Era Istrefi (born July 4, 1994) is an Albanian singer and songwriter. She first gained popularity among Albanian-speaking audiences in Europe following the release of her debut single “Mani për money” in 2013 at the age of 19.
In 2016, Istrefi gained international recognition following the release of her single “BonBon”, which drew comparisons to the works of Australian singer Sia and Barbadian artist Rihanna. Following the song’s success she signed to American record labels Sony Music and Ultra Music one month later. In 2017, she won the European Border Breakers Award.
Life and career
1994–2014: Early life and career beginnings
Era Istrefi was born on 4 July 1994 in Pristina, Kosovo (at the time part of FR Yugoslavia). Her parents are Suzana Tahirsylaj—an Albanian singer during the 1980s and 1990s—and Nezir Istrefi—a journalist. Following her father’s death in 2004, her mother left her career in entertainment. Her sister Nora Istrefi is also a singer.
Istrefi made her debut in her native country in 2013 with “Mani për money”, eventually releasing material sung in Gheg Albanian—featuring English phrases. A few months later, she released a follow-up recording, “A Po Don?”, which was promoted with a music video; it similarly achieved recognition. Her third single “E Dehun”—inspired by Nexhmije Pagarusha’s recording of the same name—as well uses lyrics and some parts of the recording’s instrumental. Upon its release, “E Dehun” assured Istrefi three Videofest Awards, including one for “Best New Artist”. In December 2014, the singer made the pop ballad “13”—which was produced in the United States—available for consumption. Its accompanying music video was viewed almost 200,000 times within 24 hours on YouTube, which later resulted its featuring on V Magazine. That year, she expressed her support of LGBT rights. She received Albanian citizenship in 2016.
2015–present: International breakthrough
Istrefi experienced international recognition with her single “BonBon”, which was released on 31 December 2015 together with a music video shot in Kosovo. The song became an immediate success, becoming viral on social media. Additionally, the singer began gaining support from American actress Chloë Grace Moretz, and various publications referred to her as the “Rihanna and Sia of Albania”. In February 2016, Istrefi signed to American labels Sony Music Entertainment and Ultra Music. It was reported that Istrefi will record her upcoming debut studio album in collaboration with RCA Records. In June 2016 an English version of “Bonbon” was released.
On 24 February, 2017, Istrefi released a new single, titled “Redrum”, which features producer Felix Snow. Few months later, on 29 September, Istrefi released another new single, titled “No I Love Yous”, which is in collaboration with French Montana./Gjithqka Nga Pak