Tag Archives: Gypsy music

Artist Profiles: Sergiu Popa

Sergiu Popa

Born in Chisinau in 1981, Moldova, Sergiu Popa is a member of a well-known Roma (Gypsy) musical dynasty in his country. He, like several generations before him, is a virtuoso accordionist who plays not only traditional folk and Gypsy music of Eastern Europe, but is classically trained as well.

He studied at the Stefan Neaga College of Music in Chisinau (the capital of Moldova), and completed two years at the Conservatory of Chisinau before emigrating to Canada in 2002. His first musical performance in Canada was at the Drummondville Festival Mondial des Cultures, where he performed with Vatra, a Moldavian dance troupe.

In Canada, during the short time he has been here, he has been distinguishing himself as a unique, versatile and highly talented artist. He has continued to perform traditional Eastern European music with other distinguished musicians such as Sergei Trofanov, Carmen Piculeata (violinists), Romeo Vaduva (pan flutist), Vladimir Sidorov and Marin Nasturica (accordionists), while expanding his repertoire with renowned jazz singer Jeri Brown. He has accompanied Angele Dubeau’s La Pieta (performing at the Lanaudiere and Mont Tremblant Festivals in 2003 and 2004) and is sought after by the Cirque du Soleil for a possible future collaboration.

During the summer of 2005, he led a full ensemble of musicians and dancers for an outdoor public performance at the Place des Arts concert series, Les Midis du Monde. The ensemble, named Sergiu Popa and Moldomania, performed traditional music from Moldova for an audience of several hundred people.

Sergiu was featured at the 1st edition of the Romani Yag Gypsy Festival in Montreal, where he gave a workshop in Gypsy style accordion, performed and participated in the premiere of a musical theatre production called Romano Drom. He was also featured as a solo performer in the 2005 edition of Printemps des Bretelles, an accordion festival in Montreal.

In 2006, Sergiu and his ensemble performed as part of the ?soir?e d?couvertes? at the 2006 edition of the ?Festival des Musiques et du Monde?, organized by Musique Multi-Montr?al. At the festival, he was nominated for the ?toiles Galaxie prize from Radio-Canada, for up-and-coming artists.

Sergiu established a reputation for developing creative, tasteful and innovative arrangements and accompaniment; this despite having been deprived of exposure to the work of great contemporary artists from the western world (until quite recently access to music from outside the former eastern bloc was highly restricted in Moldova). He believes that traditional music has its place in the future, and that young people will embrace it as long as it continues to evolve and reflect the spirit of a living culture.

His goals are to respectfully carry on the tradition which he has inherited from his father, and also to have the opportunity of collaborating with other gifted and progressive musicians who can help him expand the boundaries of that tradition, fusing with jazz, Latin and other international influences.


Obsession Accordéon (2006)
Tous en Accord (2014)


Artist Profiles: Alex Caton

Alex Caton

Alex Caton grew up in England, Scotland and the East Coast of the United States. She first put a bow in her hands at the age of four and played violin through her college years at Binghamton University. As her interest in Irish and Old Time music grew, she changed her tunes (and her instrument name) and began playing and teaching fiddle on the side. But it wasn’t until she moved to the Charlottesville, Virginia area to work on a PhD in Anthropology that she found her true calling.

Alex fell in love with the music scene in Charlottesville and soon cast aside her career as a professional archaeologist (she worked up and down the East Coast of the United States, as well as in West Africa) to focus on fiddle music full-time.

Since 2001, Alex has lived in Gordonsville, Virginia, teaching Irish, Old Time and Gypsy music out of her home and playing with a wide variety of local groups including the Irish band, The Ryegrass Rollers.

Alex Caton

In 2003, Alex founded the all-girl gypsy group Las Gitanas, a precursor to Verbunk, the “groovy gypsy” band she started in 2007. But gypsy music didn’t replace Alex’s love for Old Time and Irish music—it just enhanced what she brought to the other Charlottesville groups she played in: Odd Legged Jenny (Irish-Americana), The Two Dollar Bills (Old Time) and an acoustic roots duo with Chris Leva, lead singer and guitarist for the Guano Boys.

In 2005, Alex started a fiddle camp held one weekend in August at the Brazenhead Inn in Mingo, West Virginia. What started as a small group of interested students has grown into a popular gathering for adults and children, beginners and pros, where Alex teaches different fiddle styles and other instructors come to share their expertise in guitar, bass, banjo Irish drum, voice and dance.

Alex’s self-titled CD was released June 7th, 2007 at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville. Chris Leva plus aclaimed vocalist and guitarist Pat Egan were just a couple of talented musicians who joined Alex on stage.

Alex Caton

From her base in Central Virginia, Alex Caton has a custom-built barn/music studio for classes and concerts, a coop full of chickens and huge garden.


Alex Caton (2007)
The Sinners and the Saved (2009)
Swimming to Lindsey (2013)
Never Take a Daisy Down the Mine (2015)


Olah Gypsy Maestros Romano Drom to Release Give Me Wine

Romano Drom

Acclaimed Hungarian Gypsy band Romano Drom is set to release its new album, Give Me Wine, on May 31, 2019 through Riverboat Records.

Romano Drom means ‘gypsy road’ in the Romani language, and since the band’s creation in 1999, the band has traveled worldwide with its distinctive form of gypsy roots music. Led by Antal Kovács who co-founded the group with his late father, the album features recreations of ancient gypsy songs with new compositions, ranging from drinking songs and dances, to stories of love and hardship.

Singing in their Romani mother tongue, the band’s music is characterized by liveliness and vocal jousts and interplay.


Interview with Faith i Branko

Faith i Branko

She’s an English rose, an accordionist and circus performer from a Cotswolds hamlet. He’s a virtuoso Roma violinist from a village in West Serbia.

How Faith and Branko came to form a successful band, and the trials and tribulations they had to overcome en-route, provides a compelling backstory.

It began a decade ago when Faith felt impelled to drive to Serbia to learn local styles of accordion playing. While there, she met Branko, a fiddle player who the BBC would later mention in the same breath as Paganini. Despite a language barrier, they began creating music together. They fell in love and two years later, when Faith returned to Serbia, they married.

The couple spent the next five years attempting to gain entry to live in the UK. “During this time, I was immersed in the music and language of the Roma village in which we built a house near his family,” Faith relates. They eventually made it to England two years ago, via Vienna and work in the Austrian Roma music scene.

The stresses of the past half-dozen years or so have been immense,” Faith reveals. “Branko’s health has been difficult — his life before was traumatic — and trying to understand a way to be together in the fast modern world that we have now moved to, has been a huge challenge. But whether our joint lives are joyful or problematic, all of this — happiness and pain — is poured into our music and creates the energy between us that you can see on stage.”

Faith i Branko

Until he met Faith, Branko had never travelled internationally, been on an airplane or used a bank or computer. “Life in my village was natural, communal and simple,” he says. “Before Faith arrived in my life, I had had one of my visions — that a girl would come who I would travel the world with and play music with.”

In 2015, his dream was realized when they jetted to Australia for a handful of gigs with Sydney band Lolo Lovina. For Branko, simply arriving in the world-renowned harbour city with Faith was mindboggling: “It was one of the most spectacular moments of my life.

Faith i Branko currently perform with Serbian-born guitarist Stefan Melovski and Yugoslavian-born double bass player Viktor Obsust. “The quartet is the sound we currently prefer,” says Faith. “After working with drummers and additional instruments, it provides the fullest and most delicate sound for our requirements.”

The band’s music has been described as wild and energetic. “It doesn’t have much middle ground,” Faith agrees. “The emotions expressed within it are very intense, whether in slow painful passages or super-speed joyful bursts … it’s music that expresses the extremes of being alive.”

She continues: “The music works from a musical foundation of Serbia Roma music — the traditional music of Branko’s village of Gornja Grabovica. While we make journeys into other flavours, this is the style that predominates.”

Although Faith utilises a traditional English tabor pipe within their music — playing the accordion with one hand and the pipe with the other — she says there’s very little deliberate melding of their heritages. “It is more in the combining of two very different cultural personalities that this heritage can be felt.

By all accounts, Faith i Branko’s music has matured considerably in recent years. “It has progressed from a much more simplistic way of playing to something more detailed, complex and full as we have travelled and matured as people and players.”

One of the things they have done is to stretch the capacity of the violin. “Branko has changed greatly as a player due to being exposed to an international music scene, and the music reflects the change in our current personal relationship from the relationship between us four years ago.”

• The above interview first appeared in Rhythms, Australia’s only dedicated roots music magazine.


Artist Profiles: Sukar


1990 was the first functioning year for the group Sukar, made up of active members of tamburitzza orchestras from Ljubljana at the time. These artists, after many years of playing traditional melodies and folk music, began to concentrate on playing mostly Gypsy, or Romany music. They dedicated the entire opus of their work to this music. The group Sukar is a tamburitzza ensemble.

It had five members, with the most common combination being first brac, second brac, tamburitzza cello, bugarija and the contrabass. In place of the first brac, they sometimes incorporated the bisernica, other times the violin. The group’s repertoire included Gypsy music from all over Europe, which, because of the variations in the way of life in different surroundings, has created a colorful musical tradition.

The group generated material for their repertoire by gathering written and recorded songs, as well as songs that have been passed down orally, which they later remake in their own style and perform in the new form.

Sukar mostly performed songs in the Pristevacki and Cergarski variations of the Gypsy language, largely because of their widespread use, but the other dialects, such as the languages of the Sints, the Hungarian gypsies, the Vlach and Romanian Romany communities and the Russian and Carpathian gypsies, are also represented in their songs.


Ciganska Duša ‎(Corona, 1994)
Mentol Bombon (KD Etno Karavana, 1996)
Čhaie ‎(Corona, 1997)
rvo Iv ‎(KD Etno karavana, 2000)
En Concert ‎(Sazas, 2003)


Artist Profiles: Rom Bengalè

Rom Bengalè – Photo by Klaus Reimer

Rom Bengalè was a well-known group of Romanian Gypsy musicians. The musicians from Rom Bengali, who were between 16 to 26 years old, made an name for themselves in the moloch Bucharest with their unconditional cross over style binding traditional Lautari music with modem oriental pop music.

Music was their life just as it was their parents. They reached, however, for keyboards, electric guitars, electric bass, drums and percussion along side of the traditional music. Their interest lied not in imitating western pop music but rather in creating their own Lautari traditional, undeniably oriental influenced, electric-soul sound. The lyrics spoke about unhappy love affairs between gypsies and non gypsies, the hopelessness of the inner city, (prices rising out of control, ever growing poverty), anti-gypsy discrimination, love, jealousy, and dreams of wandering trough the world.

The group disbanded in 2001.


Artist Profiles: Orchestra Mihalache

Orchestra Mihalache

Orchestra Mihalache consists of the accordion player Andrei and his two sons George and Meltiade, playing the hammer-beaten stringed instrument Tambal and violin, respectively. They play with that certain drive that has made Gypsy musicians renowned worldwide and made Mihalache a famous and respected name in Rumania. Today, the name Mihalache has become synonymous with good music.

Musicians such as the Mihalaches are known as Lautari in Romania. A Lautar is a professional musician, who lives by playing at weddings and other festive occasions. Therefore, the repertoire is lively and intense. From fast dancing tunes, such as sirbas and horas, to sentimental love songs.

Since this is folk music, it is not learned from a score, but by ear from one musician to another. Traditionally, every time a Lautar plays a melody, he re-interprets it, which means that it sounds slightly different each time.

George and Meltiade have learned the tunes by playing with their father, who learned them from his father, Iancu Ciupitu, and so forth. The mother of the two brothers is from a family of Lautari too.

In the summer 2003 Orchestra Mihalache released their first CD: Tiganii Lautari. The album features age-old Gypsy tunes with fast melodies on violin and accordion on top of the crispy and shuffled rythmic beating of the tambal (a hammered dulcimer), the essential Gypsy instrument of Romania and Hungary. Two tracks feature the mature and highly emotional voice of Andrei Mihalache, a well known and sought after accordionist and singer in Romania. Tiganii Lautari was chosen as one of the five best world music releases in Denmark in 2003 at the Danish World Awards.

Settled in Denmark, George Mihalache has made the tambal well-known through his playing with accordion virtuoso Lelo Nika, who twice won the world championship in accordion playing, and reputable clarinet player Peter Bastian, not to mention numerous gigs with operetta singer Sofie Ottesen.

Orchestra Mihalache is:

George Mihalache: tambal
Meltiade Mihalache: Violin, viola
Andrei Mihalache: Accordeon and voice


Artist Profiles: Ciganos D’Ouro

Ciganos D’Ouro

Two brothers, José Pato and Sérgio Silva, formed Ciganos D’Ouro in 1994. Initially, the group played exclusively at cultural events for the Portuguese Gypsy community. In 1995 the band was enlarged as consequence of the collaboration with guitarist Pedro Jóia who assumed the musical direction of the group. Movieplay released the first album, La Casa, in 1996.

Ciganos D ‘Ouro then started to perform throughout Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium and Holland, participating at international Festivals of Gypsy Music, while at the same time conquering new audiences outside the Gypsy community.

Ciganos D’Ouro

In 1999 a new album was recorded, Libertad, released by Universal. A third album, Maktoub, was recorded and released by Farol in 2001.


La Casa ‎(Movieplay, 1996)
Libertad ‎(Polydor, 1999)
Maktoub ‎(Farol Música, 2001)
Guadiana ‎(Farol, 2009)


Artist Profiles: Esma Redzepova

Esma Redzepova

Esma Redzepova was a well-known throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans as “the queen of the Gypsies.” She was an remarkable singer and dancer.

Born in a small town near Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, where the director of cinema Emile Kusturica filmed The Time of the Gypsies. Her music used to be available only on cassette tapes.

She performed since the age of twelve and was discovered by the renowned musician, composer and bandleader Stevo Teodosievski, who became her mentor, musical partner and later her husband. Their ensemble became one of the most popular groups in the Balkan region. They made hundreds of recordings together, several of which became “gold.” They toured extensively, filling concert halls and stadiums in Europe, Australia, China, Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East. During their life together, Stevo and Esma adopted 47 orphans and street children into their home, which evolved into a school of folk music. Esma continued her career after Stevo’s death in 1997, continuing to perform with the Ensemble Teodosievski.

Composed of members of Stevo and Esma’s music school, Esma’s group was composed of Simeon Atanasov (accordion), Elvis Huna (bass accordion), Tasko Grujovski (double bass), Zekiroski Sami (clarinet), Zahir Ramadanov (trumpet) and Elama Rasidov (darbuka).

Esma Redzepova’s songs were the musical expression of her love to Macedonia and its Gypsy roots. Her music sounds like typical melodies of the Balkan Mountains with a special protagonist of the violin, clarinet and accordion and with influences from India, Persia and Spain, creating an exciting atmosphere, cheerful and sensual.

Esma was an authentic star in the Balkan countries. For many years, she performed in the most important venues of the world. She acted in several movies and was without any doubt the great ambassador of the Gypsy Macedonian culture in the world.

Esma Redzepova died on11 December 11, 2016 in Skopje, Macedonia

Selected Discography:

Songs of a Macedonian Gypsy (World Connection, 1998)
Romske pesme (PGP-RTS, 2000)
Mon histoire, My story (Accords croisés, 2007)
Gypsy Carpet (Network, 2007)


Artist Profiles: Kocani Orkestar

Kocani Orkestar

Kocani Orkestar, Macedonia’s most accomplished and best-known gypsy brass band, featured in the film “Time of the Gypsies” and take their name from a nearby town on the outskirts of Skopje, where such music is known to this day as romska orientalna muzika (?oriental gypsy band?).

The line-up consists of two trumpets, one clarinet, one saxophone, four tubas and one tapan, a large double-skinned cylindrical drum, beaten in complex rhythmic patterns with a heavy stick in one hand and a thin switch in the other.

The group’s international recognition came after they were discovered by Michel Winter and Stefan Karo, the same team responsible for first bringing Romania’s much-loved gypsy troupe, Taraf de Haidouks, to world attention. Both acts were signed to Belgium’s Crammed label, which led to the Kocani Orkestar guesting on the Taraf’s Band of Gypsies album.

Kocani Orkestar’s critical breakthrough came with their acclaimed second release, L’ Orient Est Rouge, a showcase of gypsy eclecticism, integrating original pieces into the traditional brass band repertoire, all played in a dazzling array of complex time-signatures. The title song came from China and there were Hindi film songs alongside their versions of local Macedonian dance tunes, as well as a great version of the Roma anthem, “Djelem, Djelem”.

The Orkestar continued to go from strength to strength with a new and expanded line-up. Their album Alone at My Wedding, explores the music that accompanies the three-day traditional gypsy weddings that still take place regularly all over the Balkan region. With typical gypsy diversity, Turkish and Bulgarian rhythms are married to local folk dances, with even a dash of Latin flavor thrown in for good measure.

The record also finds the Orkestar transcending the strict boundaries of the brass band genre (not that gypsy musicians ever had much respect for boundaries of any description) by showcasing the talent of their new vocalis, the charismatic young Ajnur Azizov, who sings variously in Slavic, Turkish and Roma.

At the same time, they can rock like an untamed, mutant gypsy funk band, mixing James Brown-style brass riffs with oriental and eastern European influences. The thundering rhythm is provided by the tapan drum of Saban Jasarov and the four tubas of Redzai Durmisev, Nijazi Alimov, Sukri Zejnelov and Suad Asanov. Then there are passionate, wailing solos courtesy of sax player Durak Demirov, the two trumpeters Turan Gaberov and Sukri Kadriev, and Dzeladin Demirov on clarinet.

Live, Kocani Orkestar are an even mightier experience, and whether they?re playing at a gypsy wedding in Kocani or in the more sedate setting of a western concert hall, it apparently makes no difference to their feral approach.


A Gypsy Brass Band (Long Distance, 1994)
L’Orient Est Rouge (Cramworld, 1997)
Gypsy Mambo (Yeni Dünya Müzik, 1999)
Cigance (pläne, 2000)
Gypsy Folies (pläne, 2002)
Alone At My Wedding (Crammed Discs, 2002)
Ulixes (Materiali Sonori, 2002)
Live (Il Manifesto, 2005)
The Ravished Bride (Crammed Discs, 2008)
Band Of Gypsies 2 (Crammed Discs, 2011)
Jazzwerkstatt Peitz Live / Live In Concert (Jazzwerkstatt, 2011)
Romeo Scaccia Meets Kocani Orkestar (Morgenland, 2011)