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Transnational Dialogues, Other-ness, and Authenticity: Roma Music in Europe

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Transnational Dialogues, Other-ness, and Authenticity

Roma Music in Europe   

Michael Horowitz

September 5, 2001

Music performed by various Roma groups from Europe have faired extremely well in the contemporary “World Music” marketing scheme. Groups such as the Franco-Spanish Gypsy Kings, Romania ‘s Taraf de Haïdouks, and the Dutch Rosenberg Trio have experienced significant commercial success in Europe and abroad performing unrelated genres which have been loosely grouped together as “Gypsy”. Much of their success can be attributed to the virtuosic musical skill and well tested repertoire these musicians acquired from centuries old Roma musical dynasties. However, their reliance on a “Gypsy” identification in the marketing of their music forces one to consider how stereotypes, prejudices, and untruths developed during the 500 years of European Roma music making effect current perceptions of “Gypsy “music.

A 1998 video of the Rosenberg Trio produced to promote their “Latin” album entitled Noches Cielentes illustrates the ethnic, geographic, historic and symbolic complexities of marketing Gypsy-ness in contemporary Europe. In the video the Rosenbergs play music of Spanish origin such as Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and Paco De Lucia’s Rio Ancho accompanied by images of flamenco dancers and the Moorish architecture of Andalusia . To the uncritical eye the paring of Dutch Sinti musicians with the culture of the Spanish Gitan might seem sensible in terms of a pan-Roma culture. However, the religious, linguistic, historical, and cultural differences between these two groups make such a pairing seem more like a constructed marketing strategy then a sincere representation of a Roma-ness.


The Rosenberg Trio gained their fame by playing the music of the Manouche guitarist Django Reinhardt, a style of music which originally had little Roma identification but more recently has become a significant marker of Sinti identity known as “Gypsy jazz”. In what seems to be an attempt to free themselves from the confines of the relatively small jazz market, the Rosenbergs have revamped their image and their music to suite the Other-ness fetish of “World Music” marketing strategies. The Rosenbergs modeled their new sound on the most commercially successful of all Roma musics, the rumba flamenco performed by the Gitan , a genre which has been most successfully pervade by the Gypsy Kings. In addition, the Rosenbergs have recorded gypsy influenced Spanish classical music by Albeniz and Rodrigo.

By adopting rumba flamenco and Spanish classical music the Rosenbergs are not only navigating current trends but are also relying on an essentialized notion of pan-European “gypsy-ness” to legitimize their adoption of this foreign style. However, the Rosenbergs are not the first to engage in such a transnational exchange of Roma music but rather, are part of a long history in which a plethora of divergent “Gypsy” musics have been engaged in dialogues with each other that defy regional, ethnic, stylistic, and political boundaries. Furthermore, “Gypsy music” has played a role in national music discourses in which it is defined in extremes ranging from absolute “Other-ness” to a well spring of authenticity for Romantic Nationalists. This paper will investigate how Gypsy identified musical genres developed by 19 th century romantic nationalist composers in Hungary, France, and Spain have been co-opted by contemporary Roma as emblems of identity and pan-Roma solidarity.

With the exception of a handful of brief accounts of Gypsy music, most early writing concerning the Gypsies in Europe has been handed down in the form of literature and theater. The most noteworthy of these early works was a short novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) entitled La Gitanilla (1613). The protagonist is Preciosa, the first in a long line of female Gypsy heroines which includes Goethe’s Mignon, Victor Hugo’s Esmeralda, and Merimée’s Carmen. In the subsequent boom of Gypsy inspired literature during the 18 th century Gypsies are associated with the themes of freedom, passionate love, eroticism, and nature.

A number of art songs, instrumental works, ballets and operas were also inspired by Gypsy musical and or literary themes. The earliest example is the lute piece Zeuner Tantz (1540) which is believed to be a transcription from the repertoire of professional Gypsy musicians living around Budapest circa 1489. Among the many operas based on La Gitanilla , Michael William Balfe’s (1808-70) opera The Bohemian Girl (1843) was one of the most successful. With over a hundred performances, The Bohemian Girl was the most popular opera in 19 th century England . In general, music written before the mid-19 th century which attempted to evoke Gypsy themes, especially opera, rarely relied on melodies or musical devices used by Gypsies. Instead, composers relied on a set of codified Gypsy clichés such as tambourines, castanets, or romantic sets. Serious attempts to emulate elements of Gypsy repertoire and style began with the efforts of 19 th century romantic nationalist composers such as Mikhail Iwanowic Glinka, Franz Liszt, and Isaac Albeniz.


German Nationalism and Music

Nationalism is the idea that people of one nationality (a group thought to share traits such as language, culture, religion, ethnicity/race) should occupy a sovereign territory in the form of a state. Theorized as a collective state of mind or as an “imagined community,” nationalism de-localizes people’s allegiances such that they feel that their primary duty and loyalty is to that of the nation-state. Benedict Anderson remarks that nation’s are ” imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.”

Nonexistent until the 18 th century, the nation-state replaced older forms of political organization such as the city-state, feudalism, the dynastic state, the religious group, or the sect. The rise of nationalism was propelled by a number of intersecting forces: the creation of large, centralized states ruled by absolute monarchs who destroyed the old feudal allegiances; the secularization of life and of education, which fostered the vernacular languages and weakened ties of church and sect; the growth of commerce, which demanded large territorial units for the capitalistic enterprises of the rising middle class. Propelled by the idea that a man could only be educated in his native language, not in languages of other peoples and other times, vernacular “print languages” were formed which helped solidify national solidarity.

The first manifestation of modern nationalism occurred in 18 th century England which coincided with the rise of the trading middle classes. Indebted to religion more than later forms of nationalism, English nationalism is characterized by its enthusiasm for liberty, humanitarianism, and the rights of the individual. These ideals where expressed in the political philosophy of John Locke who subsequently influenced American and French nationalism.

French nationalism was characterized by its insistence on liberty, equality, and fraternity for not only French people but for all peoples. In accordance with these principals new rituals and symbols such as festivals, flags, music, poetry, national holidays and patriotic sermons replaced functions formerly attributed to religious institutions. French, as well as American nationalism stressed the national self-determination in pursuit of a universal progressive ideal of freedom and equality in opposition to authoritarianism and inequality.

In the wake of Napoleon’s conquests, German nationalism rejected the liberal and humanitarian doctrines of French and American nationalism. Stressing instinct above reason, German nationalists prioritized the historical traditions and differences of nations rather than their progress and common aspirations. Although liberal nationalism asserted itself in mid-19 th century Germany , it was eventually crushed by Bismarck who, contrary to the liberal doctrine of self-determination, rationalized his annexation of Alsace Lorraine on similarities of race rather than the will of the people.

Nationalist discourse in the arts was heavily influenced by the Prussian preacher Johann Gottfried Herder’s Treatise on the Origin of Language (1772). Herder linked language, community, and thought in a way that initiated the concept of authenticity (i.e. faithfulness to one’s essential nature.) Herder insisted that each language manifested unique values and ideas which constituted each language community’s specific contribution to world culture. The language community also included shared customs, dress, art, and other cultural attributes which were inextricably linked. The concept of authenticity arose from the bounded-ness of these traits which, when disconnected from each other, were perceived as artificial. Hence, the singing of a French song by a German in Italian clothing would be deemed as in-authentic. Richard Taruskin notes that for romantic nationalists, “it became a specific goal of the arts, not just an inherent property, to express the specific truth of the ‘imagined community’ they served, and assist in its self-definition.”

.Herder’s theory also included the egalitarian reasoning that no language, or language community could be held superior to any other. Furthermore, Herder was an avid collector of folk songs which he deemed as important manifestations of the language community. In accordance with these principals, Herder stressed the use of folk music in the development of national arts.


Herderian principals influenced the development of a national German identity in the 19 th century which, in reaction to French military and cultural threats, was a pressing issue for the heterogeneous and loosely confederated German speaking areas of Europe . As a result a number of German national music genres arose during the early 19 th century such as the lied , an imitation of folk poetry including ballads, and choral music. Beginning in 1814, Lutheran choral music, which had become considered the common property of all Germans regardless of religion, was performed at huge festivals which became the primary musical outlet for German nationalistic ideology. This form of inclusive liberal nationalism allowed Felix Mendelssohn, a emancipated baptized Jew, to become in effect president of German musical culture in the last dozen years of his life. By mid-century Herder’s pluralistic principals had been usurped by a more aggressive exclusionary form of nationalism which promoted the notion of the universality of German music. What started as a pluralistic ideology became a hegemonic one. Wagner was the greatest proponent of German universalism but would simultaneously incorporate Herderian principals of ethnic nationalism into his works (i.e. The Ring ).


Nationalism and Gypsies

Influenced by Herder, and also in reaction to French, Italian, and later German, musical hegemony, composers from the margins of Europe began to develop nationalist musical traditions. Spain and Hungary , both countries with large Roma populations, were leaders in the development of the nationalist genre. Gypsy music, or at least what was perceived as Gypsy music, became an important source for 19 th century Spanish and Hungarian composers working in the nationalist vein. The following section investigates the role of Gypsy music in these respective countries.


The Gypsy music of Hungary is exceptional in regards to its high standards of instrumental virtuosity, the direct contact Hungarian Gypsy musicians had with Western Art Music, and the almost total dominance Gypsy musicians had in urban areas. During the 18 th century it was fashionable for Hungarian nobles to maintain their own Gypsy orchestras (i.e. several violins, a bass, and a cimbalom ) who specialized in a genre called verbunkos which literally means recruiting music”. The Gypsies who played in these orchestras underwent a rigorous apprenticeship which helped them developed their stunning technique and improvisational skills and sometimes included the acquisition of music reading and compositional skills as well. A long list of Gypsy violin virtuosos have been national heroes in Hungary : Mihály Barna (circa 1740) know as the “Hungarian Orpheus”, Czinka Panna (1711?-1772) a legendary female virtuoso, and János Bihari (1784-1827), a stunning technician who influenced Beethoven and Liszt. Bihari was musically illiterate but was widely transcribed. The accuracy of these transcriptions are in doubt since contemporaries of Bihari showed more of an interest in his virtuosic performance style than his highly eclectic repertoire (i.e. quadrilles, ecossaises, minuets, polkas, waltzes, and opera melodies).

Verbunkos has both a slow section ( lassu ) and a fast section ( friss ) which form a pair or alternate at greater length. The lassu sections often featured a dotted rhythm while the friss was a vechile for high speed viruosity. Gypsy performers are known for their heavy use of embellishment, including the insertion of augmemnted seconds for “color”.

Verbunkos was heavily patronized by the Hungarian nobility and, because of their control over the development of Hungary ‘s newly emerging post-revolution identity (circa 1848), it was promoted as Hungary ‘s national music genre. Subsequently, the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886) evoked Hungarian-ness in his work through the use of verbunkos melodies and gypsy performance techniques rather than peasant musical traditions. Liszt insisted that:

Gypsy music has become during our century more and more an object of Hungarian pride, and one designates it, rightly or wrongly, as Hungary ‘s national property by accepting the name “Hungarian music,” in the place of the name “Gypsy music”�The Magyars have adopted the Gypsies as their national musicians.


Despite Liszt’s fervent nationalism, his relationship to Hungarian culture was tenuous at best. As a German speaker who moved to Paris as a child, Liszt never knew more than a few words of Hungarian. Hence, his credibility as an authority on Hungarian music was suspect. Liszt’s assertion that the “true” Hungarian music was the product of Gypsies was later proven wrong through the meticulous research of Béla Bartók. In 1931 Bartók remarked that:

�I should like to state that what people (including Hungarians) call ‘gipsy music’ is not gipsy music but Hungarian music; it is not old folk music but a fairly recent type of Hungarian popular art music composed, practically without exception, by Hungarians of the upper middle class. But while a Hungarian gentleman may compose music, it is traditionally unbecoming to his social status to perform it ‘for money’ – only gipsies are supposed to do that.


Despite Bartók’s campaign to promote peasant music as Hungary ‘s musical emblem, verbunkos music and its Gypsy practitioners remained the dominant stereotype of Hungarian music. Bartók himself admits that, “when Hungarian music is mentioned in foreign lands the gipsy is mentioned in the same breath.” Through the writings and musical compositions of Liszt, most notably his Hungarian Rhapsodies , the stylistic traits of verbunkos became synonymous with the Hungarian-Gypsy Other. Max Peter Bauman remarks that:

In his exuberance, Liszt characterised the basic elements of the Gypsy performance style: deep emotional expression, Gypsy scales, free modulation of keys among themselves, augmented intervals, Oriental ornamentation, accelerating rhythms, the principal balancing between feeling and form, opulence of runs, grace notes, scales, arpeggios, diatonic and chromatic passages, numerous trills and glissandi, improvisation from the inspiration of the moment – in all, the melting together of three main elements of Gypsy style: melody, rhythm and ornamentation. This form was designated as Hungarian, under which one understood that “one piece in two parts, without doubt corresponding to an original slow dance that goes into a livelier one.”


A common irony of Gypsy inspired nationalistic music is its appropriation and denationalization by foreigners. For example, the French composer Edouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole (1874), a piece championed by the Spanish violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate, evoked Spanish Gypsy-ness on the violin by relying on the Hungarian-Gypsy stylistic traits previously mentioned by Bauman. The Other-ness and the Gypsy-ness of this music was prioritized over its Hungarian nationalist associations. Similarly, Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) relies on the musical language of verbunkos to evoke Spanish Gypsy-ness in Preciosa (1811) The same indifference to nationalism can also be detected in Maurice Ravel’s (1875-1937) violin concerto Tzigane (1924). The work begins with a lassú -like introduction, a wide, unaccompanied cadence in the violin part, in which all technical tricks such as harmonics, double stops, polyphony and pizzicati can be found. The second half relies on well known “Gypsy tunes” with constant musical references to the Hungarian Gypsy zither known as the cimbalómí.

The trend’s evident from the work of Lalo and Ravel is that their concept of Gypsy music is 1) oriental and exotic and 2) stylistically Hungarian when played on the violin (even when placed in a Spanish musical context). In contrast to the nationalist motivations of Liszt, the music of French composers such as Lalo and Ravel utilize Spanish and Hungarian Gypsy music interchangeably to represent the transnational Gypsy Other. The interplay and occasional confusion between Hungarian and Spanish Gypsy music in the work of these French composers attests to the composers disregard with the nationalist associations of these genres. The confusion between these two radically different Gypsy musics is further compounded by the use of Spanish themes by Liszt in his Rhapsodie espangole (1863) as well as the influence his Hungarian Rhapsodies had on composers of Spanish works such as Albeniz, Ravel, and de Falla.


The roots of Spanish nationalist music can be traced back to the composer and musicologist Felipe Pedrell (1841-1922). Born in Barcelona , Pedrell studied in Rome and later Paris where he came under the influence of Wagner. Only moderately successful as a composer, Pedrell focused his energies on song collecting and is known today as the founder of Spanish musicology. Although his attempt to become the Spanish equivalent of Wagner was undermined by his limited compositional ability, he was very influential on the next generation of talented Spanish nationalist composers. Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909), Enrique Granados (1967-1916), and Mauel de Falla (1876-1946) all benefited from his tutelage and held him in high esteem.

Although Spain reputation for Andalusian Gypsy music is well known, the internal discourse on musical nationalism championed a number of regional styles (i.e. Asturian ,Catalonian, and Basque genres competed equally with Andalusian flamenco.) This differs from the mono-musical nationalism of Hungary which unquestionably championed Gypsy music above all, at least until Bartók undertook the huge job of documenting Hungary’s diverse peasant musics. Subsequently, Spanish nationalist music had two goals: An internal discourse which attempted to show how diverse “Spanish” cultures were alike and an external discourse which attempted to show what makes Spain different from other European nations.

The music that Spanish composers most often relied on as source of national identity was flamenco. A product of Spain ‘s tumultuous and diverse history, flamenco is a fusion of Moorish, Sephardic Jewish, Christian, and Gypsy musics from the southern Spanish region of Andalucia. Flamenco’s use of the phyrgian mode, augmented seconds, polyrhythm, microtonal inflections, and oriental embellishments departed radically from Northern European musical aesthetics making the genre an easily identifiable symbol of Spain . Although these musical traits came to serve a political ideology for Spanish composers, French composers such as Debussy, Ravel, and Lalo used flamenco to evoke the exotic while the Russian composer Mikhail Iwanowic Glinka (804-57) and Hungarian composer Franz Liszt felt a sense of solidarity with Spain . For the French, Spain came to represent the exotic Other, while the Russians and Hungarians came to see Spain as a model for their own exotic and marginalized status in Europe . James Parakilas notes that:

For Gottschalk, as for Glinka and to a small extent Liszt, the opportunity to discover and treat Spanish folk music fulfilled a need beyond pleasing Spanish audiences, a need created by the composers’ own exoticism. This was the need to find in a marginalized culture some musical material with usably exotic traits, so that they could fashion from it concert music that would offer a distinctive and impressive alternative to mainstream (French-German-Italian) concert music. Not surprisingly, all three composers after their Spanish tours turned back to the music of their own marginalized cultures in the same spirit.


�with the establishment of the cafés cantantes in the Andalusian cities by midcentury, flamenco performers developed a way of making a living performing for tourists. They developed, in other words, self-consciousness about exoticizing themselves and their art. The self-consciousness of these Spanish musicians and the appetite of the French composer and French musical public for the undiscovered and “true” in Spanish music could not have existed without each other.


Inspired by Alexander Pushkin’s poem Tsïgani (1824), Glinka became interested in Russian Gypsy music and later conducted fieldwork in Spain among Gitano flamenco musicians. He composed several pieces based on his fieldwork in Spain and later developed an orchestral style for Russian folk songs which was utilized by Borodin, Tschaikowsky, and Rimski-Korsakov.



Isaac Albeniz was one of the most influential of the Spanish nationalist composers. Like many of his contemporaries, he straddled the divide between Spain ‘s internal and external musical discourses. Albeniz composed inclusive nationalist pieces such as his Suite Española which included a Grandaian serenade, an Asturian melody, a jota aragonesa , and a Basque zortziko (in 5/8) as well as flamenco style pieces such as Malagueña and Cantos de España . Albeniz, originally from Barcelona , spent a great deal of time away from Spain . In 1880 he stayed in Budapest and, in yet another link in the Urgic-Iberian musical dialogue, came under the influence of the music and nationalist ideology of Liszt. Albeniz also lived in Madrid , Cuba , Puerto Rico , Leipzig , and spent much of his life in Paris and was subsequently criticized for being a Spaniard “in foreign attire.” In 1900 he moved back to Spain , but came under harsh criticism and eventually returned to Paris in 1902 were he was held in great esteem by his colleagues. Like Liszt, Albeniz only had one foot within the nation he professed to represent, and for that reason he was prone to the same essentialist Othering that fueled French representations of Spain .

Enrique Granados, a Catalan by birth, experienced a similar backlash from within Spain against his patronage of flamenco music. Like other Spanish nationalists, Granados evoked Spain primarily through the use of musical devices derived from flamenco. He remarked that, “I consider myself as much a Catalan as anyone, but in my music I want to express what I feel�be it Andalusian or Chinese.” Although Granados’ work is generally considered mediocre, many of pieces have been transcribed for guitar have become staples of the repertoire (i.e. Danza Española , Villanesca, Zarabanda ).

Manuel de Falla was the only major Spanish nationalist composer to have grown up in Andalucia. During his youth de Falla displayed a propensity for music and by 1890 resolved to become a composer. De Falla moved to Madrid in 1902 where he came under the nationalistic influence of Pedrell. Unlike his contemporaries from the North of Spain, de Falla had direct contact with Gypsy musicians and actively promoted the preservation of their music. In 1922 de Falla helped to found the internationally acclaimed Cante Jondo competition, the purpose of which was to forestall what he considered the be the decline of flamenco. De Falla nationalist sentiments are evident in the following statement:

I would like to make music that is intensely expressive and evocative, music that is found in all that our race has to left to us musically. No duets, no arias, no Wagnerisms nor Italianisms. Natural music. Energetic or mysterious, but always ours�I want to write a piece full of spells and real gypsies�magic, dances, songs, and spells.


Of the other major Spanish nationalist composers , de Falla was the most successful at adapting guitaristic techniques to the keyboard. Compositions such as Will O’the Wisp and The Three Cornered Hat have been transcribed for guitar and are staples of the repertoire. Although de Falla did write a few pieces explicitly for guitar, it was Joaquin Rodrigo who most successfully championed the instrument in his Concierto de Aranjuez (1939) The Concierto de Aranjuez was first large scale guitar concerto of the 20 th century and was well received.

Organologicaly the image of the Spanish Gypsy has been inseparable from the guitar. All of the Spanish nationalist composers emulated the guitar in their piano works, and a few, such as de Falla and Rodrigo, wrote specifically for the guitar. The link between Spanish music and the guitar is so ubiquitous that even the most rudimentary guitarists can muster up a few pseudo flamenco progressions on the instrument. Around the turn of the 19 th century American guitar manufacturer Gibson capitalized on this connection by including with their steel string guitars the tablature for a song entitled Spanish Fandango . Segovia ‘s efforts to raise the guitar’s status to that of a concert instrument prompted him and others to transcribe the faux-guitar piano repertoire of the Spanish nationalist composers. The end result was, in effect, a guitar imitating a piano imitating a guitar which proved to be a circuitous return to the composers original inspiration.


Gypsy Music After the Death of Romantic Nationalism

Nationalist music genres declined rapidly by the mid 20 th century. In the 1920s De Falla renounced conventional Spanish nationalism (Phrygian modality, guitaristic harmonies, etc) in favor of more anachronistic forms of Spanish music. Bartók, who began his career as an ardent nationalist, deeply criticized nationalist ideologies during the years leading up to WWII. Fearing “ultra-nationalism” , he suggested folk music research should be done for scientific reasons rather than nationalist ones. While Western composers lost interest in nationalist music, the genre found a second life in Soviet era state orchestras of Eastern Europe , most famous being the Bulgarian Women’s Choir. In a compromise between the legacies of Liszt and Bartók , Hungary maintained both a peasant folk orchestra and a Gypsy orchestra.

Although romantic nationalism died out, musical stereotypes developed during its height still hold a great deal of currency, especially when Gypsies are concerned. For both commercial reasons and as a method of promoting ethnic solidarity, Roma musicians adopted the Gypsy stereotypes generated in the art music world. Max Peter Bauman remarks that:

Because of their popularity, most of the famous works of classical music have been appropriated by Sinti, Roma and Calé musicians for their own repertoires. The works of classical art music operate as a rule less often with quotes from Roma music itself, but more with the clichés and images of the Gadje [non-Gypsy], whether in the sense of musical color or stereotyped rhythmic dance forms. The Roma themselves have independently and repeatedly adapted such “Gypsy-like” mood pictures, keys and character pieces as compositional constructs according to Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, or Balkan concepts of performance style.


Increased communication between various Roma groups, the development of pan-Roma solidarity, and the growing marketability of Gypsy music fostered the exchange and fusion of not only Spanish and Hungarian Gypsy music, but also the more recent genre of Sinti jazz as well. Images and sounds of the fiery flamenco guitarist and the impassioned Hungarian violinist, originally propagated as nationalist symbols, have been appropriated and reworked by the Roma as symbols of their ethnic identity. In short, during the last century Gypsy music has been transformed from a nationalist genre to an ethnic one. The following section investigates a few examples of contemporary Gypsy music.

Of the multitude of Gypsy musical genres, flamenco music has been the most commercially successful. Interest among Americans in listening to and learning to play flamenco dates back at least to the 1960s. The emergence of the flamenco guitar virtuoso Paco de Lucia during the early 1980s brought increased attention to the genre. De Lucia’s recording of the Concerto de Aranjuez provides an excellent example of romantic art music returning to it roots. The Gypsy Kings , a band consisting of several Gitan families living in Southern France , reached an unprecedented level of success by fusing popular music recording techniques and aesthetics with songs based on the most accessible flamenco rhythm, the rumba . For a number of reasons including the relatively high level of assimilation among the Spanish Gypsies, their leadership in the genre of Gypsy music, and their traditional isolation from other Roma, Spanish Gypsies have been the least likely to engage in a two way musical dialogue with other Roma groups.

Sinti professional musicians living in Northern Europe are most likely to play a style of swing known as Sinti jazz. The genre’s founder, Django Reinhardt, developed musically in the cosmopolitan environment of 1920s Paris . Although Reinhardt’s Gypsy heritage was often touted as an important element in his jazz sound, there seems to be little evidence that he directly inherited any kind of “Gypsy tradition.” Only two songs in Reinhardt’s large repertoire can be identified as Gypsy in origin. 1) Tears , a melody Reinhardt took credit for but is actually a Sinti folksong. 2) Dark Eyes , a Russian song which has become the unofficial Gypsy anthem. After the Russian revolution Paris was inundated with a large Russian expatriate population who were entertained in Russian clubs. Manouche musicians who had cut their teeth on mussette waltz found that the Russian club circuit was lucrative and subsequently learned the repertoire of Russian Gypsies. In effect, the Manouche musicians learned to be (Russian) Gypsies. Dark Eyes most likely entered Reinhardt’s repertoire as a result of this phenomenon.

Compositions which are often identified as representative of Reinhardt’s “fiery Gypsy heritage” are clearly based on the nationalist music of Spanish composers rather than an emulation of actual flamenco. Django composed numerous solo pieces such as Echoes of Spain , Improvisation #5 , and Improvisation #6 which could easily be confused with the work of Albeniz, de Falla, and Granados. Whether or not Reinhardt was attempting to evoke Gypsy-ness in these pieces is unclear. Nevertheless, the deeply entrenched stereotypes stemming from the efforts of Spanish nationalist composers have prompted most to receive these pieces as reflective of Gypsy-ness, with Reinhardt being the authentic purveyor.

Although Django never performed actual pieces from the Spanish nationalist repertoire, other Sinti have. Granados’ Danza Española , originally written for piano, has become a staple in the repertoire of Sinti violinists. More recently, Manouche guitarist Raphael Fays has developed a repertoire of neo-flamenco tunes including Paco de Lucia’s Entre dos aguas , Chick Corea’s Spain (with an introduction from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez ) and his own compositions Rumba Latina , and Impressions andalouses . Fays has arguably been the most fastidious of the Sinti in his appropriation of the flamenco genre. He developed a two plectrum technique which emulates the rasgeudo effect used by the Spanish gypsies. The Dutch Sinti group The Rosenberg Trio have all together dropped the Sinti jazz repertoire in favor of Gypsy Kings influenced Rumbas and Spanish classical music. The CD Noches Calientes (1998) includes Isaac Albeniz’s Tango Op. 165 Nr.2 , Paco de Lucia’s Rio Ancho , and the Adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez . The Rosenberg ‘s are clearly capitalizing on essentialized notions of Gypsy-ness in their move towards the Spanish genre. As guitarists and Gypsies, two stereotypes of connected with flamenco, the Rosenberg ‘s have found it easy to justify their switch from Sinti jazz to neo-flamenco.

The Concierto de Aranjuez has a history of being appropriated by jazz musicians: American jazz pianist Chic Corea (b.1941) used part of it as an introduction to his composition Spain (circa 1975) and the Miles Davis-Gil Evans collaboration Sketches of Spain (1959) is a reworking of Rodrigo’s original score. In a manner similar to the Russian and Hungarian tendency to identify with the Spanish Other, Davis justified his appropriation of Spanish Gypsy music by making the connection between its Afro-Moorish roots and his own African American identity. In the liner notes for Sketches of Spain Nat Hentoff remarks that:

It is as if Miles had been born of Andalusian gypsies but, instead of picking up the guitar, had decided to make a trumpet the expression of his cante hondo �It is a measure of Miles’ stature as a musician and a human being that he can so absorb the language of another culture that he can express through it a universal emotion with an authenticity neither strained nor condescending.


�A basic form of flamenco is the solea , and Andalusian version of soledad (“loneliness”). “Generally,” writes [Gilbert] Chase, “it is a song of longing or lament, like the Afro-American blues.”


And in attempt to equate the influence of Cuban rhythms in early jazz with Davis ‘


Spanish explorations Hentoff comments that:


Miles had managed to combine his customary jazz timbre and beat with what Jelly Roll Morton once called “the Spanish tinge” – except that Miles has much more than a tinge of the Spanish musical ethos in his work here.


Sinti musicians have also looked East for inspiration. Among the most famous of the Parisian Russian club musicians was Matelo Ferret. Unlike his contemporary Django Reinhardt, Ferret played jazz as well as Russian, Hungarian, and Romanian Gypsy music. Ferret sons Boulou and Elios have branched out into bebop and avante garde jazz but still play Romanian and Hungarian repertoire. German Sinti violinists such as Schnukenack Reinhardt and Titi Winterstein have traditionally been equally skilled at both Sinti jazz as well as Hungarian verbunkos . The Manouche guitar virtuoso Angelo DeBarre has collaborated on several projects which feature both Sinti jazz and various Eastern European Gypsy styles. His recording Gypsy Guitars combines Sinti jazz, musette waltzes, verbunkos , and Romanian folk tunes while his collaborations with syncretic Gypsy ensembles such as Bratsch and Arbat expand the palette to include Russian, Bulgarian and Albanian Gypsy music as well.

Roma musicians from the East have simultaneously looked to the West for musical inspiration and collaboration. The previously mentioned group Arbat consists of Paris based Russian Roma who have successfully combined elements of Russian, Spanish, French, Romanian, and Hungarian Gypsy genres. The Hungarian cimbalom virtuoso Kálmán Balogh pays tribute to Django Reinhardt on his CD entitled Gypsy Jazz . Although Balogh’s music is essentially verbunkos with only the slightest hint of jazz influence, the liner notes claim that:

Gypsy Jazz continues a fabled European musical tradition harkening back to the collaboration of masters like Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli, connecting the ancient folk traditions of Central and Eastern Europe with the chord progressions and swing of jazz.


The popular Czech Gypsy singer Vera Bila and her ensemble Kale, a featured act at Seattle ‘s WOMAD 2000 festival, also fuse an eclectic array of Gypsy styles. Reviewer Ivan Sever remarks that Vera Bila’s band:

�Kale (‘Black’ in Romany language) sounds remarkably like [the] Gipsy Kings. And no wonder; this Romany band (as Gypsies prefer to be called) also uses acoustic guitars and layered male vocals, although the sound is often augmented by additional instruments�The next few numbers cover the jazz spectrum from the Django Reinhardt influenced Dzal pani (Running Water) to Imar vera ilom (I Pledged Already)


The notion of a pan-Roma identity has been most successfully pervade by the French Roma Film maker Tony Gatlif. His documentary Latcho Drom (1993) traces Roma culture from its origins in India , across the Middle East and Europe . The film, which contains almost no dialogue has been described as, “an epic poem, a road movie idyll, a folk musical, an ethnological daydream.” Despite the films success, and the career boost for musicians who appeared it, Gatlif has come under criticism for his portrayal of the Roma. László Jakab Orsós, a professor of theater and film studies at Budapest college, comments on Gatlif’s most recent Romani themed film entitled Gadjo Dilo :

It’s surprising that Gatlif, who presumably feels bonds of atavistic attraction, compassion and absorbed love for Roma, should make his characters and his theme like the most idiotic socio-tourist. He takes an intellectual excursion into a world where he cannot be surprised, because he does not want to be surprised. The socio-tourist knows everything in advance, and is delighted only by the trimmings. He documents the exterior, but doesn’t notice what is happening behind the façade, especially not if it is something which contradicts the surface. His eye moisten if he sees a Gypsy hovel, and he begins to shake with happiness if he hears particular vulgar profanities from a Rom. Gatlif is not actually cruel to Roma, he simply doesn’t make it possible for them to be finally liberated from the ghetto where kind-hearted good spirits – among them Mr. Gatlif himself – have locked them up. According to these people, Gypsies can only live like Gypsies. Like this they are authentic and credible. However, fortunately, the world is not so simple. There are depraved Roma, serious ill-doers, ugly Romani girls; there are those who hate their surroundings and suffer from them; and of course there is the opposite of all this as well. Sadly Gatlif doesn’t dare think about complicated matters. It is as if he is afraid that complexity will damage the brilliance of his theme. Currently, Roma have only one role to play in the arts of the world: the rebellious wanderer of the highways. Everyone loses: the Roma have to suffer this damaging simplification, the “whites” on the other hand are shut off from a complex and contradictory world.


Numerous concert tours and festivals have also contributed to the idea of a pan-Roma musical identity. Rom Som, which took place in Budapest in 1996, was probably the largest of such musical gatherings. The festival included Roma musicians from every possible corner of Europe , uniting Dutch and German Sinti, Gitan, and Hungarian, Russian, and Romanian Roma on one stage. The two day event dedicated one day to “traditional” Roma music (i.e. flamenco, verbunkos , Romanian folk, etc.) and the one to Gypsy jazz music, mostly in the style of Django Reinhardt.

Whether or nor musical representations of Roma are being received by non-Roma as positive emblems of identity or mere exotica is open to question. The five hundred year legacy of oppression, stereotyping, and Other-ing of Roma by non-Roma is still very present in contemporary discourse. This paradoxical fear and embrace of the Other is noted by Jonathan Rutherford:

The centre invests the Other with its terrors. It is the threat of dissolution of self that ignites the irrational hatred and hostility as the centre struggles to assert and secure its boundaries; that construct self from not-self.


�.Paradoxically, capital has fallen in love with difference�from World music to exotic holidays in the Third-World locations, ethnic tv diners to Peruvian hats, cultural difference sells �.Difference ceases to threaten, or to signify power relations. Otherness is sought after for its exchange value, its exoticism and the pleasures, thrills and adventures it can offer.




In summary, it can be concluded that stereotypes of Gypsy music which were originally created to serve nationalist causes have been appropriated and transformed by contemporary Roma to serve their own ethnic and commercial agenda. An important characteristic of this transformation has been the dialogue of musical exchange between multiple Roma musical traditions, each with their own distinct instrumentation, style, and repertoire. Organological and aesthetic themes permeate this pan-musical conversation: the guitar evokes Spain while the violin Hungary ; Sinti jazz is equated with sophistication and flamenco with soul; verbunkos evokes tradition in contrast to the innovation of jazz. All of these styles, repertoires, instruments and the people who play them are more and more being portrayed as a unified system of Roma music which, in tandem with and sometimes dissonant with pan-Roma political aspirations, is simultaneously promoting a progressive Roma solidarity and a stereotyped “exotic” past. Whether or not the commercial success of Roma musicians will lead to greater awareness of their plight remains to be seen. One can only hope that their music will help replace intolerance with compassion.



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The Manouche are French speaking and are considered a sub-group of the German speaking Roma group known as the Sinti.

The Gitan are Spanish speaking Roma who live in Spain and Southern France .

Preciosa was raised by Gypsies but not of Gypsy origin herself. As a rule, female Gypsy protagonists were usually of non-Gypsy or unknown origin.

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[ Anderson , 1983 #22]

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[ Anderson , 1983 #22]

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