By Nora Kalaja
Unlimited Edition Lecture Series: An Evening with Musical Guest Kastro Zizo, Artist of the Year at St. Francis College Brooklyn
On Thursday, January 26, 2023, musician Kastro Kizo (Klevis Bega), Artist of the Year 2022 and President of “My future, my present” NGO held the “Unlimited Edition” Lecture Series at St. Francis Brooklyn College (SFC).
Unlimited Edition is an artistic and cultural series conceptualized by musician Kastro Zizo. Unlimited Edition Lecture Series aims to cultivate a growth mindset and make a difference in the lives of youth and the community. Unlimited Edition opens the door to a life of unlimited possibilities to unleashing one’s full potential.
Musician Kastro Zizo discussed at the “Unlimited Edition” lecture the impact of his music in Albanian arts and entertainment industry, the meaning of success, how public features cope with fame. Zizo also talked about the social climate of Albania, including its latest scientific advancements, diaspora engagement, “My future, my present” NGO, and the role of Artivism” – making a difference through Art.
Organized by Kastro Zizo and the Albanian Roots Club of SFC, the event was hosted by Herta Hada (presenter, President of ARC), Megi Rama (moderator, Secretary of ARC), Alkida Koleci (event interpreter and VP of SFC), and Albion Veliu (visual media coordinator).
After the lecture, artist Kastro Zizo was was honored with the Mayoral Certificate of Recognition by Mayor Eric Adams. The award was presented to Klevis Bega (Kastro Zizo) by Mr. Maliek Sterrett, Director of Multicultural Affairs at SFU.
Excerpt from the Unlimited Edition Lecture Series: An Evening with Musical Guest Kastro Zizo – Artist of the Year at St. Francis College Brooklyn
Megi Rama: Besides being a public figure, who is Klevis Bega aka Kastro Zizo for the audience that wants to know a little more about you and your upbringing?
Kastro Zizo: I have been part of the arts, entertainment, and the TV world for over 25 years. As an artist, I want to bring awareness with my music. My songs are about society, our problems, struggles, relationships, and understanding the world around us, including the environment, culture, tradition, and societal norms.
As a tv host I think about the importance of what others are thinking, especially artists and public figures. What kind of impact they can have and how actions can influence what we are thinking and feeling as a society as a whole.
My style as a TV host when I am interviewing the special guests is a live social interaction to bring perspective – seeing the world through the lenses of other people. As a producer I want to tell a story through the music videos and documentaries I’ve directed.
Megi Rama: Thank you for sharing your personal story with us Kastro. That was very moving. Can you tell us about your career beginnings and why you chose music?
Kastro Zizo: I had a clear vision, but I also understood that it wasn’t going to be easy. There were many others just like me. I started reading everything there was to read about the hip-hop culture and I was surprised to notice around me the many similarities Tirana had with The Bronx (The Bronx I saw on TV, of course).
I had to create a persona, a superhero of myself and that’s what I did! Under an alias, I created a new person and gave him a name. I created Kastro Zizo!
I remember recording my first song with two magnetophones of the time. One played the music, and the other was used as a microphone and a tape recorder, recording both me and the music coming out of the magnetophone.
I remember how singing in that corner of that room, I was imagining myself 20 years later. I was manifesting my future without knowing it. I was kick starting a series of events that would define the course of my life. That second changed the futures of many other people around me as well. My family’s future, but also the future of those that would later pay attention to my work. I had just started a career.
Megi Rama: Thank you Kastro. You have had quite a successful career for the past 26 years and you have managed to create your own lane in Albanian music, which is an achievement in its own. Can you describe an important project that you have done and talk a little bit about your recent work?
Kastro Zizo: I am a father of 3 children – I have 2 sons and a daughter who are my joy of life. Besides music and arts, I am passionate about youth development. My older son is about to turn 17 and as a father I think about his future and the world that he is growing up in.
This inspired me to create a non-profit organization called “My future, my present”. We organize workshops, social and artistic events, podcasts to help the youth find their voice and discover their dreams.
In 2020 we organized Urta Fest, a singing competition for youth to bring young talented people closer to the studio and connect them with well-known producers in the country. In 2021 we helped low-income families during the pandemic. And more recently in 2022, we organized trash removal events to promote a clean environment and tourism in Albania.
In terms of my recent projects, I was a contestant in Dance Albania show, which is similar to Dancing with the Stars. Maybe I wasn’t quick on my feet for samba, but I won the hearts of the public. And in December 2022, I took part in the Song Fest, which is the national singing contest in Albania, that selects the winners to represent the country in the Eurovision international contest. I won 3rd place. This was especially meaningful because I had the opportunity to perform on stage with my rock group 2Farm, reuniting 19 years later.
Megi Rama: That’s fascinating. Investing In Our Youth Is Investing in Our Community’s Success so we appreciate all the good work you do with your non-profit organization. What does it mean to choose a career? How do you define success?
Kastro Zizo: Choosing a profession and later pushing and growing it towards a successful career, means creating a balance based on events of your life. It means making compromises on what you know, what you’re capable of giving to society in the best way possible. Along the way, you make improvements, while you are competing not with other artists in the same field, but with yourself, to bring forth the best versions of you and your art.
Success for me, is when my art and music touches people’s lives for the better. When the message that I want to convey reaches people and is perceived and lived by them then I feel accomplished in my art. However, when you think of famous celebrities, you tend to view them in such a way that they have a perfect life with no problems. The public perhaps doesn’t always see the struggles behind creating an artist, the politics of art in itself in music industry, personal struggles, and how to keep yourself current as art and technology are evolving with us.
For me Kastro 2.0 meant a fresh new beginning and reinventing myself both for my personal goals and artistic career.
Megi Rama: We look forward to what else you have in store for us as Kastro 2.0. You have been a prominent figure in Albanian entertainment industry. What do you consider a career highlight? And how did you feel when you were named Artist of the Year honored by the United States Congress?
Kastro Zizo: Throughout my career I have won over 25 awards. What’s important to me is how my music and art impact people. Of course, being recognized by the industry, is a nice boost to an artist’s ego.
I appreciate the honor and recognition by Senator Charles Schumer, and I want to thank the honorable senator for his wonderful support and work he does for the community. This is especially meaningful to me because I want to bridge our two nations both artistically and culturally.
Megi Rama: It is very interesting how you built your career. My next question is – What made you choose America, after having such a successful career in Albania?
Kastro Zizo: Artistically in Albania, I felt as if I was confined in a small apartment. With my new vision behind Kastro 2.0 I felt the need to grow bigger, and where else could I go other than United States – there is no better place in the world.
Megi Rama: Kastro, you studied cosmology – astrophysics in Rome, Italy. What is your view as an astrophysicist about Albania’s launch of two satellites into space?
Kastro Zizo: On January 5, 2023, Albania launched two satellites Albania 1 and Albania 2, which took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and are part of Space-X three-year contract. The idea behind the mission is to monitor the territory, to crack down on illegal activities, drug cultivation and other crimes as well as to monitor border security, wildfires, and traffic.
Albania is the only country in the region that was successful in the launch of the space satellites. Slovenia has launched nano and micro satellites into space. Montenegro, Serbia, and Croatia on the other hand are planning to jointly launch a satellite from the region into space as well. As you may have heard, in October 2022 Albania suffered a cyber-attack from Iran that targeted hacking state institution’s servers. As a result, Albania cut off diplomatic ties with Iran.
I believe that national security is not just about army strength, and gun power. The new war that we face today is cyber warfare. Cyber security is becoming more and more important for governments around the world. Our lives, privacy, our financial world depend on it.
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