Šaban Bajramović (1936-2008)

June 26, 2008 at 12:07 am

Šaban Bajramović, one of the greatest musicians of our time, has died in poverty in the Serbian city of Niš. International and British newspapers (The Independent, The Times), have picked up on the news with about two weeks delay, and there are now obituaries in various languages that talk of his importance, like the one in Global Voices, which is also translated in Spanish. Some, as one can be expected, highlight more the extremely picturesque (and exotic) aspects of his life, thus somewhat failing to make the point of the importance of his music. So let me reiterate here: this man is one of the most important natural musical talents I have ever come across, I can never tire of listening to songs such as Djelem, djelem or Maki, maki.

In addition, Šaban Bajramović is the prototype of such memorable film characters like the whte-suited ‘godfather’ Ahmed from Emir Kusturica’s Time of the Gypsies (played there by cult figure Bora Todorović), and some of the most extremely exoticized Gypsy characters in Black Cat White Cat. It is widely believed that Šaban remains the uncredited lifeline supplying the stories, the images and the sounds on which the phenomenal success of Kusturica and Bregović’s Gypsy-themed work has been built.

In cinema he appeared in the role of the Roma boy’s father in Goran Paskaljevc’s Guardian Angel (1987), a film which is believed to have had triggered the making of Kusturica’s Time of the Gypsies, and a smaller role in Macedonian Stole Popov’s Gypsy Magic (1997). These roles are listed on the imdb. But the fact that Šaban Bajramović is not credited as a musician here is a serious omission.

There are now numerous In Memoriam clips for Šaban to be found on YouTube. I thought that this one was really impressive.

Here is Maki, maki. Like it is often the case, there appears to be no live recording of Šaban performing it, and the image we see is from the CD on which the song is being distributed. The only name visible is the one of Goran Bregović, who made Šaban’s music internationally known (but who was also often accused of appropriating it without giving proper credit to the musician).

And here is Šaban himself singing one of his well-known songs, Maruska, which he has been performing in different variations on some of Bregovic’s CD’s. The person who posted the clip has only provided a line of text: Farewell to the King!

Amazon.com carries three CD’s with authentic Šaban Bajramović songs, all with titles relying on exotic allusions, such as Gypsy King & Drunkard, Gypsy Legend, and Gypsy King of Serbia.

© Dina Iordanova
26 June 2008