Balkan music maestro Bregovic sets up Roma education fund

Goran Bregovic, one of the most famous musicians in the Balkans, said Monday he would create a foundation to help talented Bosnian Roma get music education.

"I cannot solve all (Roma) problems, but we are setting up a foundation that will help talented Roma who want to enrol in music schools," Bregovic told reporters.

The foundation named "Gorica" -- after a traditionally Roma-populated suburb in Sarajevo -- will start with a fund-raiser and a concert in the Bosnian capital on December 19.

Bregovic, 63, whose latest album "Champagne For Gypsies" was a tribute to "Great Roma", and several musicians from the former Yugoslavia will take part in the concert.

Sarajevo-born Bregovic said his foundation would initially support Roma children living in the Bosnian capital, hoping to expand it later across the country.

"You cannot help Roma if you do not give them education, because only an educated man is a free man and this is the biggest problem among the Roma," Bregovic said.

Nearly 100,000 Roma live in Bosnia, a former Yugoslav republic with a population of 3.8 million.

According to United Nations data, only 20 percent of Roma children attend elementary school.

And only five or six Roma children attend music schools, Bregovic said.

He said that "for centuries, Roma have left beautiful traces in European culture".

"There is no composer, (Ludwig van) Beethoven, (Franz) Liszt, whose music was not at least sometimes under the influence of Roma music," Bregovic said.

Often described as the greatest rock star in the Balkans, Bregovic rose to international fame and acclaim after producing the soundtrack for Serbian director Emir Kusturica's award-winning 1995 film "Underground".

His compositions have made him well-known beyond the former Yugoslavia and brought Balkan and Roma, or gypsy music to an international audience.

Bregovic, who left the former Yugoslavia in 1992, now lives in France and Serbia. He has been touring the world with his Weddings and Funerals Band, founded in 1997, which groups a number of Roma musicians.