Organisers claimed that everyone at the festival was Covid-free but offered no proof for those claims and no virus checks were apparent.

The Albanian beach site had everything in one place: pine trees, sand, sea, nearby mountains and days of non-stop music.

“It’s very rare that you get all of those things together at one time,” said the director of the open-air music festival, Grego O’Halloran.

As an Englishman living in Ibiza, Spain - another magical beach music scene - he knows what he is talking about.

“Albania is the hidden gem of Europe,” he added. “An hour, two hours, from almost all of Europe and it’s so beautiful and undiscovered.”

Unum music festival Albania (AP)
Unum music festival Albania (AP)

The main stage near the beach was on top of a boat, while another was under the pine trees close to the beach.

This year organisers found it difficult to get musicians from around Europe due to virus restrictions, but they prevailed.

“It’s awesome ... crazy ... insane to see so many people in one place ... after sitting in one room in your apartment alone in lockdown,” said German fan Katia Mueller.

The Foreign Ministry noted there were no pandemic restrictions for anyone wanting to come to Albania.

Albania has many pristine beaches on its 300-mile coastline along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.

During the last few years, tourism has turned into a key industry for one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Neighbouring Albanians from Kosovo remain the main source of tourists so far, often accompanied by Polish and Czech groups, Serbs and Belarussians.

Franco Rodrigues, from Uruguay, follows a lot of music and knew many of the musicians at the festival, which he hoped was the beginning of a worldwide return to live events.

“It’s great that finally we can come back and play again,” he said.

The motto of the festival was for people to become “one” and unite over music.

Some said music was more important than most people realised.

“It was necessary for our mental health,” said Ron Kurtolli, a DJ from Kosovo. “People don’t pay much attention to mental health, but it’s really important for the wellbeing of everything.”

Samela, a Serb living in Belgrade but born in Prizren, Kosovo, had no time to give her surname but loudly explained how the festival connected people across borders.

Albanians and Serbs have been history-long foes.

“I really had this genuine intention to break the prejudice, to break the stigma, to try to connect us about music ... I cannot do it the way the music is doing it. But OK, I’m trying now,” she said.

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