Roma Swing

TDogTDog Victoria, BCNew Shelley Park Montmartre; Cigano GJ 5
in FAQ Posts: 35

A local group describes themselves as playing "Roma Swing." I am guessing this is to avoid the use of the term gypsy. Just curious if anyone knows if roma swing is becoming a preferable alternative to gypsy jazz, gypsy swing et cetera?



  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,272

    TL;DR - This is not becoming a preferable alternative to naming this music style, but rather a well-intentioned, perhaps misinformed, attempt to not be offensive on a topic most have minimal knowledge about. (By doing so, they might actually be offensive). More below.

    I'm sure there will be others much more learned on this but I'll start by referencing this old discussion. There are several posts there worthy of your attention.

    Without knowing all the particulars or the people involved, I would hazard to say it is an attempt by well-intentioned people trying not to be offensive about a topic they have little to no direct experience with.

    If they are playing Django's music or the music we know as "gypsy jazz", that is typically performed by Sinti musicians. Dennis Chang's post in the above linked thread speaks to his extensive engagement with this community through playing, living, etc. Sinti and Roma are 2 different branches of gypsies (I believe Dennis even has a youtube video discussing this as well as a link on his site referenced in the above link). A Sinti would take offense to being called a Roma, just as a Canadian might take offense to being called an American or a Scotsman being called Irish. Different ethnicities in this case. That said, most Sinti don't have a problem with the term gypsy and will use it to describe themselves when they are speaking English. This was my experience with the few Sinti musicians I had the great pleasure to talk and play with.

    If you want more erudite discussion, you might look at the work of @sivylie that is referenced in the discussion on p4 (I think her dissertation link is broken but you might find more of her work here

    She is an ethnomusicologist/anthropologist at U of MD so don't take my word for it, take hers.

  • edited September 2020 Posts: 72

    Yeah I think Billy hits the nail on the head. Seeing as I live in a very liberal city and have actually had people come out and complain about the term when it’s been used in advertising gigs, I’ve decided to pick my battles and use terms like “1930’s Parisian swing” or just “Hot Club jazz” but then again I play more in the traditional style rather than what became the Sinti cannon of of “Gypsy Jazz”

    unfortunately I think that the discussion is filled with far too much nuance than you’ll ever be able to fit on a marquee at the local gigs.

  • jaredjared New
    Posts: 32


    What a great link to share, thanks very much. I hope Dr. Lie finishes the book soon as I know it is one I'd love to read. In the meantime I'll try to find her doctoral dissertation.

    I know one of the people involved in the band TDog mentions. He is a killer musician and a good friend who has a full time gig in a university music school. The climate of political correctness is at such a fever pitch in Canadian institutions that using the term 'gypsy' can get you into serious hot water quick, and this absolutely regardless of the facts of the matter as so well explained by Dennis Chang or Dr. Lie. I also teach music in a university music school and last February, there were some posters put up in our hallways advertising a "gypsy jazz" gig. The posters were all torn down by someone who thought they were defending a wronged minority community. This same person found the individuals (students plugging their gig) who had put up the posters and filed a formal complaint with our Student Affairs officer. I don't know what, if anything was done with the complaint, but that is where things are at. Mistakes are not tolerated and intentions are not taken into consideration. Thus, I am pretty sure 'roma swing' is, as you surmise, well-intentioned, but also a self-protective move.

  • edited September 2020 Posts: 4,705

    It's La Pompe police. It's no joke it's real now!

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • bbwood_98bbwood_98 Brooklyn, NyProdigy Vladimir music! Les Effes. . Its the best!
    Posts: 663

    Oh man. A re-hash of some ideas.

    @sivylie and @dennis are more correct I think. And if you need another name for it (occasionally) Django's music or Hot club jazz would be my preference. Indeed - Sinti mostly do not like to be called Roma! plus just google it - common practice of language has to rule the day. perhaps Manouche jazz (but since I am not Sinti or any other Gypsy - ?? Whats a musician to do?)

    As a person interested in social justice (a bit) I'd love to feel out a musician here in North America (US, Canada) who is some sort of Romani; playing this music and what they think about the terms.

    I've also seen a lot of bands using Manouche or Sinti or Gypsy in the band name while containing no members of these ethnicities. That seems to me to be appropriation (at least a little bit). Which is worse? I'm not sure.

    As a final tangental but related thought on this - I was at a concert at a major festival here in the US where an artist claimed that jazz has it's roots in 'ho-down' music. about a 3rd of the audience left the room (me included!). This to me is an attempt to exclude the Black American experience from the history of jazz (along with all those artists). It was super offensive to say the least.

  • vanmalmsteenvanmalmsteen Diamond Springs ,CANew Latch Drom F, Eastman DM2v, Altamira m30d , Altimira Mod M
    Posts: 337

    Multiple times I’ve heard Angelo Debarre describe the music as “gypsy swing“

    Roma Swing is an apt reference IMHO

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    edited September 2020 Posts: 959

    But there again, why Manouche? If you worry Gypsy, Roma or Sinti are not PC, then how is Manouche acceptable?

    But then by my logic Ozzie Osbourne should not have been fronting Black Sabbath, a group of four white guys.

    And regarding the comment "...bands using Manouche or Sinti or Gypsy in the band name while containing no members of these ethnicities" I suspect is far from intended "appropriation" (although, of course any PC types who LOOK for reasons to be offended could see it that way) but these musicians more likely use such tags with good intentions, as if they are trying to pay homage to the art form of their choice.

    But then we get back into the age old 'Can white men sing the blues?" debate.

    I suspect most on here came to this music through Django, and he too was the starting point for the explosion of interest in what we now call Gypsy Jazz. So although there are many great players from those separate Gypsy ethnicities, there are also some Gadjo worthy of recognition and doing their bit to pass the baton to future generations.

    But for now lets say this music starts in 1953 when Django died and twenty years of recorded genius was passed on, or even twenty years earlier when the Hot Club Quintet first recorded.

    If we are discussing the correct ethnicity of what we refer to as Django's music and use modern methods to analyse the DNA the resulting mix would be hard to pin down to any one race anyway. First, the traditional history of the Gypsy migration going right back to India suggests that the labels used now - Manouche, Sinti, Roma etc - are different branches of the same tree, and like wise, on their travels each tribe would have absorbed and used different variations on whatever music was around and turned it into their own. According to their route taken they will have heard, learned and absorbed Indian, Turkish or Egyptian music, then brought it to Hungarian Sunday dances at the local Inn (Czardas) or mixed it with Viennese waltzes on their way across Northern Europe, or soaked up Flamenco for those that took the Southern Mediterranean route. So by the 20th century these tribes are playing their music in western Europe - France, Belgium, Holland, Germany etc at which time Django starts out playing banjo in Parisian dance halls playing whatever dance tunes and popular songs of the day presumably also influenced by whatever he had heard from his family and tribesmen as well as the accordian Musette style. These dance tunes would be by French composers or the latest hits imported from elsewhere and particularly America. Then, he heard Louis Armstrong, so hold on now, where did this DNA fit in? The mix gets a new twist from what we now call African-American. Then later still Django's music has absorbed Ravel, Debussy, Fauré, Ellington and Gillespie. So now add that into the DNA mix and you will find the original Gyspy genes are now at a far lower percentage than when Django was starting out at 15, and even further removed from their individual tribal roots.

    So what I am saying is that while ethnologists may like to indulge in analysing such scientific minutiae it is far too late to try to apply one single ethnic label to the music Django left us and has influenced so many with.

    Having said all that, why get so hung up on labels anyway? if someone wants to be offended they will always find a way.

  • edited September 2020 Posts: 279

    It is my understanding that manouche is the "preferred/PC" nomenclature as compared to gypsy. Also, manouche is an umbrella term that contains two different groups, the Sinti and the Roma. This is anagolous to the Sioux and Cree both being "Indians" or rather first Nations or native Americans etc.

    Manouche literally translated as "people". If you use Roma Jazz as your label it excludes the Sinti. Though Django himself was Romani.

    Many people in Europe use Jazz Manouche as the title for this music. In North America we do not have the same derogatory history and baggage with the word gypsy, that is why it is used more frequently in North America. We don't (widely) understand it's offensiveness.

    I know this is a stretch, but I suppose it would be like starting a band in Europe, and saying you play "Niger Blues" instead of Delta Blues. That feels incredibly wrong and extremely insensitive.

    Ok. Do what do we call this music? Hot Club Jazz? Not if you play more like Django's Rome sessions. Manouche swing? I guess that's fine... If you play polka, people don't automatically assume you are German or Polish.

    I brought this idea up a few months ago. How do we even define "gypsy jazz"? It's very broad and loose.

  • Posts: 279

    @Chris Martin what is wrong with 4 white guys calling themselves Black Sabbath? The black in their name has nothing to do with race. It refers to an "evil" or "dark" witch's sabbath. As opposed to a "normal" Christian or Jewish religious celebration or even a White Sabbath that a "white" or "good" witch might celebrate.

    Their name makes total sense considering the lyrics of their songs are pretty dark.

  • Posts: 4,705

    I scanned through my Spotify library and saw:

    Seven Gypsy Nights by Tchavolo

    Gypsy Guitars by Angelo

    Gypsy Trio and Gypsy Project by Bireli

    16 Gypsy Strings by Gismo Graf

    Seems they don't have a problem with it...

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
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