The Roma and the Jews–Romani Music


The music of the Romani people is as joyful and as sorrowful and ultimately as engaging as the history of Romani themselves. Romani music exists in most parts of the Western world, yet there is no one definitive “Romani” sound; everywhere Romani musicians appear they have substantial, sometimes even a foundational influence on the music of that place, yet Romani musicians always remain just an arms-length apart. While one may be tempted to envision Romani all bands as playing violins, accordions and horns, true instrumentation varies from country to country. While listeners may be most familiar with Romani music that’s frenetic and its rhythms infections; it can also be–sometimes at the exact same moment–plaintive, full of yearning, and deeply sad. n that way, perhaps Romani music isn’t as much of “a sound” as “a sense.”Â

Traveling Roma have served as an in-person vehicle for the organic musical fusion of East and West. Below we’ll touch upon just a few of the Western nations the Romani and their music have infused with an Eastern flair.

— Romania:
Romani have traditionally worked as professional musicians in Romania, performing at baptisms, weddings, funerals and every festive occasion in between. There are many riveting Romanian-Romani bands such as Taraf de Haïdouks (“band of brigands”) from the village of Clejani, which is known for producing musicians who excel on stringed
instruments and Fanfare Ciocărlia from the village of Zece Prajini, which has a reputation for generating astounding horn players, and Shukar Collective, which blends Romani music with electronic instruments and modern beats.

— Hungary:
Romani musicians have had a substantial influence on the music of Transylvania, which was under Hungarian rule for a millennium. The multi-generational ensemble Kalyi Yag perform traditional Hungarian Romani music, while groups like Besh O Drom consciously fuse Romani music with genres from around the world.Â

— Spain
The Spanish Romani (gitanos) are widely credited with adding Indian/kathak sensibility to an Adalusian style called flamenco, which has helped make it one of the world’s most popular music genres. The most widely known Romani-influenced flamenco band is Gypsy Kings. (The Romani relationship to flamenco: separating myth from reality.)

— Turkey:
Turkish Romani are famous for their musicianship, but they maintain a fairly low standard of living. Traditionally many of Istanbul’s Romani dwelled in Istanbul’s Sulukule neighborhood, the oldest continuous Romani settlement in the world, which Istanbul’s government has been demolishing in the name of redevelopment. Many Turkish Romani musicians perform in the fasil style, like clarinetist Mustafa Kandirali.

Romani ensembles and musicians have also had substantial influence in many other countries, such as Bulgaria (Yuri Yunakov), Russia (the Kolpakov Trio), the Czech Republic (Vera Bila and Kale) and even, to come full circle, in India, where the Rajastani band Musafir calls itself “proto-Gypsy” and claims to be channeling the original spirit of the Roma in Rajastan. Members of the world’s most prominent gypsy bands, Gogol

Bordello, originally hail from Ukraine, Russia, Israel, Ethiopia, Ecuador and even the USA. Fittingly, the band is based in New York’s Lower East Side.

More information:
The Rough Guide to the Music of the Romanian Gypsies | More about the Roma music and people | A global must-have of Romani CDs | Romani guitarist Django Reinhardt revolutionized jazz

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