brass liberation orchestra

Romani Traffic Jam

Sali Rumen Shopov is collaborating 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 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.” This collaboration will infuse traditional brass band processional music with contemporary rhythms, dance, and music. Sali Shopov is a renowned Rom artist from a crossroads town 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—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, bouzouki, and doumbek, and his prowess as a vocalist. Founded in 1996, Voice of Roma presents 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.

This project is made possible by a Creative Work Fund Grant from the Walter and Elise Haas Fund.



Ruman 'Sali' Shopov Ruman 'Sali' Shopov
Rumen "Sali" Shopov

Brass Liberation Orchestra - @ HONK Festival, 2008


Voice of Roma

Founded in 1996, VOR's mission is to promote and 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. VOR works to heighten awareness of human rights issues faced by today's Roma, and support Roma efforts to (re)build and maintain their communities, improve their lives, and strengthen the Romani voice nationally and internationally. We are a nonprofit cultural arts organization based in Sebastopol, California, that challenges long-standing prejudices, oppression and stereotypes. In the past two years VOR attracted more than 15,000 Roma and Gadje (non-Roma) annually to our range of artistic and educational events. Our small staff, active board members, and over 150 volunteers contribute hundreds of hours to VOR each year, helping us strengthen Roma identity and build multicultural understanding through music, dance, traditional crafts, educational and humanitarian programs.

Rumen "Sali" Shopov

Rumen "Sali" Shopov is a master Turkish-Romani drummer, singer, and string-player from Goce Delchev, Bulgaria, a crossroads town in the Pirin Mountain region that hosts a rich intersection of Bulgarian, Macedonian, Greek, and Turkish musical influences. Rumen has performed and toured with the Nevrokopski Folk Ensemble, Yuri Yunakov and his Romani Wedding Band, Edessa, Ziyia, Kitka, Ivan Milev, Chris Bajmakovic, Ismail Lumanovski, Frank London, Eugene Hutz (Gogol Bordello), and many others. A charismatic and patient teacher, Rumen has taught at the Eastern European Folklife Center's Balkan Music and Dance Workshops, Berkeley's JazzSchool, UC Berkeley, University of Oregon, Eugene; The College of Santa Fe, Kosmos World Music and Dance Camp, World Camp, Stockton Camp, Balkanalia, and at other universities and cultural centers throughout the US and Canada. Since 2003, Rumen has been artist-in-residence with Voice of Roma, a humanitarian aid and cultural organization based in Sebastopol, California. In 2006, Voice of Roma released "Soul of the Mahala" a CD featuring performances by Rumen and his son, Angel.

Rumen is the recipient of grants from the Creative Work Fund, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, Creative Capital MAP Fund, and The National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fund for Folk Culture.

The Brass Liberation Orchestra

The Brass Liberation Orchestra (B.L.O.) has performed primarily in the streets since 2002, establishing itself as a well known Bay Area musical group of brass, reeds and percussion that helps build a society that respects all cultures and promotes cross-cultural understanding. B.L.O. is an all volunteer, diverse group of cultural workers who have come together to use music as a political tool for social change. Recently, nominated by the SF Bay Guardian as the Bay area‘s Best Street Performance Band, the BLO performs approximately four times each month, mostly on the streets as a way to engage, inspire and support those who are fighting on the front lines for a more just society. By drawing on a rich musical repertoire from around the world, such as the folk music of Italian political movements, US civil rights groups, workers unions, Central American freedom songs, Nigerian Afro-beat, New Orleans second line traditions, and the vibrant music of the Roma, the BLO moves people to dance, sing and join together to fight for a better world.