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Eva Salina's Love For Balkan Music Is Lifelong — And Accidental

Eva Salina's new album is called <em>Lema Lema: Eva Salina Sings Saban Bajramovic</em>.
Eva Salina's new album is called <em>Lema Lema: Eva Salina Sings Saban Bajramovic</em>.

Eva Salina has Dutch and Jewish roots and hails from a quiet California beach town — but musically, she's traveled a path far afield from her upbringing. The Santa Cruz native says she was headed in quite a different direction when she stumbled into a love for traditional Balkan vocal music.

"I was interested, always, in other cultures, and someone gave me a tape of some Yiddish songs," she says. "I was 7 years old, and I taught myself all of those songs. My parents, in their desire to encourage my interest, looked around for someone who might be able to teach me, and when the search for a Yiddish singing teacher came up dry, they stumbled upon a young woman who grew up in Hawaii and had been singing Balkan music for 15 years at that point."

Salina grew up into a modern interpreter of Balkan styles. Her new album, Lema Lema: Eva Salina Sings Saban Bajramovic, pays tribute to a late musician whose story is shrouded in mystery and urban legend. She joined NPR's Rachel Martin to talk about it; hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

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