Esma Redzepova was born in what is now Macedonia and was during her lifetime both Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Her music reflected the shifting borders, politics, ethnic influences and languages of her Balkan upbringing. The daughter of a Turkish-Serbian couple, with Muslim, Jewish and Roman Catholic roots, she could sing in more than 10 languages.
She was a devoted advocate and cultural ambassador of Roma, or “gypsy,” music, appearing at festivals worldwide, recording 20 albums and being among the first Roma artists to perform on television.
Redzepova (August 8, 1943-December 11, 2016) earned numerous awards, including the Macedonian Order of Merit and the “Roma Singer of the Century” in Moscow. She was crowned “Queen of the Romany Songs” by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the first Gypsy World Music Festival in India in 1976. In 2010, she was ranked on of the 50 greatest voices of the world by National Public Radio. In 2013, as part of the duo “Esma and Lozano,” she represented Macedonia in the semifinals of the Eurovision Song Contest.
You may have heard her hit “Caje sukarije” in the soundtrack of Borat. She was deeply disturbed by its use which she had not personally authorized.