Esma Redzepova, the prominent and versatile Roma singer dubbed the “Romany music queen”, has died at the age of 73, hospital sources and her family said Sunday.
Redzepova was one of the first vocalists in the Balkans to sing in the Romany language and performed in some of the world’s greatest music halls during her long career .
She fought against racism and prejudice and spoke out for the emancipation of Roma women, denouncing those in the Roma community who opposed her singing because she was a woman, and rejecting criticism over her marriage to and collaboration with composer Stevo Teodosievski.
She represented Macedonia at the 2013 Eurovision contest and in June this year she performed before a packed hall in Belgrade accompanied by the Bosnian group, Mostar Sevdah Reunion.
Known for her extravagant outfits and perfectly-controlled powerful voice, she had a rich repertoire of hundreds of songs.
She mixed traditional Roma and Macedonian music with contemporary sound, including pop and electro music, working closely with young artists across the Balkans.
During a successful career that lasted five decades, she performed worldwide appearing on stage at the most prestigious venues in the United States, Australia and Europe.
It was at the first world festival of Romany music in 1976 in India that she was acclaimed as the Queen of Romany Song.
The “Gypsy queen” was also a great humanitarian, who along with her husband adopted 48 Roma children and ensured their education, helping them build musical careers.