Esme Redzepova, Boulevard Nightclub, London

4.00

Macedonia's presence in Britain is nowhere near as large as Poland's, but this is their national day, and it looks as if every Macedonian in town has come to see their country's most famous singer, Esme Redzepova, aka Queen of the Gypsies, bring a spectacular and intimate night of showmanship and soul to this R&B, house and hip-hop nightclub. The bouncers have never seen anything like it.

Packed on the Ealing club's little stage behind microphones with more reverb than a haunted house, the band warm up an enthusiastic audience with a couple of wild dance tunes before Redzepova makes her entrance in cocek costume – her red headscarf covered in a black veil for the gypsy lament of "Zaidi Zaidi", along with a red handkerchief to wipe a symbolic tear from each eye at the end. It's hammy, theatrical, ritualistic, yet still raises the hairs on the back of the neck.

Redzepova's six-strong band is made up of children she and her late husband adopted from the streets of Skopje and Belgrade – 47 in all, all grown up now. The band is led by the burly figure of accordion player and arranger Simeon Atanasov, once a six-year-old street kid with pneumonia, bronchitis and a slim chance of survival. With him are a clarinet player and trumpeter, who exchange instruments, even mouthpieces, to tease out melodic torrents midway through a Roma wedding tune, and a double bassist and guitarist keeping different calendars of time behind the accordion and brass.

The trumpeter gets a whack from Redzepova for wheeling into her space; he shoots back a look of boyish reproach, then plays himself back into favour, blowing softly around her in tandem with the clarinettist, their playing rising and falling subtly to her own supremely accomplished, powerfully emotive vocals.

There's no other instrument like Redzepova's voice, and the Boulevard can't contain it – the PA's sound resembles that of her recordings in Fifties Budapest. But the inventiveness and elegance of the set is breathtaking, with snatches of Balkan cabaret and showboating carrying familiar tunes off into unexpected detours that take you as near as you'll get to the spirit of a Roma wedding.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea