so i am presenting a paper on Roma music in april at the popular culture association's national conference...
yeah, a social historian presenting at a popular culture conference...i know nothing about popular culture....i live in a cave. but since one of my areas is Romani music, i think i can pull it off....
most of you know how i feel about Eugene Hutz (i'd get carnal with him), so i am taking the opportunity to bring him into my academic world. :)
anyway, i've become quite interested in Turner's theory of liminality and how it can be applied to "Gypsy" music. Roma, musically, tend to acculturate in the regions where they settle, therefore no one distinct “Gypsy Music” exists. the history of Roma nomadic lifestyle entangles the lyrical and percussionist roots of the borders they have crossed resulting in a blending of styles such as French jazz, American punk, Hungarian urban, Turkish rock, Serbian brass, and Spanish flamenco. contemporary performers, many recently freed by the censorship of communism, are changing the public face of Gypsy music from entertainment to the beat of resistance, social responsibility, culture, empowerment, and a reverberating call for action. we (gadje - non-Roma) listen and lose ourselves in the "Gypsiness" of the music... it represents the things we long to be (as false as that interpretation is): nomadic, free, romantic, sensual.... this paradoxical relation is understood by the idea of projecting socially unacceptable parts of the self onto others – the ‘strangers within’ – the Gypsy. it is this desire within the self that creates a connection between the gadje and the Gypsy performer, the point at which power transfers to the performer and both parties become liminal beings within each other’s world. the gadje, immersed in performance, is briefly drawn into the world of the Gypsy. there...in those moments exist the potential for powerful messages that can cross class and cultural boundaries...
it has some of the same social trappings of hip-hop . . .
I know everyone knows I am Roma
And my band is Roma too, black
That we play black and we give it black
So come on, hip hop, join us
We don´t care if you are white
Hey man, nobody´s perfect
Gipsy, who adds the web “cz” extension to his stage name, is Radoslav Banga, a Romani artist with a unique style of mixing traditional Roma music with rap and hip hop within a verbal space that is positively attracting Roma youth.
"I think there are ways how to change the gypsy community. But to change it you have to go out onto the streets. Hiphop is the way. I know gypsies. If you go up to a gypsy and say choose mathematics, government or music, every gypsy will choose music. I come with a new thing, I'm saying - do you choose the old gypsy music, or hiphop? 90 percent of gypsies will say 'yeah, I like hiphop'. It's 2005, not 1822."
by the way, he sings in three languages!
and then there is the only known song from the Porrajamos....
composed by Ruzena Danielova, a Romani woman from Bohemia in the former Czechoslovakia, this song laments and rages her circumstances during World War II, while Bohemia and Moravia were occupied by the Nazis. the government established two detention camps for Roma, one at Lety in Bohemia (now commemorated as a pig farm) and one at Hodonin in Moravia. many Roma perished in these camps from starvation, brutality, malnutrition, and disease. in late summer of 1942, the Nazis began shipping Roma from these two camps to Auschwitz where most were brutally murdered. out of a pre-war Romani population of an estimated 6,500 in Bohemia and Moravia, only 300 were left alive after the war. Ruzena Danielova survived Auschwitz, but her husband and children all perished. she died in 1965, her song the only memorial to a population of Roma who were nearly all murdered during the war. i tear up every time i hear it....
Oh, at Auschwitz, there is a big house
Where the man I love is imprisoned
He stays there, suffering his captivity
And forgets about me.
Oh, that blackbird
He will deliver my letter for me,
Take it to my husband,
Who is confined at Auschwitz.
Oh, there is starvation in Auschwitz,
We have nothing at all to eat,
Mother, not even a piece of bread,
Those starving us are bad karma.
Oh, if I only had a pitchfork
I would kill the tormentors
If I only had a pitchfork.
I would kill the people starving us.
Djelem Djelem, the official Romany national anthem, was declared by the first world Romany conference held in London in 1971. composed in 1969, by Zarko Jovanovic, part of a group of British and European Roma activists traveling around England doing civil rights work. they were witness to a campsite eviction in Northern England where Romani caravans were towed from a campsite by bulldozers. one turned over and caught fire, in which a small Romani child was hiding. he was burned to death. Zarko composed this anthem on his way back to London, in a van full of Roma activists including Grattan Puxon, Thomas Acton, Vanko Rouda, and Juan de Dios Heredia.
I have travelled over long roads
I have met fortunate Roma
I have travelled far and wide
I have met lucky Roma
Oh, Romani adults, Oh Romani youth
Oh, Romani adults, Oh Romani youth
Oh, Roma, from wherever you have come
With your tents along lucky roads
I too once had a large family
But the black legion murdered them
Come with me, Roma of the world
To where the Romani roads have been opened
Now is the time - stand up, Roma,
We shall succeed where we make the effort.
Oh, Roma adults, Oh, Roma youth
Oh, Roma adults, Oh, Roma youth.
the creation of liminoid phenomena functions to expose injustices, even to become a “revolutionary manifesto”. Kal, Romani for black, is on a mission, not just to entertain but also to educate their audiences about the plight of the Romani, especially, in Kosovo (the geographical region of my thesis work). Dragan Ristic is the frontman for Kal, which he founded with his brother, Dushan Ristic.
“We can make a living, and we can reach people with music. But don’t expect me to be a simple Roma musician who will simply make beautiful music for you to listen to. I’m going to sing a lot of truth about what is happening in society to the Roma. I am going to sing about discrimination and walls being built to separate Roma from gadje, and houses being burned down with Romani people inside. That’s my obligation.”
Ristic makes no apology for his method. "We, the Roma, are Europe's invisible nation," Ristic says. "We've no economic or political power, but we have our music. For a thousand years, you have danced to us. If our music makes you see us, then good”