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Serbia: Farewell to Šaban Bajramović, the Gypsy King of the Balkans

Šaban Bajramović, known as the “King of Gypsy music,” died on Sunday in Niš, his hometown in Southern Serbia of a heart attack. Here's a sample of what the blogosphere has been saying about him and his music.

The Byzantine Blog summarized his musical achievements:

A legend among the Serbs, exceptional singer and composer with the warmest raspy voice carrying with it all the pain and passion of his people, Saban Bajramovic was regarded as one of the world's best jazz and blues singers and composers. His song Djelem, Djelem was adopted as an official anthem of the world Roma. […]
An immense artist, Saban recorded over 20 albums and composed more than 650 songs, among which the famous song Mesecina (originally Djeli Mara) arranged by Goran Bregovic for the soundtrack of Serbian director Emir Nemanja Kusturica's movie “Underground”. He also sang on the soundtrack of another Kusturica's movie, “Black Cat, White Cat” (the song Bubamara – “Ladybug”), as well as on the album Tales and Songs from Weddings and Funerals by Goran Bregovic. Among the number of other movies, Bajramovic also played and sang in Goran Paskaljevic's film “Guardian Angel”.

Sandra Drasković at Demystifing Serbian Design, who also offered a biography of the musician, praised him with emotion:

He was big name of gypsy and jazz music and had soulfully voice and fantastic expression in which I enjoy tremendously, especially in his latest projects and live concerts. Šaban Bajramović was the most prolific and the most celebrated Gypsy singer, composer and poet in the Balkans.
When you put his name for example in last.fm software or on you tube site you could find a lot of beautiful and very famous compositions…

Eric Gordy at East Ethnia wrote a little epitaph:

He deserted the army for love and formed his first band on Goli Otok. His music was gorgeous. In his life both his failures and successes were tremendous. The last few years saw him successfully reinventing his sound with the assistance of Cubismo, and more recently facing both health and material problems. He may have seemed indestructible to many. But today we have to say goodbye to the king of Roma music.

Belgrade 2.0 ‘s co-blogger, Bganon wonders about Bajramović's lack of recognition at home:

So, why is it that Bajramovic’s passing is not honoured in the way it should be? Why haven’t many musicians in the world heard of the great one? There are many reasons, but primarily it’s to do with the fact that Serbia did not value Bajramovic, perhaps because of the ethnic prism that people of the region have a tendency to look through. This is a man who should have been employed (and paid well) to promote Serbia in the cultural sphere. (I have no doubt that having this ambassador would do no harm to Serbia politically either). There are other reasons too, Kusturica / No smoking and Goran Bregovic have monopolised the genre and in some cases plaigarised his music, as other artists did.

And to finish, we leave you with the music of “the legend”. The DFBMBE Podcast and Blog has an mp3 of one of Bajramović's most famous songs, Geljan Dade. And below is a video of Djelem, Djelem, the official anthem of Roma people.

2 comments

  • […] and there are now obituaries in various languages that talk of his importance, like the one in Global Voices, which is also translated in Spanish. Some, as one can be expected, highlight more the extremely […]

  • Kristina "KIKI"

    Saban was his own instrument…an instrument that will be missed by us all. His music will live on in our minds , hearts and souls 4-ever.

    Kiki/ Las Vegas

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