Yuri Yunakov and his Romani Wedding Band


Saturday, October 6, 2007  - 8 pm


This high energy music, once banned by the Soviets, blends the kick of rock, the fluidity of jazz and the joyous exuberance of a Balkan wedding.


Yuri Yunakov (saxophone) pioneered “Bulgarian Romani Wedding Music” along with Ivo Papazov and Neshko Neshev in the 1970s and was then catapulted to international fame. Their incredibly thrilling music showcases virtuosi technique, electrifying improvisation, rapid tempos, daring key changes and eclectic musical literacy.   This contemporary style of "wedding music", named for its ubiquitous presence at life cycle celebrations such as weddings, baptisms, and circumcisions where dancing and music are a requirement, was originally played only for, with, and by Roma (“Gypsies”).


The “Romani Wedding Music Goes Global” fall 2007 U.S. tour is produced by the Romani non-profit organization, Voice of Roma’s “Romani Routes” program dedicated to educating audiences about the music and culture of the Romani people.


The Band includes the rising star Selaidin “Sal” Mamudoski on clarinet, Severdjan Azirov on percussion, Kujtim Ismailov on bass and Muhamed Ismailov on accordion and keyboard.





Pittsburgh Brew House, 2100 Mary Street (Southside off Carson St and 21st Street – Look for the Big Clock – that’s it!) – seating and dance space.


Admission at the door - $10; $8 for students (to age 22)  and seniors




About the Musicians


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.


Selaidin (Sal) Mamudoski (clarinet) was born in 1988 in New York. His Romani family includes a long line of musicians from Sutka and Prilep, Macedonia. He started playing clarinet when he was eleven-years-old, taking lessons from Yuri Yunakov. Only seventeen now, Sal has been playing professionally at Romani weddings in the New York area for two years and is identified by Yunakov as one of the rising stars of Romani virtuosi clarinetists..

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.

About the Music


The ensemble performs Slavic and Romani (Gypsy) music from the Balkan countries of Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey in southeastern Europe.  This music is renowned for its haunting melodies, dense ornamentation, complex rhythms, and stunning improvisations.  The region’s geography and politics have blended influences from both East and West, including modern jazz and rock, rural and urban folk styles.  This music’s popularity is now exploding beyond the Balkans, gaining enthusiastic audiences and critical acclaim in Western Europe, Canada, Australia and the U.S.