Festivali I Këngës

Festivali i Këngës is an Albanian song contest, organised by the Albanian national broadcaster Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (RTSH). Various singing presentations have been used throughout its history, beginning with radio-only performances in the first few years, live interpretation, playback, remakes and even duets featuring other singers. The winners have traditionally been selected by a jury, however other voting methods have also been applied, such as televoting or regional juries. At times, the head juror has carried twice the voting power of other jurors. Since 2003 it has been used to select Albania's entry for the international Eurovision Song Contest.

The contest has developed over time, from its humble beginnings of neutral themes in its entries to a tool for the governing Communist Party of Albania in promoting their ideals. The 1972 contest became a turning point for the contest, in which dictator Enver Hoxha prosecuted the organisers of Festivali i Këngës 11 after they were declared "enemies of the public" for accusations of endangering the country with "immoral aspects" in the songs and their performances. Afterwards the ruling Communist Party imposed many sanctions on the contest's creativity, with a strict censorship on anything deemed inappropriate by the government.

After the fall of communism in Albania in 1991 the contest was again allowed to diversify the themes of its entries, with many competing and winning songs featuring current developements, such as immigration/travel and religion (both illegal under the communist regime). One of the most distinguished trademarks of the entries competing in Festivali I Kenges remains the strength in lyrics.

Until 1999 Festivali i Këngës was the biggest music event in Albania, however its popularity began to waver after the introduction of other competitions such as Top Fest and Kënga Magjike, which began to produce higher ratings. However with Albania's introduction in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004, Festivali i Këngës once again became the center of attention after Anjeza Shahini, winner of Albanian Idol, won the contest in 2003.

The incentive of winning a chance to compete at the Eurovision Song Contest was followed by great controversies such as a lack of transparency between 2003 and 2006 to allegations of jury bias, fraud and even racism, as was the case in 2007. The contest has however gradually started to regain its reputation of excellence after a series of positive changes made in recent years, including improvements in technology and presentation, more carefully chosen and diverse jurors, especially international jurors related to Eurovision, an increased role and quality of the RTSH Orchestra with the contribution of expert composers, as well as generally accepted and uncontested final results. A combination of jury and televote is still widely requested by fans of the show noting that an increased chance of winning the public vote will compel more commercial artists to participate, further increasing the potential for an optimal entry and result at ESC.

Read more about Festivali I Këngës:  Hosts, Winners, Eurovision Results, Trivia, Scandals, Twin Contests