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Bilal was born in 1983 from a gipsy clan, the “Doms”, that Gadjos (non-gypsies) call the “Nawar”.

As his family travels throughout the Middle East, grown up men play instruments and sing and women dance and tell good fortune. As for young boys, they work in shoeshine in large cities such as Damascus, Beirut and Istanbul.

It was in 1997 that Michel Elefteriades met Bilal, who was working as a shoeshine boy in the same street as Elefteriades’ office. Bilal was just 14 years old, and Elefteriades was instantly attracted to his powerful voice that was declaiming a Gipsy song while he worked for a client on the sidewalk. Michel started the education of Bilal who was utterly illiterate as he had never been to school. He gave him the necessary skills and assets to enable him to put up with both the stress and responsibilities of future stardom.

In 2002, Bilal started giving concerts and appeared as guest in the biggest shows of the Arab satellite networks. The peak of his success story was his appearance at the Baalbeck Festival (the most prestigious in the Arab world). Bilal’s recordings will include, for the first time in history, songs in the gipsy tongue known as Domari, a language very close to Romani, as Bilal was able to communicate with his Rom cousins from Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, each one speaking in his own mother tongue.

Bilal is not only an artist. He is also fighting for the recognition of his people who are still living in the worst conditions one could imagine. Results of his struggle are starting to show, as a lot of people realise that the Nawar (Gipsies) have a rich cultural heritage that deserves our respect.

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