We are very sad to announce that Stéphane Karo, co-originator and musical director of Taraf de Haïdouks passed away on November 15 in Brussels. He was 56.
Originally a musician, Stéphane was a member of Des Airs in the early 80s (which also included Bob Vanderbob, Zap Mama co-founder Fanchon Nuyens and improv vocalist Catherine Jauniaux), then of a band called Les Djinns, and he also recorded with rock band Minimal Compact. In the late 80s, he heard about the Romanian village of Clejani and its dozens of extraordinary Roma musicians, and made the trip there with his friend Michel Winter, just before the fall of Ceaucescu.
The pair fell in love with the people of Clejani and their music, conceived the idea to create a permanent, 12-piece band which blended various instrumental and vocal styles, and worked hard to bring the newly-christened Taraf de Haïdouks to Western Europe, where they recorded their first album in 1990 for Crammed Discs. The rest is history: Taraf de Haïdouks became the leading Balkan Gypsy band worldwide and -under Karo & Winter’s guidance- opened many doors for a wave of Roma bands in the following years. Taraf de Haïdouks went on to record and release 7 more albums (the latest being “Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts” in 2015), all for Crammed Discs, and all under Stéphane Karo’s musical direction. Meanwhile, Stéphane (and Michel) had also discovered and started working with bands such as the Koçani Orkestar and Mahala Raï Banda.
Stéphane was married with Margareta Manole (daughter, sister, cousin to many of the Taraf’s musicians), whom he met during his first visit to Clejani. Their story inspired filmmaker Tony Gatlif to write his acclaimed movie “Gadjo Dilo”. He was an extraordinary person, an extravagant, inspired prince of sorts, loved and admired by everyone who crossed his path. He was buried in Brussels on Sat. 19 Nov, accompanied by a crowd of friends and fans, and by the sound of several members of Taraf de Haïdouks, who came from Romania for the occasion. He will be sorely missed by many. Or thoughts are with his wife Margareta and his daughters Sarah, Elza and Norah.
If there is any sweet memory or anecdote you would like to share with us, feel free to add a little comment. We will not stop here, concerts will still be organized, stay put !