"Wings of Gipsy" festival takes off

19-10-2006

Roma, or gypsies as they're sometimes known, are known for their talent as musicians. This week the city of Pilsen plays host to a new festival showcasing Roma music. We sent reporter Ilya Marritz, who found out they aren't making songs the way they used to.

It's the opening Morning of the first ever Wings of Gipsy festival in Pilsen. I'm standing just outside the main doors of the House of Culture, and the hall is packed with members of Pilsen's Roma community, and with school groups. That's because this is the first day of the festival is dedicated to young performers and young people. And if these performers are anything to go by, the new generation of Roma musicians is forsaking brass bands and stomp-your feet music for pop and hip hop

10 year old Stepan and 13 year old Martin perform under the name Beat Box. As they strut around the stage wearing oversized tracksuits and gold jewelry, they look like rappers from a music video who've been mysteriously shrunken into the bodies of pre-adolescents.

Appearances aside, their skill is impressive. Consider that the only instruments the boys of Beatbox use are their own mouths.

The crowd goes crazy for Stepan and Martin, which is encouragement to 22 year old Michal Miko, a Roma from nearby Rokycany.

"The point for this festival was there in Pilsen is very big community of skinheads and the Roma in Pilsen are attacking by them so it was try to do this festival...I hope that the majority will be know something about the Romany culture, will be know something about the Romany language, will be know something about the Roma history...because when when you are in school you cannot learn something from bookcases because there is no information about Roma!"

Marketa from Pilsen: "Czech people white and Rom? I think that isn't good. Many white Czech people hate them. I think that it's good this action because Czech people can realize that they are normal people."

For this fifteen year old performer, anyway, it's normal to sing pop songs in the Roma language.

"I'm Vera Berkyova. These days I sing, and I think I'll keep singing until the end of my life. Of course I sing Roma songs in addition to pop ballads, but I'm better able to perform songs from the artists I grew up with. Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, my idols then and now. But of course I am a Roma and I'd never deny my Roma heritage."

The "Wings of Gypsy Festival" continues through Saturday at Pilsen's Kulturni Dum, or House of Culture.

19-10-2006

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