Selaedin “Sal” Mamudoski is an American artist of Macedonian-Roma descent. Born in New York City, New York in 1988, Sal’s musical journey began in a small apartment on Belmont Avenue in the Bronx, New York. It was here Sal would gaze at his father’s clarinet. Sal’s father, Sevim, worked as an electrician and played clarinet in the family home.
Near the age of five, Sal became drawn to the sound of his father’s clarinet. Everyone in the family could not help but notice Sal’s attachment. Sal was too small to hold or even play the instrument, but it did not stop him from trying. Although Sevim’s clarinet was forbidden, Sal nonetheless was often caught in his parent’s bedroom opening his father’s clarinet case.
Sevim eventually yielded to his son’s passion for music but decided first to start Sal on Darbuka (hand drum). Sal excelled on percussion, but by the time young Sal entered elementary school, he pleaded with his father to play clarinet. Sevim finally relented and relinquished his once forbidden instrument.
Empowered with the clarinet in his hands, Sal played every moment he could – from the second he came home from school until it was time for bed, no matter how many tenants yelled or banged on the walls. Ironically, one of those tenants would be his greatest teachers, Mr. Yuri Yunakov.
During the time Sal entered middle school he moved to live with his grandparents in Yonkers, New York. In Yonkers, Sal had the luxury of practicing music in his own room. At the age of eleven, Sal joined the Mark Twain Middle School Concert Band. Sal’s teachers and peers quickly noticed Sal possessed an incredible and innate musical talent.
At school, Sal learned all the classical standards. At home, Sal began to play the music which was ingrained in his DNA –Balkan and eastern music. Sal focused primarily on Bulgarian-Rom folk music. At the time, Sal was most heavily influenced by one sensational album, entitled “Ivo Papasov and his Bulgarian Wedding Band.” The Ivo Papasov ensemble was comprised of world-renowned Bulgarian-Rom musicians. Ivo Papasov led this ensemble on clarinet. Yuri Yunakov was the saxophonist for the group. Ironically, Yunakov lived in the same Bronx, NY apartment complex and knew of Sal and his family.
Sal became obsessed with the Ivo Papasov album. He studied each song, each improvisational solo, and the intricacies of Ivo and Yuri’s fingerings. As Sal matured, he began to “wow” his parents, family, and friends with his ability to play some of the impossible Ivo Papasov leads and solos.
At only the age of fifteen, Sal started to gain notoriety in his local community. He began to receive calls for weddings, parties, and various events. Soon Sal’s calendar, as a young high school student, became full. Sal started to gain a reputation among his community in the United States and abroad. By sixteen he was invited to play his first wedding overseas in Bitola, Macedonia. The locals of Bitola were astonished to witness an American born clarinetist with no formal training who understood their repertoire at a very high level.
While Sal continued his musical journey in high school with the Lincoln High School Concert Band, by the time he graduated he had become overwhelmed with the demand in his local community. Upon graduating Sal focused exclusively on Balkan and Bulgarian folk music.
At the age of 19, Sal caught his first big break. Sal had caught the attention of virtuoso saxophonist, Yuri Yunakov. In 2007, the Voice of Roma organization announced a 27-show US- tour across 20 states. The tour featured the famous Ivo Papasov Ensemble. Just before the tour began, Papasov experienced unexpected health issues and could not attend.
As fate would have it, Sal would be approached by none other than one his heroes, Yuri Yunakov. Yunakov first came to know Sal as the kid playing clarinet in his neighboring Bronx apartment. Yuri could not have helped but take notice of Sal as he matured into a young man. Yunakov arranged a meeting with Sal and proposed that he stand in for Papasov for the tour. Sal was in disbelief at the proposal, feeling unprepared and even sick! Yunakov, however, is an individual who does not take “no” for an answer, and he inspired a then timid Sal with his charisma, convincing him that he did, in fact, possess the ability to stand in for Papasov on tour. When the tour was finished, Sal gained further acclaim and additional opportunities presented themselves.
Yunakov came to love Sal like his own son. Sal became Yunakov’s prized protégé, studying and performing exclusively with Yunakov for the next ten (10) years. Yunakov teamed with Sal and the duo formed the “Grand Master’s Of Gypsy Music Ensemble,” entertaining thousands of people at concerts, festivals, and weddings throughout the United States. Yunakov not only passed his musical knowledge onto Sal – he also passed on his life experiences. Sal loves and respects Yunakov as his musical “father” and the duo continue to play together today.
The next chapter in Sal’s musical career involved his interest in Turkish music, a never-ending endeavor. Turkish music is the foundation among almost all Rom who lived in countries once under Ottoman rule. Rom from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, and other countries grew up with Turkish “standards.” After Ivo Papasov was played on cassette, a Romani house would often be heard with the sounds of Mustafa Kandıralı and later with the sounds of Vassilis Saleas or Hüsnü Senlendirici.
Sal began to receive calls for work in Turkish restaurants. Although Sal had a strong foundation in Turkish music, he yearned to gain a higher degree of knowledge. Specifically, Sal became interested learning more about Turkish maqams. This proved especially difficult considering maqams are learned in Turkey and Sal was geographic located in New York.
Sal began performing with different musicians in Turkish restaurants. He began expanding his repertoire and reputation. He began learning more about Turkish music while playing on stage.Sal was also heavily influenced by Caner Tokgozol. Tokgozol, a musical graduate of Ankara University, is well-versed in various genres of Turkish music and schooled in the Turkish maqams. Tokgozol was struck by Sal’s raw talent and was surprised to learn the New York native had not just arrived from overseas. Meeting Tokgozol was an awakening for Sal, who was able to learn more about maqams.
In 2012, Sal was invited to teach at the East Coast Balkan Music Camp in Iroquois Springs, Rock Hill, NY. Sal demonstrated patience with his students, who were responded well to his calming demeanor. It was a great feeling for Sal to share his musical magic with others who were passionate about the clarinet. He was invited back to the Balkan Camp on three consecutive occasions. After this experience, Sal began to receive calls from individuals who wanted clarinet lessons. He gained a tremendous following and at one point was teaching over 25 students.
It was at this time Sal made an important transition from the Bb Boehm system to the much rarer, G Albert system. G clarinets were first played by masters like Şükrü Tunar and were fashioned due to a need to sight read notes without transposing. G clarinets became the chosen clarinet by those in Turkey. In recent years the G clarinet gained popularity among Balkan-Romani clarinetists. The transition took place through one of Sal’s students who approached him wanting to learn about the G clarinet. The more he taught his student, the more enchanted he became with the instrument and the more he desired to conquer it.
When Sal was approaching the age of 30, he embarked on his solo career. He joined forces with many different artists in the United States, Europe and the Middle East with very well-known artists from Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia, and the Middle East. Sal has performed on stages such as the New York Apollo Theater, Lincoln Center, Central Park Summer Stage,Symphony Space, Blue Note, Iridium, Club Bonafide, Merkin Hall, Joes Pub, Drom and many more. To Europe to the Middle East sharing his unique sound to the audience/people all around the world.
“Klarnet-Ché” is Sal Mamudoski’s inaugural, solo album – a work that contains jazz, funk, flamenco, Latin, Balkan, Middle Eastern, Gypsy and Turkish genres. “Klarinet-Ché” is a product of Sal’s unique environment and the musical genres that influenced him growing up in New York City as a Macedonian-Roma.
“Klarnet,” as it is spelled in Turkish, and “Ché,” a Macedonian declension signifying endearment, admiration, or love. This album embodies Sal’s love of the clarinet and his musical upbringing.