North West London’s Qendresa is bringing back ‘80s R&B and soul as she steers the sound into new directions, infusing nostalgia with the beautiful chaos of 21st century life.
Recent EP ‘Midnight Request Line’ is a product of growth: three years of creative exploration, dealing with sentiments of love, betrayal, and learning the craft of music production. “I wanted to make a little project of that sound but make it the old-skool sound with a modern story. If you listen to all the old-skool ‘80s tracks they’re sick but they’re very soft and mushy. The cheesy '80s production is nice but if it’s got cheesy vocals and lyrics it doesn’t really fit in today, for me anyway, my world”. Indeed, bold opening lines “f**** a fake friend, f**** a fake love, tell a traitor, bye, see you later, I’m getting to that paper” on single ‘Don’t Stop’ do just that – all over a romance-riddled sample of ‘80s group, One Way.
For this multi-faceted force, music has always formed the future ahead, even amongst the “various memories of me growing up in the ‘90s and just literally doing the cliché, microphone-hairbrush thing and in my head just being like ‘that’s going to be me one day’.”
Despite having such clarity from a young age, Qendresa’s approach has remained non-conforming to the music industry’s template for success, which resonates through her sound. “When I started making music I realised it was very hard for me because I don’t have the training to get across what I really wanted to say and what I wanted to make. The main reason why I wanted to learn production is because of those quiet days where you feel creative, and your producer is not available. It can be really hard because that’s a long day to get through, knowing that you’ve got that creative buzz inside you and you can’t let it out.”
In many ways this explains the leap between 2017’s ‘Shades On Pt 1’ and ‘Midnight Request Line’, where Qendresa’s silky vocals and lavish production shine through in perhaps a more personal and authentic form, particularly on sensual slow-jams like ‘Real Luv’. A fearlessness to take onboard new skills and overcome creative obstacles is key to the singer’s outlook, with a clear focus to speak to those who perhaps aren’t as advantaged or lack industry support. “You can just go out in a tracksuit, get your friend to film your video, even on an iPhone sideways, and put it up. You can spend no budget and still convey your artistry and your message because at the end of the day that is the most important thing, your message.”
Upon reflection, the past year has offered the Kosovan riser an opportunity to truly connect with her own heritage and culture following an unexpected six month trip to Kosovo. “For a lot of Kosovans in London, where we’ve all come up the same, we’re all kind of in competition with each other and it’s really weird like, I think our parents instill that in us.”
“Whilst I was away I was connecting with a lot of Kosovans and Albanians there and now I’m connecting with some in the diaspora. I’m just trying to bring all the Kosovans together in London. There’s so many making music, telling their story through music, telling their story through art, so yeah, I’m going to try and make that a thing soon.”
Whether it be through her monthly show on legendary radio station NTS, further collaborations or new-found inspirations, you can be sure to expect the unexpected from Qendresa.
What: West London singer, producer and songwriter
3 Songs: ‘Real Luv’ ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Be Mine’
Fact: She is deeply inspired by Japanese fashion and culture
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Words: Ana Lamond
Photographer: Laurent Azemi
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