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The joyful, raucous world of Romani music 

Romani people vary in how they wish to be described – Roma, Romani/Romany, in a tribe or clan, and so on. I will use what I grew up with, Romani, (Sinti Romani), tribe from Pomerania, Romania, Prussia and a sprinkle of various other spices. Many tribes have settled and some are still itinerant.  

My family's music

The history of the Romani people and their music is rich, diverse and inventive. It doesn’t matter that you don’t understand the language it is sung in, it will speak to you anyway. In my family anything could become an instrument – my first being a blade of grass, as maybe 4-year-old you also tried. I had to perfect it or I could not move on to the next instrument, a comb and wax paper. 

My grandfather required the young ones to develop “blade of grass knowledge” to near perfection, always guesstimating what instrument we may grow up with. There were many – harmonica, mouth harp, spoons, castanets, small concertina, large concertina, accordion, hurdy gurdy, a very well-worn guitar, and something that looked like a reconstructed viola. Cousin Harry was the only one who could not play anything. On his 5th birthday he whistled and he whistled like a pro just like that.

When the family got together, think my Big Fat Greek Wedding, and up the energy by 5, off went the barndoors, placed on sawhorses and used as tables, drums, and a temporary home to the best food in the world! All the instruments came out and the music began!

Oh my, the Romani music! It talks to you. Whispers beautiful poetry. Yells at you! Pay attention to this story and don’t make my mistakes! Pulls you into a slow romantic dance, stays in your head for days and in your heart forever. It is music that says, I have suffered and am still alive, I’m in love, I’m the happiest person in the world. Romani have a passion for life in the best and the worst of times. Dance until you fall asleep then dream you are dancing. 

Gypsy Caravan compilation by Putumayo World Music 

Gypsy CaravanThis lovely collection of Romani songs from Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, France and Spain is diverse in traditions and instruments. Kalyi Jag’s Hungarian “Mori Shej, Sabina” is a rocking horse lullaby, bumping along in a caravan. There is Saban Bajramovic from Serbia singing “Pena” in true spirited Romani form about love.

Talented French guitarist Coco Briaval plays “Les Yeux Noirs” a dance worthy Romani jazz song. I adore Romani jazz. It reminds me of my grandpa and grandma dancing. Everyone would stop what they were doing and watch them. They were so romantic.  

The instruments vary some from country to country. In “Diri, Diri, So Kerdjan?” Romanyi Rota uses percussion, mandolin and bouzouki. A bouzouki is shaped like a long-necked lute only it has a lower pitch and a sharp metallic sound. I am sure many Romani moms and dads cringed when their child first started to learn to play the bouzouki. However, it does sound interesting and lovely when played well. The drums and flamenco guitar are soothing perfection in “Al Likindoy” by Miguel Angel Cortes of Spain. “Sza Tele Zsav” by Ando Drom of Hungary ends the CD with a wonderful choral song about family members traveling far away to find work. 

Gypsy Caravan is sure to hold you in a Romani embrace of diverse music. 

The Rough Guide to the Music of Hungarian Gypsies compiled by Dan Rosenberg 

Hungarian GypsiesThis is a beautiful example of everything Hungarian Romani. It’s crazy vibrant! You are invited into their world of camps and villages where there are so many different musical experiences. Take a listen, sing along and dance to songs of passion, hardships and uplifting spirit.

It is definitely a compilation with maximum character. I think in “Duj Duj," by Fanfare Ciocarlia featuring Mitsou & Florentina Sandu someone in the band said, “Hey let’s grab every instrument we can find and play until the sun comes up three days from now.” Yes! I didn’t want it to stop! 

“Parno Graszt” by Odi Phenel Cino Savo/Azt Mondja a Kisfiam sounds just like my great uncles, uncles, grandpas, papa, and older cousins after a long night of playing music, singing and dancing! When they had little energy left and maybe a bit too much drink. Come on, one more song! They didn’t even have any words left but would sing/shout with big voices and every piece of themselves that was left, just like this song! LOL. Tah dah dah tah dah dah dah dah de dah de dah dah! Then the guys doing chores would shout back from the barn! This song brought back great memories! 

“Amaro Suno” by Opre Gelem Pe Vulica is a wonderful slow fast dance. “Hulav Tu Sej” by Romano Drom is sung with interesting, sweet, rusty voices.

Music that gets kids moving

“Pundela” by Ando Drom has a pace children love. My house had eight amazing, brilliant, creative children dancing and singing to this song wrapped in scarves and trailing ribbons and hula hoops and rainsticks and wooden spoons! They had so much fun. Play it again, play it again!  

Kalman Balogh & The Gipsy Cimbalom Band’s “Calusul Dance” is a dance song the really picks up speed. They play the Cimbalom into frantic submission. The children also loved this and ran and jumped almost to the end. 

There many more Hungarian Romani musical artists on this CD.  It is the music I grew up with and I hope it brings you great joy.  

The Very Best of the Gipsy Kings: Volare!

VolareYou've probably heard of the Gipsy Kings. Their pop-oriented flamenco style hit gold in the United States in 1989 with the album Gipsy Kings and single “Bamoleo.” They are a sure bet wherever they go – great singing, great musical artistic talent and great songs. The Gipsy Kings can chase away any bad days, make the ride to work (especially on a Monday) more pleasant with their music, or make doing the dishes less doing the dishes. 

As with other Romani CDs, it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the language. They brought the Romani music into focus by letting their talent shine through and adding to the repertoire popular hits like “Hotel California.”  The Gipsy Kings singing and flamenco guitar have the power to move people.   

This CD has 37 songs and is sure to supply the shout out loud joy or peace and quiet you may need. From “Volare” to “Habla Me” there is song just for you. 

I send you love and light and my best of best Romani blessings. 

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