with the Ensemble Teodosievski
aka 'The Queen of Roma music' and 'Gypsy Esma' with a
re-issue of some classic material recorded in the 1970s for
PGP-RTS and re-mastered for CD.
Macedonian and Yugoslavian Gypsy songs sung by Esma
and accompanied as always by her husband Stevo
Teodosievski and his ensemble.
The top brass band
in Serbia for the past 10 years, Markovic and his
Orkestar has received a number of awards - 'Golden Trumpet',
'First Trumpet' and 'Best Orchestra' at the Dragacevski
Sabor brass band competition held in Serbia each year.
'It’s like being injected intravenously with a life-giving
drug. Markovic’s music might sound wild and improvised,
but actually it’s meticulously worked out and rehearsed.'
Simon Broughton, SONGLINES
'The Rough Guide to the Music of Balkan Gypsies'
"The Gypsy Road stretches from Rajasthan, India to
Andalucia, Spain and beyond, but it is the Balkan countries
of Eastern Europe that are home to the largest Rom
populations. Often scape-goated and caught in the middle of
the twentieth century's worst injustices, from Belgrade to
Bucharest to Skopje the Rom have had a profound impact on
Balkan culture and music. Throughout the region, Gypsy music
is Balkan music, transcending borders and ethnicities:
energetic brass bands, violin and cimbalom virtuosos and
captivating voices, The Rough Guide To The Music Of Balkan
Gypsies has it all."
'Princes Amongst Men:
Journeys with Gypsy Musicians'
by Garth Cartwright
by Serpent's Tail, London, 'Princes Amongst Men: Journeys with Gypsy Musicians' by
Garth Cartwright is a must for anyone interested in
traditional music from eastern Europe. In his research for the book
Garth has traveled to meet the people, partied with them, met their
families, and drunk their beer and wine. By doing so he has been able
to write something that is more than an academic study but rather an
engaging journey amongst those who are the music.
This is but a short extract to give a flavour of the book. Check back
later at this url for another short extract.
A special thanks to the author Garth Cartwright for permission
to use this article.
Learn more about this book at: www.journeyswithgypsies.com.
Click here for details
on how to buy the book.
- We Are Guests On This Earth
“I don’t come down on you really with blood and fire, earthquake and lightning, but you must know, seh, that within me all that exists too . . .”
- Bob Marley
“Elvis Presley was a Gypsy. Da. I know these things. He never admitted it but he was a Rom.”
So says Esma Redzepova Teodosievski as we talk all things Gypsy over scalding Turkish coffee. It’s an entertaining suggestion and, undoubtedly, carries a certain logic; the Memphis Flash’s tan beauty, gentle nature and ability to blend and reshape any music he inhaled is symbolic of Balkan Roma. Any truth to it? Where Esma’s concerned, simply print the legend. More importantly, I imagine Esma’s making a connection of sorts; she being the Queen of the Gypsies, Elvis the King of Rock‘n’Roll. Think about it: arising from 1950s urban poverty, Elvis galvanizing poor black and white Southern US music, Esma reinventing Roma and Slav music(s) of the southern Balkans, two adolescent sirens who sang and danced with a bewitching freedom. Before Elvis and Esma white trash and Roma women had no cultural presence, existing only as caricature. E & E proudly marked their peoples on the world map.
“Many famous singers in Serbia and Greece and Turkey are Rom but don’t acknowledge it,” continues Esma. “I appeared in concert with Predrag Gojkovic-Cune from Serbia once and asked him why he didn’t acknowledge that he was Rom and he denied it. I said ‘whatever you wish!’ I don’t have a problem with it.”
with the Ensemble Teodosievski
What others deny Esma takes pride in, taking the Gypsy soul experience across the globe, impressing all who encounter her. A force of nature? Indeed. Esma’s tiny, a plump bundle of energy whose unlined features are a testimony to a life free of cigarettes and alcohol. Today, as ever, she’s charming and immaculately turned out. I’m shaved, sober, on my best behaviour. Even though we don’t speak the same language – she’s fluent in Romani, Macedonian, Serbian, Turkish. I speak English and minimal Spanish – we get on well, communicating easily, her nature being funny, wise, affectionate. And I . . . well, I have a tendency to get effusive in her presence. Esma listens, Oriental eyes sparkling, mischievous smile playing on her lips.
“You’re a honey,” she says. Then winks at me. Oh Esma!
Esma was born on August 8, 1943, to Ibrahim and Canija Redzepova, the second youngest of six children. Ibrahim was born in Tirana, his grandmother an Iraqi Jew, his grandfather a Catholic Roma, the family shifting to Pristina then Skopje. Canija’s family were Muslim. Esma’s bloodlines reflect a very Balkan miscegenation. Ibrahim worked as a porter, singer, drummer, circus strongman and shoe shine. The Nazi’s 1941 aerial bombardment of Skopje cost Ibrahim a leg. That he survived the next three years - dodging fascists intent on the genocide of Macedonia’s Jews and Roma while managing to feed his family – suggests the strength of character Esma inherited.
“My father was going to work on his crutches and I was carrying his shoeshine box and a well off woman who lived in the same street as us came up to him and offered him money. He said, ‘lady, thank you for your offer of money but I can’t accept it. But you see my little girl behind me. Today she will come around to your house and collect all the shoes in your house and I will clean them and then I will take your money’.”
Esma recalls home consisting of a room, anteroom and yard in Skopje’s old town. They were poor but not so poor as most of their neighbours, many of whom still lived in mud huts. Education was emphasised by Canija with all six children finishing primary school. Aged nine, Esma was introduced by her brother Fari to Skopje Romaines Pralipe (a local Roma music organisation). “I was quick to pick up even the most complicated rhythms,” says
'Rromano Suno -
Gypsy Music from the Balkans'
Featuring Esma Redžepova
Canija encouraged Esma’s musical gifts and Fari helped her join an amateur folklore group in the Tito Metal Works. In the summer of 1957, while attending a contest in Saraj (a town outside Skopje), she was invited to sing at a talent contest Radio Skopje were sponsoring. Esma entered. Esma won. Forty six years on she’s given over eight thousand concerts, written and recorded hundreds of songs, released dozens of albums, shifted countless units.
“My father was told by other shoeshine men that they had heard his daughter on the radio singing and he said ‘no, not my Esma. She was at home sleeping’. He wasn’t aware I was in the competition! Stevo Teodosievski was at the concert and when he heard me sing he heard something special in my voice. Perhaps it was my love for singing, my longing to assert myself, my feeling for the music of the East. He approached me to be my tutor. And then he approached my father and convinced him that he would help me become a good and famous singer and that he would look after me. The following Saturday I set out on my first real professional tour.”
In 1950s Balkans Roma girls were often married at twelve or thirteen. How, I wondered, had Esma escaped this fate?
“I was dedicated to being an artist and singer, not the wife,” says Esma with evident pride. “At the age of nine years I realised I was different, I had something special. I was a wonder child and maybe that’s why I matured so much faster than the others. At age of ten I stated to compose. Tuzbalica, that’s my first. At age of twelve I had composed Chaje Shukarije (Beautiful Girl), the most popular song amongst my peers. By the age of thirteen/fourteen I have already composed thirty songs, Roma and Macedonian songs.”
Click here for details
on how to buy the book.
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