Romani (Gypsy) music has emerged as one of the most popular world music genres in the last two decades. The genre is utilized within minority rights movements in the U.S. and abroad because of its association with concepts of freedom, equality, and acceptance. The freedom of choice is a central tenant of what it means to be human today. And Roma, stereotyped by non-Roma as freedom-loving nomads who embody the human right to follow one’s path rather than be restricted by social norms that exclude, control, and marginalize, use music to draw attention to their historical discrimination and how social structures marginalize others.
The concert of Romani music at the University of Pittsburgh’s Bellefield Hall will feature Esma Redzepova in her last public appearance. Esma is internationally acclaimed as “the Queen of Romani Songs” and was one of NPR’s “50 greatest voices.” She was born in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, and began her long professional career at the age of 13 years. She was the first Balkan performer to make Romani music popular with non-Romani audiences on concert stages in the early 1960’s. Esma, who sings in 16 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. Esma has performed for many heads of state and has toured more than four decades performing more than 8,000 concerts in over 30 countries.
In addition to her stage work, Esma is a world-renowned humanitarian. In the past thirty years she has fostered forty-nine children and educated them in music and cultural traditions. She will be accompanied by these protégés, lead by master accordionist and ensemble arranger Simeon Atanasov.
Esma has also been a major contributor to countless advocacy and assistance programs for Macedonia’s underprivileged Roma and recent refugees from Kosovo. She is honorary president of the Macedonian Red Cross, and has given more than one thousand benefit concerts. In 2000, the American Biographical Institute awarded Esma the "Medal of Honor" and the Sorority of Roma Women proclaimed Esma "Woman of the Millennium". In 2002 Esma received the Mother Teresa Award, was nominated as United Nations Ambassador for Refugees in Macedonia, and was nominated a second time for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2013 Esma was proclaimed a National Artist of Macedonia.
Esma Redzepova’s U.S. tour in Spring 2016 will garner great public interest and support and will reinforce the University of Pittsburgh’s established role as a center for Romani studies and human rights advocacy. Pitt was the first university to support a study abroad program in Romani music, culture, and human rights. The program, organized by Dr. Adriana Helbig, has run to the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary in 2012, 2014, and will run again in May-June 2016.
This event is also sponsored by the Russian and East European Studies Program, the Global Studies Center, and the Department of Music. Tickets in advance are $10; tickets at the door are $15. Pitt students with valid ID will be admitted free. Tickets are available through music.pitt.edu/tickets, at the University of Pittsburgh Stages Box Office, or by calling 412-624-7529. Purchase tickets. For more information, contact Adriana Helbig at firstname.lastname@example.org.