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Sali Rumen Shopov (Berkeley) collaborating with Voice of Roma (Sebastopol)

Award: $40,000 Traditional Arts Grant awarded in 2009

Premiered:  May 1, 2010, California Herdeljezi Festival, Sebastopol; May 23, The Cowell Theater, San Francisco

Sali Rumen Shopov collaborated with Voice of Roma and its program director, dancer and choreographer Sani Rifati; Peter Jacques, Director of Brass Menazeri; and the Bay Area’s Brass Liberation Orchestra to create and perform a repertoire of processional street music, “Romani Traffic Jam,”  based on Balkan Romani traditions.

The Roma, often called “Gypsies,” are a stateless ethnic group that originated in and migrated from northern India over 1,000 years ago. They now live all over the world and are the largest minority group in Europe. Romani cultural arts traditions include Balkan brass band music and line dancing, Flamenco, and “Gypsy jazz.”

Founded in 1996, Voice of Roma’s mission is to present Romani cultural arts and traditions in a way that counters romanticized and negative Gypsy stereotypes, and contributes to the preservation of Romani identity and culture. Since 1997, it has presented the annual California Herdeljezi Festival in Sebastopol (at which this project premiered in 2010).

Rumen Sali Shopov is a renowned Rom artist from Gotse Delchev  in Southwest Bulgaria. He is one of the greatest living exponents of the southern Bulgarian/northern Greek style of ceremonial and celebratory tapan, a large double-headed drum that is the lead percussion instrument driving the rhythm of Romani Balkan processional brass band music and dancing. He also is known for his virtuosity on the tambura (long-necked mandolin), bouzouki, and doumbek, and as a vocalist.

The finished project premiered on May 1, 2010, at the California Herdeljezi Festival in Sebastopol and then on May 23, of that year at The Cowell Theater, San Francisco.