Former Eurovision participant, and well-loved vocalist, songwriter and humanitarian of Romani ethnicity Esma Redžepova has sadly passed away at the age of 73, after a short illness. Her contribution to Roma culture earned her the nickname as the Queen of the Gypsies, and in 2010, was cited as one of the 50 great voices of the world, as chosen by NPR, an American media organisation.
Esma was born in 1943, in Skopje, and she started performing in 1956 as a schoolgirl. Two years later, she recorded her first album called Zoshto Si Me Majko Rodila, and shortly after one of her greatest hits, Chaje Shukarije. In 1976, she was crowned the Queen of Gypsy Music at the first Gypsy World Festival, held in India.
Over her career, which lasted for a number of decades, she recorded over 500 songs and has had two platinum and eight gold certified discs. Her musical style was influenced by the Roma culture, and Macedonian music, and had influences of pop. Esma began her career during a time where Romani music was not held in high regard, and it was looked down upon for women to sing in public. As such, she was one of the first Romani performers to sing in the Romani language on radio and TV.
Other than her fruitful singing career, Esma also entered into the acting world, and was also known for her humanitarian work. She has fostered 47 children during the 1970’s and 1980’s, and regularly performed for charity.
In 2013, Esma was selected to represent FYR Macedonia alongside Vlatko Lozanoski, originally with the song Imperija, however eventually this was changed to the song Pred da se Razdeni. Unfortunately, the song failed to qualify for the final.
With such a huge impact on Romani culture, Esma and her contributions will be sadly missed.