Esma Redžepova (Macedonian: Есма Реџепова) is a Romani Macedonian vocalist, songwriter, and humanitarian born in Skopje, Socialist Republic of Macedonia, then Yugoslavia. During her life she has performed in more than 8000 concerts in 30 countries, with her late husband Stevo Teodosievski she has fostered forty-seven children, and she has received numerous accolades for her humanitarian work. By her own account she has created more than 500 works of art. These include 108 singles, 20 albums, and 6 movies.
Early Life and Background
Esma was born on August 8, 1943, in the predominately Romani Šuto Orizari municipality of Skopje, now capital of the Macedonia. She is the second youngest of six children. Her mother was a Turkish Muslim, while her father was a Serb born in Tirana, Albania. His grandmother and grandfather were an Iraqi Jew and a Catholic Roma respectively. Her family was relatively (but not abjectly) poor growing up, her father working variously as a porter, singer, drummer, circus strongman and shoe shine. Her parents stressed that all six children finish primary school. At age nine Esma was introduced by one of her brothers to a local Romani music organisation, where she was able to quickly learn complicated rhythms. Her mother encouraged her musical gifts and Esma and her brother soon joined their school’s folklore group.
In 1957, age 14, she was personally invited to sing at a school talent contest for Radio Skopje. This concert proved to be a turning point—not only did she place first, beating out 57 other schools and winning 9000 dinars, but national band leader and future husband Stevo Teodosievski also happened to be in attendance. After securing permission from her parents, Esma began touring with his musical ensemble. Legend has it she left home with a single suitcase filled with one dress and one Čoček costume.
In recent years, Esma has remained popular throughout the Balkans. In 2004, she recorded a duet with Eurovision performer Toše Proeski called “Magija”.
Her best known single Čaje Šukarije is the feature song on the 2006 Borat movie soundtrack, which she claims was used without her permission. As of December 16th, 2006 together with Naat Veliov from Kočani Orkestar she is planning an 800,000 euro ( USD 1,000,000) lawsuit against the producers of the film. The movie Gypsy Caravan (2007) features Esma as one of five Romani music acts on their tour through the USA.
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