The musical wealth of rural Roma communities

26-02-2004

With the recent violent clashes over social welfare reforms, the Roma villages of rural Slovakia have hit the headlines with images of poverty and squalor, but this is only one side of the story. These settlements are also the cultural heartland of Roma throughout Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and also the only place where their traditional musical culture survives. Many Czech Roma have roots in these rural communities, which provide the musical inspiration for such well-known Czech Romany singers as Vera Bila and Ida Kelarova. In this Sunday's edition of our music programme "Magic Carpet", Petr Doruzka will be playing music from an extraordinary CD. It's called "Phurikane gila" or Ancient Romany Songs and was the inspiration of the Slovak ethnologist, Jana Belisova. For the first time it brings together traditional songs from these Roma settlements. Here's Petr Doruzka with more.

"I find the CD very special, because, first, it's like if you open a window to a Gypsy house and see the family singing together, then you see that these people are singing in a different way than I would sing - if I could do it - there is much emotion, there is so much valuable detail - every syllable has its own story, in both the words and the music. So it's a completely new musical world, which it's worth exploring.

"I think there was a very important shift in the past ten years, when non-Gypsy people discovered Gypsy music, and then the Gypsies discovered that their music is in demand. There are so many new bands, which are actually playing something different - sometimes they are mixing Gypsy music with funk or rhythm and blues. One of the biggest sources of inspiration for them is Stevie Wonder. He's a black singer, but if you want the tradition to evolve, you have to mix it somehow and update it. So I think this is just a transitional time, when the Gypsies are finding a new identity, and I hope something very new will come out of it in the next five years."

26-02-2004