In 2003, I was in love with Gypsy music. Dotted my i’s with Gypsy hearts. There is something in it and you can’t know what it is—not without hearing it. Rhythms of wild abandon, strains of endless longing, mysteries of an eternally foreign tongue. And listening to it made me different. That’s very important, these days, what with individuality the commodity it is.
I remember once, I was taking a weight-training class over the summer. The music in there was shit, absolute shit. Unpalatable for all its mass palatability and wholly unlistenable. This happened to be the same year, the summer of one CD, where we listened to my legendary and unstoppable Romano-Klezmer mix all night & every day. Known as “polka music,” or “proteins” to some, this mix, among other things:
- probably got burned about 3 dozen times
- spun-off two sequels
- was traded multiple times
- got me a girlfriend (no, really!)
- was also unashamedly played at a gay prom
- caused fools bumpin’ 50¢ to do a double-take
- was played on the last day of that dumb gym class and not only made me a frickin’ star for a day, but struck that teacher speechless with awe, respect, and the possible paradigm-shattering recognition of his essential lameness
It was the result of an unplanned experiment… a CD-mixing experiment… to see if I could somehow retain a coherent focus for a whole CD. Beginning in April I began a mass downloading campaign, across an ocean, utilizing my precision-strike hit/miss method. I stormed “Macedonia”, claimed everything “Romano,” “Romany,” “Roma,” and pillaged neighboring “Bulgaria” just in case. No “orkestar” was safe. As they feebly attempted to thwart my efforts, I was forced to spell “Klezmer” eight different ways. From my vantage in front of a standard Dell-issue laptop I calculated catchiness, accessibility, theme, novelty, and overall awesomeness. By the end of May I had captured nearly a gig of material—the hard part was still to come.
As it turned out, the hard part was determining what my friends would actually listen to. The final mix came down to 21 paradigm-and-silence-shattering tracks, clocking in at exactly 79 minutes 57 seconds, all of which I now know by heart. The songs gained their own characters. Some were requested more often, people choosing favorites between themselves. But the single track that could be called the group favorite: Esma Redzepova – Caje Sukarije. It was the track that inspired the subject matter—the catchiest, gypsiest track of the bunch.
The Queen of such music has to be one fine Rom. And so she is—one of the most interesting cultural pillars you’ve never heard of. She has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, has performed in more than 8000 concerts in 30 countries, and with her late husband Stevo Teodosievski has fostered forty-seven children. Those of you paying attention will note that I just directly quoted plagiarized from the Wikipedia entry. Well smartie, that’s because I wrote it. They plagiarized me (by way of me writing it). I really have a fondness for the Gypsy music. Some might even say that I have made a conscious decision to identify with this media in order to appropriate it’s positive aspects into my own. I hereby claim this land…
To that end, I made something myself to share. I give you, a torrent: Esma Redzepova’s classic double-CD album “Queen of the Gypsies” available in convenient downloadable fashion.