saban bajramovic 1Saban Bajramovic (1936-2008) was a Roma singer from the city of Nis in Serbia. He was already a legend when alive and is often referred to as the King of Roma Music. Saban Bajramovic went to school for only five years. He spent the rest of his childhood and adolescence on the streets of Nis and there learned to sing and make music.
The young Bajramovic deserted the Yugoslavian Army because of love and was sentenced to three years in prison. After Saban stated in court that he could withstand any punishment imposed on him, the court increased the sentence to five-and-a-half years. He sat out his sentence on the notorious prison island of Goli Otok (Serbo-Croatian for ‘barren island’). He spent his time in prison making music and even formed a successful prison orchestra. His musical love was jazz, Mexican music and Spanish flamenco and he dreamed of becoming a jazz singer and star once he was released.
After serving his time, Bajramovic immediately recorded his first album in 1964. And it was not to be his last by far. He released a total of more than 20 LPs, and according to his own estimate, wrote the lyrics and composed the music of some 700 songs.
Apart from music, Saban Bajramovic also appeared in various movies such as “Guardian Angel” (1987) by Goran Paskaljević and in “Gypsy Magic” (1997) by Stole Popov. He was also actively involved with the soundtrack of “Black Cat, White Cat” by Bosnian film director Emir Kusturica.
Upon receiving an invitation from Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, he visited India. There he was awarded the title of “World King of Gypsy Music” and honoured.
Saban Bajramovic passed away in Nis on 8 June 2008. The following year a street in his hometown was named after him, which led to protests that turned into riots at times.
Through an initiative of Ivan Blagojevic, director of the Nisville Jazz Festival, a monument to Saban Bajramovic was unveiled on the banks of the river Nisava in Nis in 2012. Since there were no public funds available to finance the monument, musician Goran Bregovic and the actor and director Ljubisa Samardzic contributed as well as Milos Simonovic, mayor of Nis, who waived a month’s salary.
Saban Bajramovic recorded his last two albums with Dragi Sestic and the musicians of Mostar Sevdah Reunion in Bosnia. These were the CD Mostar Sevdah Reunion presents Saban Bajramovic: “A Gypsy Legend” in 2001, and in 2009, Mostar Sevdah Reunion: “Saban”. The recording of the album “Saban” was particularly difficult as Saban Bajramovic would disappear time and again for days or because of his gambling debts, he would suddenly entertain exorbitant price expectations with regard to his fee. Despite the many difficulties, though, the album was finally successfully recorded and he left behind one of the most coherent albums of his career.


Text: Robert Lippuner / Gypsy Music Network
Translation: Jamie Davies


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