Inducted - Las Vegas 1976
Martin Kapugi was born in 1910 in Chicago, Illinois. There he spent most of his life, with the exception of several years when his parent took him to their native Yugoslavia. There he attended school, learning the native language, customs, and folklore. It became a real asset to him in later years pursuing his music career.
After returning to the United States, he lived in West Virginia, playing the banjo and saxophone, but soon turned to the tamburitza (brac). Since then he became a major figure in Yugoslavian and ethnic music as a singer and brac and cello player. As a singer, it is difficult to describe his voice ... an effortless strong tenor that has thrilled and inspired all who have heard him. There is no better description than "Yoy!" He formed his first tamburitza orchestra in 1929, with his brothers joining him in Chicago. In his orchestra he had many outstanding musicians such as Art Milacek, Vaso Bukvich, Djoko Dokich, Mel Dokich, Matt Jursich, and Bella Balog to mention a few.
He began his teaching career as the mentor of his brothers, Frank, Louis, and Adam, and he taught young tamburitzans since 1950. He did much to encourage Yugoslavian youth and to keep the tamburitza alive in America. Several currently well-known tambura players began their career as Marty's pupils.
In the late 1940s and 50s, his orchestra established a nightclub known as "The Tamburitza Cafe", featuring his tamburitza orchestra. Their music included Yugoslav and other continental styles, as well as light classics. Among many distinguished guests, Tamburitza Cafe was frequently visited by members of the famous Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In the late 1950s, Marty and his tamburitzans performed weekly for a radio program over radio station WTAQ. The program was called "The Balkan Musical Caravan", and was under the direct sponsorship of the Balkan Music Company of Chicago. The announcer was the well known, international music program director, Rudy Orisek. Rudy Orisek's "International Cafe" television show featured Marty's orchestra in solo performances as well as the accompaniment for internationally renowned artists, such as Martha Schlame, Judy Henske, the well known gypsy violinist David Romaine, and many more.
Marty's work is preserved in his many recordings; so numerous, in fact, that it would be difficult to list them all. He made recordings for RCA Victor, Decca, Continental, Columbia, and Zora, but his favorite company was and still is Balkan Records. Besides his own recordings, he accompanied well known Yugoslavian artists such as Vinka Ellesin (crowned 'Queen of Sevdah'), Edo Lubich, Rasha Radenkovich, Urash Seferovich, and many more. He also arranged several Yugoslav songs, among them his favorite "Nema Miga Cange", recorded on Balkan Records.
Marty and his tamburitza orchestra toured the United States several times, concertizing with many famous musicians, such as the late Dave Zupkovich. The friends and fans he made during these tours still cherish his recordings.
Besides being a conscientious tamburas, Marty is also, as his many affectionate friends insist, a 'regular guy'. Besides being kind, good-natured, and helpful, he belongs to several Yugoslav clubs and other organizations. He was the first tamburas in the Chicago area that joined the musicians' union, and he was a member of the defunct Chicago Tamburitza Club.
Presently, besides teaching young tamburitza orchestras, Marty plays for many Yugoslav programs, dances, weddings, and picnics. Members of his group are his brother Frank Kapugi, Urosh Mamula, and Steve Makarovich. Marty Kapugi and his "Sar Planina Orchestra" have done a truly extraordinary job in bringing tamburitza music to many Americans of varied ethnic backgrounds. His work will not be forgotten for many years to come.
Congratulations, Marty, on a job well done.
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