The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD), with profound sadness, mourns the passing of Esma Redzepova – the Queen of the Gypsies and Romani Music, NPR’s 50 Great Voices in the World, and Macedonia’s finest and most talented music legends. Esma passed away this morning at the age of 73 after a short illness.
“Esma broke the generational divide – everyone loved her music, and she sparked so much passion in her fans; I had the pleasure of knowing her for over a decade, and she will forever be an inspiration and will go down in history as Macedonia’s finest and most talented music legends,” said UMD President Metodija A. Koloski.
UMD had the great honor to host Esma Redzepova for a concert on April 23, 2016 in New Jersey that brought out hundreds of her fans, on her last tour to the United States. She performed at the renowned Kennedy Center and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. just a few days earlier.
UMD and Macedonians throughout the world extend their heartfelt condolences to Esma’s family, friends, and fans.
Esma Redzepova was internationally acclaimed as the “Queen of Romani Songs” and is one of NPR’s “50 Greatest Voices.” Born in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, she began her professional career at the age of 13. In 1958, she recorded her first record, Zoshto Si Me Majko Rodila, and after that her greatest hit Chaje Shukarije. She was the first Balkan performer to make Romani music popular with non-Romani audiences on elite concert stages in the early 1960s.
Esma, who sang in over 10 languages, earned the title “Queen of Romani Songs” at the World Festival of Romani Music in India in 1976. At the Festival of Roma Experiences in Moscow, in 2000, Esma was proclaimed Laureate and Roma Singer of the Century. In 2013, she represented Macedonia in the Eurovision Song Contest (for the first time in Romani language on the Eurovision stage). Esma performed for many heads of state and toured for more than four decades, giving more than 12,000 concerts in over 30 countries. She has played in plazas, stadiums, and opera houses, for villagers as well as world leaders. Her Ensemble has performed over 1,000 musical pieces on 15 album recordings, several of which achieved "gold" status in the former Yugoslavia.
In addition to her stage work, Esma was a dedicated humanitarian. Even though she did not have children of her own, over the past thirty years, she fostered and raised forty-seven children as her own providing them with education in music and career development. During the last decade, Esma was building a "Home of Humanity and Museum of Romani Music," which includes an archive, theater, recording studio, and an outpatient clinic for underserved populations. Esma was a major contributor to many advocacy and assistance programs for women and underserved populations, including disabled and Romani refugees from Kosovo. She received numerous honors, including the Macedonian Order of Merit, and in 2013, she was proclaimed a National Artist of Macedonia.