Saban Bajramovic

Saban Bajramovic
Saban Bajramovic
  • country:Serbia
  • region:Balkan
  • style(s):Gypsy
  • label:Snail Records
  • gender:male
  • instrumentation:instrumental, vocal
  • artist posted by:Snail Records

Line up

  • Mostar Sevdah Reunion


Saban Bajramovic - The King of Gypsy Music
(16.04.1936 - 08.06.2008)

deep, soulful voice and innate musical talent captured the imagination of General Tito and other well-known political figures and he was honoured with the title “World King of Gypsy Music” by Prime Minister Nehru and Indira Gandhi during a visit to India. Yet his life was not an easy one. Born on 16 April 1936 in Nis, Serbia (then part of former Yugoslavia), he left school after just four years, acquiring his musical education on the streets and at parties, like many Roma musicians before him.

He absconded from military service at the age of 19, having fallen in love, was court-martialled as a deserter and sentenced to three years in prison on the notorious island of Goli Otok. His sentence was subsequently increased to five and a half years when he defiantly stated in court that he could withstand any prison sentence imposed on him. Yet despite the hardships he endured there (regular fights left him with a motley collection of scars), prison proved to be the making of him. He learned to read and write and his natural skills as a footballer ensured his survival, playing goalkeeper for the prison football team and earning himself the nickname 'Black Panther'. It wasn't long before he found his way into the prison orchestra performing, among other things, jazz (Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, and even John Coltrane) alongside Spanish and Mexican music. He always maintained that prison had provided him with an education for life, allowing him to formulate his own personal philosophy, and was later quoted as saying that "a person who has never been in prison is not a person at all".

Once out of jail he embarked on an intensive career in music. He made his first recording in 1964, and went on to record 15-20 LPs and around 50 singles. During his life he is believed to have composed some 700 songs including the official anthem of the Roma people 'Djelem, Djelem'.

"Over the years, his music has been constantly stolen, copied, and imitated by both famous and unknown musicians. Promises and contracts have proven worthless. Actually, he's never been interested in protecting his work. Where others would have earned millions, he's lived as he's always lived: from day to day, making music, going wherever he wants, and not recognising any limits at all." (Dragi Sestic - Mostar Sevdah Reunion)

With his first major earnings, he bought a white Mercedes and hired two bodyguards, although the story goes that it wasn't long before his gambling habit lost him the Mercedes.

Bajramovic's popularity soon spread beyond the Balkans and the release of A Gypsy Legend on World Circuit in 2001 brought his music to a wider audience. Netherlands-based Bosnian producer Dragi Sestic spent many months tracking down Saban in order to make this recording: "My father gave me a bunch of LPs of Saban from his collection and suggested that I record Saban (his favourite singer). After months of searching I found his telephone number at the end of 1999. It was an incredible experience: I never heard somebody singing so good in front of me - just from a meter away. I was amazed with his singing technique and the colour in his voice. It sounded ten times better than on the old LPs."

"It is difficult to stay objective while listening to this masterpiece. The saying goes that no one should go down on one's knees and bow one's head before a living human being, but in this case an exception should be made." Mladen Hlubna, Oslobodjenje (Bosnia), 6 December 2001.

A number of Serbian releases followed and despite his reputation as elusive and unreliable, he continued to make appearances until his health deteriorated. Sadly, in 2008, it was revealed that Bajramovic was suffering serious health complications, no longer able to walk and living in poverty in Niš. The Serbian government intervened to provide him with some financial support.

His latest recording produced by Dragi Sestic, Mostar Sevdah Reunion - “Saban” (Snail Records, 2006/07 , SR 66008) will serve as a lasting memorial to his musical genius.

"Saban is a gorgeous album… It's so rare to find good recordings of Saban and he himself appears in such poor health that this album may well be his last testament. I will treasure Saban, listening again and again, every time finding something new and of beauty." (Garth Cartwright, fRoots magazine)