Khamoro Festival celebrates 10th anniversary in Prague

30-05-2008

The Khamoro Festival is an international Romany Festival held in Prague each year. This year saw the 10th anniversary of the event, which features Romany performers and musicians from around the world, celebrating their rich cultural heritage with a packed programme of performances. One of the highlights is a vibrant procession of dancing and music which winds its colourful way from Mustek to Old Town Square. Jamie Brindley followed the procession yesterday.

The Khamoro Festival this year features exhibitions, film marathons and even flamenco seminars. One of the main and most popular events, however, is the annual Romany parade from Wenceslas Square to Old Town Square. Dozens of Romany dancers and performers yesterday wound their way through the heart of the Czech capital, entertaining bystanders and delighting fans who had turned out to see them.

The performers were waiting and waving flags as I arrived at Mustek on Prague's Wenceslas Square. Trumpets, violins and guitars were being given a final tune-up and some of the brightly-clothed Romany children were posing for photos. Right on 12 noon, the music kicked into full swing, and the procession was alive with dancing, colour and a lively, rowdy mix of instruments, singing and clapping.

I walked alongside, as did many other bystanders and fans, but soon found myself walking amongst the procession, surrounded by dancing girls and men playing every instrument imaginable, from an accordion to a set of pan-pipes. The Romany performers were all dressed in traditional dress; girls with bright red and multi-coloured flowing skirts and men in waistcoats and shirts. On the way to the Old Town Square, I got a brief chance to speak to the "Queen of the Gypsies" Esma Redzepova as she sat in her horse drawn carriage waving at fans and admirers at the front of the procession:

"My name is Esma Redzepova Teodosijevska, from Macedonia."

And how come you are riding in the carriage today?

"Because I am queen of the gypsies. I am happy today."

Esma is not only famous within the gypsy community, indeed she has released 20 albums, performed in 30 countries, and her music was even used in Sacha Baron Cohen's hit 2006 film, Borat!

As well as the queen in her carriage there was also the chance to speak to another couple of performers, this time a flamenco group who had come from the Spanish city of Sevilla:

"Oh yeah, I am always enjoying myself, even under stress. Well, that's the idea, just look at these guys. Ask him if he's enjoying himself!"

How are you doing? How are you enjoying yourself?

"I'm loving it, man. Look at it. Look at it, it's fantastic."

So this is the tenth year for Khamoro, have you been here all ten times?

"No, this is our third time. It's the festivals' tenth anniversary, but it's our group’s third appearance here."

And can you say who you are and where you are from?

"Yes I'm Andrej from the Spanish Flamenco group Puerto Flamenco."

The high-profile nature of many of the acts has been given as one of the main reasons more younger people from the Romany community are turning out to watch and get involved, in comparison to previous years when numbers weren't so high. At any rate, the Khamoro Festival certainly seems to enchant and entertain, even if many of the people who saw the procession yesterday were just slightly surprised tourists fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová

30-05-2008