The global pandemic has altered many of our lives for good. From businesses that had to pivot to survive to individuals who learned how to be flexible and fluid, thousands of stories inspire. One such tale is KOKA, who went from being an architect to a full-time musician at the height of COVID-19.
Grit Daily: You had your own adventures before becoming a musician. Share those.
KOKA: My whole life started as an adventure, between moving from birth country Albania to Greece, facing poverty and discrimination, and constantly moving from one school to the other, before returning to Albania.
Even though I never settled anywhere, one thing was always there – music.
I would perform in musicals at my music school in Greece from the age of eight. I performed live on TV in Albania at the age of 13 for a singing competition between high schools. The Albanian Alternative-Pop Artist Bojken Lako featured me at the age of 16. Later, I always had a band on the side. But to go full-time into music, that was the real adventure in my life, leading through the darkness to find the light.
Being 19, I left Albania to study architecture and take on a “safe job” under the important influence of my family. Despite being filled with stress and anxiety from my studies in architecture, I went further and worked several years in that career. I became good at my job but was internally numb. Going through a journey of inner healing, my songwriting was born.
I became stronger and clearer through daily meditation, and these songs that started being born were revealing messages packed in hooky toplines that would burst out of me with an indelible force.
Grit Daily: Inquiring minds want to know: How did you go from architect to performing musician?
KOKA: So many times, the life I was leading before being a songwriter felt nowhere close to a musician’s life. At the end of my 20s, I was not in a mentally healthy place, and on top of that, I was in a toxic relationship. My life felt like a shoe that won’t fit and hurts with every step. Inside of me, there was a voice roaring for a change.
I decided to change everything. I moved out, found my own flat, and made it nice, so I had a space to rest my wounds and heal. I started an intense self-healing period with as little human interaction as possible, filled with copious reading, writing, and meditation techniques. It was very intense and full of revelations. I started getting up at night with whole hooks in my head (like “if you love someone, let them know”).
Moreover, I took vocal and piano lessons again to become better at what was calling me towards it.
I had a longing desire to make more music and requested that I work four days a week instead of full-time. I used the long weekends to write songs and started producing my demos.
A new job offer called me to Berlin in 2018, where I started playing solo in bars and open mic sessions. Through the artists and connections I made there, the path became clearer and clearer. I met my first producer and through him the second one. The kick of the pandemic made my decision to focus on my music final, and start that scary free-fall, which I will – most probably – never regret.
Grit Daily: What was your biggest motivation to pursue a music career?
KOKA: All those songs coming out through me. It felt like an assignment. Nothing is given to us through divine creativity that we are not responsible for carrying out to humanity. The messages of the songs are about love, our distractive system, forgiveness, and rising strong. We all need those messages more and more these days.
Moreover, there is also intuition. Meditating every day strengthened that in me greatly. My faith grew immensely, and I realized that the path chooses us and that there is divine timing for everything.
Grit Daily: For the uninitiated, what’s special about your new single “Forever Goodbye”?
KOKA: With tender, soothing vocals and an air of lightness, Forever Goodbye stems from a deep love and appreciation tinged with a bit of regret and sadness. With sweeping guitars, organic drums, and music-box sampled tunes, Forever Goodbye is written about that moment when a deep friendship fades away because it fits no more. But still inspiring a deep love and memory within, shaping each for the future days to come with forgiveness and appreciation.
Grit Daily: What’s one conventional wisdom about leaving a stable career to pursue in music that’s just plain wrong?
KOKA: Well, if it is wisdom, then it is proven by life experience. I am not entitled to naming any wisdom as wrong.
What is definitely very misleading is to think you need to have a perfect plan to do it. As life experiences show, plans often don’t work because they make you focus on a necessary outcome. Thus, we become stiff.
I believe the most important things in life find us; we don’t find them. We only need to prepare our mindset to receive them. You can only do that by looking in the eyes of your fear and let your love for music (or anything else you want to start) help you stand strong against it.