We are a group of women putting a contemporary spin on music from Eastern Europe, a region generally known as the Balkans. The music is unique to the western ear in that it uses odd time signatures as well as eastern scales and tonalities. Rumelia’s repertoire is derived from the traditional and popular tunes of Albania, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, and Bulgaria with a little Sephardic and a lot of Roma (Gypsy) music thrown in for good measure.
The band’s sound consists of intricate vocal harmonies, violin, accordion, a little clarinet, guitar, and the occassional ukelele, accompanied by traditional balkan percussion.
A mix between Beirut and Balkan Beat Box blended with Slavic Soul Party; imagine an Eastern European Bob Dylan with a couple of street musicians in Istanbul—then turn them all into women. We’re Rumelia! The band’s name comes from the word “Rumeli” or “Land of the Romans,” a Turkish word used to describe the Southern Balkan Region.
Sitara Schauer studied Western classical violin and fiddle since the age of 7. She became enthralled with Arabic and Gypsy violin music and now performs with several local ensembles and musicians. Her love of folk music and crooked fiddle tunes lead her to Balkan music. For Sitara, every day is spent playing and teaching music to people of all ages. Nicolle Jensen, percussion and vocals, has studied with Polly Tapia Ferber, attended the Eastern European Folklife Center’s Music and Dance Camp in Mendocino, and completed a degree in music and art from the College of Santa Fe. She has travelled to Spain and Morocco to pursue further musical study. Deborah Ungar, accordion and clarinet, studied music at San Diego State University, Washington State University, Aspen Music Festival, and the Eastern European Folklife Center’s Music and Dance Camp. While teaching piano at the College of Santa Fe and playing in the school’s Balkan/Middle Eastern Ensemble several years ago, she fell in love with the music of the Balkans and has been studying and performing with various groups in Santa Fe ever since.