Romani Routes is a program of Voice of Roma, an educational and charitable nonprofit organization working on behalf of Roma (Gypsies) in the US and internationally
& His Romani Wedding Band
Romani Wedding Music Goes Global
Yuri Yunakov, a self taught virtuoso saxophonist, immigrated to New York City in 1994, formed his own band, the Yunakov Ensemble, in 1995, and has toured extensively in the U.S. with them, as well as recording three Traditional Crossroads CDs. Yuri’s self identification as a Romani musician has positively contributed to non-Romani audience awareness in a way that counteracts stereotypes about “Gypsies”.
Yuri Yunakov (saxophone) was born in Haskovo, Bulgaria, of Turkish Romani ancestry and currently lives in the New York City area. He hails from a long line of musicians in his extended family, including his father and grandfather and his uncles and brother. Yuri's career began with the band "Mladost" and he subsequently began a 10-year collaboration with Ivo Papazov and "Trakija." Yuri is Bulgaria's most famous saxophonist. Together with the "Trakija" orchestra Yunakov played at hundreds of weddings in his native Bulgaria, and has toured extensively in Europe and North America. In 1989 he was featured on NBC TV with saxophonist David Sanborn. Yuri appears on the recording "Gypsy Fire", a CD of Turkish music on Traditional Crossroads. He is the director of the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble, and is in great demand among the Bulgarian, Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Armenian and Romani communities in the New York City area.
Erhan Umer “Rambo” (keyboards, vocals) was born in Bitola, Macedonia in the Romani neighborhood, and immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. He comes from a long line of professional musicians; in fact, all the males in his family are musicians. His father was drummer with the national Macedonian ensemble "Tanec," and his uncle also played tupan. Erhan regularly performs for weddings and other celebrations in the New York City area for his own community of Macedonian Roma as well as Bulgarian, Serbian, Turkish, Albanian, and Bosnian community celebrations. He is the leader of Amenet – a 6-piece Romani Band in New York. He plays accordion, keyboard and sings, and he has collaborated with guest musicians from the Balkans as well as with family members. Erhan has performed at the Annual California Roma Herdeljezi Festival with Yuri Yunakov in 2005 and 2006 and with Amenet in 2007.
Rumen Sali Shopov (percussion) is a Rom from Gotse Delchev, a crossroads town in Southwest Bulgaria near the borders with Greece and Macedonia, whose musical traditions he has mastered along with those of the local Bulgarians, Roma, and Turks. An astonishing musician on tambura (long-necked mandolin) and bouzouki, as well as an accomplished vocalist, trap drummer, and doumbek player, Rumen is also one of the greatest living exponents of the southern Bulgarian/northern Greek style of ceremonial and celebratory tapan. He was the concertmaster of the Nevrokopski Folk Ensemble, Bulgaria's first national folk ensemble, for more than 20 years, and led two of Southwest Bulgaria's hottest bands, Shturo Make and Orkestar Orbita, performing throughout the Balkans, Europe and Canada. He has played at five Herdeljezi Festivals with many bands, including with Yuri Yunakov, and at countless other VOR events. He has toured the U.S.; teaches at music and dance camps around California, all across America, and in Canada; and participates in many folk arts events throughout California, notably as tapan player at the annual Turkish Festival in Monterey and at Greek and Kurdish weddings. VOR produced Rumen’s first CD, “Soul of the Mahala,” in 2006
The Romani non-profit organization, Voice of RomaÕs ŮRomani RoutesÓ program.
Romani Routes is a project of Voice of Roma, a nonprofit organization based in Sebastopol, California. The aim of Romani Routes is to present the virtuosity of Romani musicians and the richness and depth of Romani music in a way that counteracts the hype of the mythologized ŮGypsyÓ. It is routine for presenters of sensationalized ŮGypsyÓ music and even traditional Romani music to surround those performances with half-truths and stereotypes about Roma and Romani culture. Furthermore, in an atmosphere of rampant prejudice and unfair discrimination against Roma, far too many presenters exploit Romani musicians unjustly. Voice of Roma, through Romani Routes, seeks to lead the way out of this situation by ensuring connections among the musicians, Romani culture, and the cause of Romani rights.
Tour information and bookings:
Sani Rifati, P.O. Box 514, Sebastopol, CA 95473
Tel: (707) 823-7941 email: firstname.lastname@example.org