Esma Redzepova and Usnija Jasarova, Songs of a Macedonian Gypsy

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
One of gypsy singing’s biggest stars brings joy to unhappy loneliness.

They call Redzepova the Queen of the Gypsies, and judging by her singing here, the title is well earned. Born in Skopje, Macedonia, she brings absolute passion to the songs here, with a huge personality that stamps itself all over songs like "Beautiful Girl." Although the band is an important part of the equation, mixing brass, accordion and percussion with some stunning clarinet playing from Jasarova (just listen to the cocek of "Gypsy Dance"), there's no doubt as to who's the star here; she could sing the phone book and audiences would stay riveted. The focus is definitely on the upbeat. Even "Unhappy Loneliness" belies its title with a speedy, twisting rhythm that Redzepova negotiates with consummate ease. On the rare occasions she slows down, as on "Look at This Girl, Mother," there's an infinite ache to her voice that's torn straight from the soul. Romany music comes in many shades, but it's easier to see why it has no bigger star.