Esma 'Queen of Romani Song' to Headline Herdeljezi Music Fest

By: Mar. 14, 2016
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Kitka is pleased to announce Voice of Roma's 19th annual Herdeljezi Romani Music Festival, featuring the legendary "Queen of Romani Song" Esma Redzepova & The Folk Masters Band from Macedonia in their final U.S. tour. This yearly event organized by Voice of Roma, a human rights advocacy organization dedicated to the promotion of Romani (Gypsy) cultural arts and traditions, celebrates Balkan Romani music, dance and culture. An evening concert and dance party will culminate a series of workshops for singers, instrumentalists and dancers. The Festival takes place Saturday, April 30 inReidenbach Hall at First Congregational Church of Oakland.

Esma is internationally acclaimed as the "Queen of Romani Song," and has been hailed by NPR as one of the world's "50 Great Voices." Born in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia, she began her professional career at the age of thirteen. 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 sings in over ten languages, earned the title "Queen of Romani Song" at the World Festival of Romani Music in India in 1976. At the Festival of Roma Experiences in Moscow in 2000, she was proclaimed Laureate and Roma Singer of the Century. In 2013 she represented Macedonia in the Eurovision Song Contest. Esma has performed for many heads of state and has toured for more than four decades, giving more than 8,000 concerts in over 30 countries. Her appearance in Oakland marks the culmination of her U.S. tour, one which she insists will be her last overseas.

In addition to her stage work, Esma is a world-renowned humanitarian. Over the past thirty years she has fostered 49 children, many of whom have become professional musicians like master accordionist and ensemble arranger Simeon Atanasov, who leads The Folk Masters Band.

Esma has been a major contributor to countless advocacy and assistance programs for women and underserved populations, including the disabled and Romani refugees from Kosovo. She is honorary president of the Macedonian Red Cross, and has given more than one thousand benefit concerts. In 2000, the Sorority of Roma Women proclaimed Esma "Woman of the Millennium." In 2002 Esma was nominated as United Nations Ambassador for Refugees in Macedonia, and was nominated a second time for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2010, she was awarded the Macedonian Order of Merit, and in 2013 she was proclaimed a National Artist of Macedonia.

Festival events begin with concurrent vocal and instrumental workshops at 5 p.m. led by Esma and members of The Folk Masters Band. Each workshop costs $30 in advance. A free panel discussion led by Voice of Roma President Sani Rifati and Romani culture scholar Professor Carol Silverman begins at 6:45 p.m. The Festival concludes with a dance workshop with Rifati at 8 p.m., followed by Esma's concert and dance party at 8:30 p.m. Tickets for the evening dance party are $27 in advance and $30 at the door, and include admission to the dance workshop. Workshop reservations as well as a $55 Festival Pass including all events may be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets or by calling 800-838-3006. For more information visit