Balkan Gypsy Music Goes Global

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Even though the term ‘gypsy’ is a misnomer and does not represent the culture, identity and language of the Romani people (not related to the country Romania), it is widely used to refer precisely to them. The Romani who live in many countries across Europe, but mostly in the Balkans, draw their origins from the area between Northern India and Pakistan. In their migration to Europe they have picked up various influences that come across in their music. When they reached the Balkans the musical influence in the peninsula intertwined with theirs, giving birth to a variety of musical styles that are nurtured by the Romani people in Turkey, Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. The Romani have many musical virtuosos that have been virtually unknown to the world, but the advent of the Internet spread their musical gems far and wide.

The musical styles that are preferred by Romani musicians are a combination of Middle Eastern and Balkan musical sentences which are played on traditional instruments such as kemane, oud, zurla, duduk, duf, kanunm and modern instruments such as the saxophone, the tuba, the guitar , clarinet, accordion and others. To spice things up, contemporary Romani musicians have begun using synthesizers and rhitm machines. The various recipes have resulted in musical masterpieces that contain jazz and blues alongside the traditional and modern rendition of old and new melodies and scales.

We will name-drop some Roma musicians who are unknown to most music aficionados around the world.

Stevo Teodosievski and Esma Redzepova

Although Stevo is not a Rom, he married Esma who became known as the Roma Queen. They both adopted dozens of Roma children and gave them musical training, but besides their magnanimous nature, they were an excellent instrumentalist and vocalist, respectively. Sadly, it was Borat who infamously and inadvertently propelled Esma to the global audiences. Sacha Baron-Cohen used her music without permission in the film Borat, which resulted in Esma claiming royalties, but she did not win the case. At any rate, her music became known and appreciated around the world to millions of people as compared to before when she was known to a niche audience.

Ferus Mustafov

Ferus was born in Shtip, Republic of Macedonia to a saxophonist father. Ferus exceeded his father’s musical virtue and became master of his instrument. He also plays the clarinet just as equally well, but the saxophone looks like it belongs in his embrace. Ferus has played all around the world, but mostly at Roma and Balkan events. He is yet to be noticed by a global event promoter who can take the best out of Ferus and present it to those who are thirsty for fresh music. Ferus often performs in concert with accordionist Milan Zavkov who accompanies the saxophonist with lively arpeggios and scale slides.

Shaban Bajramovich

The late Mr. Bajramovich was a vocalist and a king in his class. He sang Romani balads filled with jazz and soul motifs, but also knew how to raise a storm with more lively melodies in front of full concert halls throughout the former Yugoslavia and across Europe. He will be remembered for giving the best rendition of Djelem Djelem, which became the Romani anthem. It is a little known fact that Shaban liked to play the dice and perhaps it is too bad that he didn’t live to see the flourishing of online slots.

Robindro Nikolic

Robindro is a clarinetist who comes from Belgrade but lives in Barcelona where he was one of the founding members of the Barcelona Gypsy Klezmer Orchestra. Robindro has played with and learned from Ferus on his musical sabbatical in Macedonia following which he began pursuing a solo career but also performing in various bands and with other solo musicians.