Saban Bajramovic | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Saban Bajramovic

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When it comes to Rom music, you can't get much realer than Serbian vocalist Saban Bajramovic. His earthy, expressive songs celebrate the passions of the Rom and lament their persecution, and his delivery ranges from teary-eyed but controlled to reckless and inflamed. Born in 1936 (to the best of anyone's knowledge), Bajramovic attended four years of primary school before turning to music, and at 19 went AWOL from his mandatory military service to chase a girl; during his subsequent jail term he played goalie for the prison's soccer team and sang with its orchestra. When his first single, cut in 1964, became an immediate success, he bought a white Mercedes and a white suit, hired a couple of bodyguards, and blew the rest of his money gambling. Since then he's toured internationally and released dozens of records; despite his illiteracy he claims to have written as many as 650 songs. Beginning in the 90s his music began to reach an audience broader than his Rom fan base thanks to the films of Emir Kusturica: Serbian pop star Goran Bregovic borrowed recklessly from Bajramovic's style on the sound tracks to Time of the Gypsies and Underground, and in 1998 Bajramovic himself appeared on the sound track to Black Cat, White Cat. (Most of his recordings have been quickies, dashed off for fly-by-night labels, but in 2001 he released an album on World Connection that's still widely available.) Many of his tunes have become Balkan classics, and you can bet there'll be plenty of eastern European immigrants in the crowd at HotHouse--and that they'll be singing along. This is the first time Bajramovic has played a Chicago venue that advertises to the general public, and considering his age, I wouldn't miss him lightly. Thursday, June 17, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

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