The Republic of Macedonia is a diverse country, with a Slav Macedonian majority (65%) and a large Albanian minority (25%), and Turks, Cincars, Gypsies, Greeks and Serbs. The ethnic Macedonian majority have only been recognised as a distinct ethnic group since the end of World War II, and their music remains a mixture of multiple styles from Turkey, Albania and other neighbouring countries.
Macedonian folk songs are often historical in nature, with lyrics detailing great heroes and warriors, though love songs are also common. The music of Eastern Europe are known for complex rhythms, and Macedonian music exemplifies this trait. Folk songs like "Pominis li libe Todoro" can be as complex as 22/16, played as 2-2-3-2-2-3-2-2-2-2. Old-fashioned musicians also have a distinctive characteristic of stretching out the beats to add tension to the notes.
The gajda bagpipe was the most common folk instrument, but has now become an instrument for concert recitation, drawing on recent legends like Pece Atanasovski, leader of the Radio Skopje ensemble Ansaml na Narodni Instrumenti, as the source of modern tradition. Other instruments include:
Supelka -- small flute
Cemane -- three-stringed fiddle
Tambura -- strummed string instrument
Zurla -- large oboe
Tapan -- cylindrical drum
Kaval -- rim-blown flute
Macedonian folk orchestras consist of a clarinet or saxophone, drum kit, bass guitar, accordion and guitar, sometimes with modern synthesisers and drum machines. These orchestras are very popular, and include virtuoso musicians like Skender Ameti on accordion and Miroslav Businovski on clarinet. Newly-composed folk songs, often with a ballad-like tone, are also popular, especially Vaska Ilieva and Aleksander Sarievski. Local rock and roll bands like Leb i Sol also have a following, and have include folk elements in their compositions.
Calgia is an urban style, calgia is played by bands (calgii) with a def (tambourine) and tarabuka (hourglass drum) providing percussion for ut (lute), kanun (zither), clarinet and violin. Though modern musicians have updated the calgia into a spectrum of hard and soft, classical and pop sounds, some traditional musicians remain. Perhaps the most influential of recent years was Tale Ognenovski, who plays a wide variety of traditional and modern sounds.
Macedonia has a large Gypsy minority, many of whom are professional musicians. Long oppressed and forced into certain menial occupations, Gypsies are, in many places, the only local professional performers. Gypsy orchestras typically contain electric guitars and other modern instruments. Popular Gypsy musicians include Esma Redzepova, Ferus Mustafov and Stevo Teodosievski.