“She raised her radiant soprano in buoyant wedding songs, punctuated by speed-demon accordion from her husband and bandleader, Raif Hyseni.” —The New York Times, 2002
Described by the New York Times, as an Albanian folk music, star singer, Merita Halili and her husband, bandleader, Raif Hyseni, a speed-demon accordion player, are the Ambassador’s of the Albanian music and culture in the United States. Among performances in reputable concert halls such as Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art and others, Merita and Raif always find time to donate their talent to the many community activities and events. They have taught over thousands and thousands American musicians and others, worldwide. Their Cd-s are sold more than half a million copies in the United States and Europe. Raif has founded the “Albanian American Ensemble” to help promote the diversity and rich Albanian folklore and culture.
Raif Hyseni hails from The Republic of Kosova, which has a large Albanian majority. He grew up in the town of Mitrovicë, where he studied accordion at music school and performed in amateur ensembles.
Before moving to Tiranë in 1992, Raif was a well-known radio and television performer in Kosova's capital city Prishtinë, where he performed with legendary violinist Isak Mucolli. Through his recordings and media appearances, Raif has become known as a major innovator on the accordion, for which he has composed dozens of instrumental melodies and songs. Raif holds a Master’s degree in music from Montclair State University. He has written music for accordion, as well as songs, theater, and documentary movies. In 2014 at Montclair State Raif founded and continues to head the Balkan-Albanian Ensemble, the first of its kind at a institute of higher education.
Raif and his wife, singer Merita Halili, emigrated to the United States in 1995, and now make their home in Caldwell, New Jersey. They perform frequently around the country on numerous stages, festivals and at community weddings.