Redi Hasa is best known to global audiences as the cellist for Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi. Hasa’s cello can be heard on Einaudi’s ambitious Seven Days Walking project.
As a young man Redi Hasa was caught up in the Albanian conflict of the early 90s. He would go on to find a new life in Italy with his most prized possession – a stolen cello named “Sophi”.
Now Redi’s new solo album, The Stolen Cello, chronicles his inspiring story of hope and survival through music.
THE STOLEN CELLO
There’s something about the cello that strikes an emotional chord with anyone who hears it. But to a cellist, the relationship with the instrument is even more special and almost sacred.
What is it about the cello – or in your case, “Sophi” – that empowers you to find your own voice in the music world and compels you to revisit your past and share your story with the world?
The cello came into my life when I was 6. It was my mother who opened my eyes to it, she was a cello teacher for 40 years in a music school in Tirana, Albania, where I’m from. It wasn’t easy, at the beginning, to understand the methods and mechanics of playing the cello, but little by little I began to enter into an understanding with the instrument and I fell in love with it.
My mother used to say, “The sound of the cello echos that of the human voice”. When I play, it’s my voice that comes through to me, an internal voice that is cannot be expressed by other means as banal as speaking. Sophi (my cello) is to me my partner who accompanies me along the footpath of my life, an intense relationship of both hatred and love.
Your story is of course beautifully chronicled in “The Stolen Cello”, your first solo album with Decca Records. It is evocative and draws inspiration from nature’s elements and places of personal significance to you, such as Dajti Mountain.
Can you talk us through how you composed and selected the pieces for this album and made these flow so seamlessly?
I needed to stop the hands of time and turn them back in order to move forward. I wanted to use this second voice, this other language to cut my tales into the stone air, that my second voice would echo my stories off the walls of the world.
I wanted to make an aural photo album of my past, an autobiography of emotion, to rediscover once more those incomparable feelings of happiness and smiles that permeate the heart, the light scent of trees on my mountain, Dajti.
Life today goes so fast that you can’t allow the necessary space and time to appreciate to the fullest all the abundance which life grants us like so many gifts. I didn’t want these moments to wash away and be lost down the drain. All the pieces of this album came to me in a completely natural, organic way. In every note I could smell the aura of perfume around my cherry tree and the brute nature of my city, Tirana!
Can you cite your key musical influences in your musical journey so far? How did your past and present lives in Albania and Italy, respectively, shape your musical style?
I nourish and sustain myself on music, I love to discover every tint and shade that lies within. The poetry of this voice, the synonyms, the metaphors. My knowledge and competence on the cello are classical, and I love to betray them. My tastes range from Bach and Vivaldi to electronica and contemporary music. I’m influenced by all that is beautiful.
In Italy, at La Notte Della Taranta festival in 2010, you met the maestro of minimalism, Ludovico Einaudi. Since then, you’ve had the pleasure and privilege of recording and touring with him and his ensemble.
He once gave you the advice “Find the soul in every note you will play”. Is this something that comes naturally to you? For example, how were you able to apply this to your stunning collaboration with Ludovico Einaudi in “The Silence Of The Trail” and even in the acclaimed “Seven Days Walking” project?
I’m so fortunate to have met and collaborated with Maestro Ludovico Einaudi. We met at the “Notte della Taranta” festival, and since then we’ve never separated. His music has nurtured me, he helped me to enter completely into the craft of playing. Listening to the silence between the notes… his music is magic. It transports you, it makes you travel and it tells stories.
Ludvico’s last album ‘Seven Days Walking’ was a plunge into sound … putting our souls into perfect harmony in order to create a unique sound which narrates a fantasy which moves the soul and renders a type of euphoria. “Find the soul of every note that you play,” yes, this is the outcome of “The Silence of the Trail”.
You have referred to collaborations as a “bridge” between souls and a way “to open windows, to see the beauty of the diversity”. Apart from Ludovico Einaudi, this album features collaborations with Akin Sevgör, Mercan Dede and Alva Noto which modernise the sound of a traditionally classical instrument. How did you seek out these co-conspirators / collaborators?
I’m a researcher of the craft, an adventurer of sound, I’ve always tried to reveal the apex potential of the cello, an instrument normally appreciated for its classical nature. We may see it in an orchestra or in chamber music, but it is so, so much more. It can become anything, everything … an electric guitar, percussion!
I do a lot of experimentation on the instrument, and I love to share this method of elocution (in a manner of speaking) with a variety of musicians. In this case, Alva Noto, Mercan Dede, and Akin Sefgör are masters. I’ve listened to their art a lot, and I’ve always been left astounded by them. Music is a language of the soul and I wanted this connection with great artists. I’m so thrilled with the resulting success of these collaborations, braiding our evocative expressions.
Continuing with the nature theme, your social media posts showcase a collection of stunning vistas. If there was no pandemic right now, where in the world would you like to go with Sophi?
I now live in the Salento area of the Apulia Region of southern Italy. It’s a place of wonder which very much resembles my native Albania, the coasts and seas of Salento are Heaven on Earth. For now, I prefer to remain here with my Sofi and fully relish the bounty of its natural beauty.
Follow Redi Hasa at redihasa.com
Redi’s responses were translated into English by J. Weinman