Catalan Romani rumba

One of the particular features that set Catalan Roma apart is Catalan Romani rumba, which like flamenco is a mixed music genre that has superbly crystallised in the Romani communities in the Gràcia and Hostafrancs neighbourhoods and De La Cera Street in Barcelona, and in other towns such as Mataró and Lleida. Names such as el Pescailla, el Tio Paló, Chacho and Peret are essential for understanding the genre. Within the wide and diverse flamenco universe there are a multitude of styles called cantes de ida y vuelta (literally “return trip songs”) which include colombiana, guagira and rumba. These musical styles perfectly exemplify the impure nature of flamenco because they come precisely from joyful contact and promiscuous enjoyment.


They are a corpus of Spanish harmonies and beats which travelled to the Americas in the suitcases of the Galicians, who went to seek their fortune in the New World. In the Antilles these musical forms became impregnated with the imposing colonial musical substrate in which Africa was an essential ingredient. Over time and as part of the profitable commercial traffic between the two shores of the Atlantic, some of these people came home and brought with them their music which once back in Spain became flamenco-flavoured.

In flamenco Spain, rumba took on a number of forms. They range from the most ancient preserved by the Cadiz singer Pepe de la Matrona to the unique style of the great Bambino and Amina and the protest rumba of Los Chichos which came out of the Caño Roto district in Madrid. Today rumba has very diverse colours and flavours, especially now that the border between rumba and tango has become blurred.

But in Catalonia rumba has a different aftertaste. Catalan Roma carry the duple metre of rumba development with special charm, sing their lyrics mainly in Catalan and accompany their voices with a particular touch of guitar, an invention that someone dubbed the fan, which marries harmony and percussion. The older ones sing a more sober rumba while the younger generations delight in salsa, outlandish keyboards and percussion and take Americanism to the extreme.


Written by Sebastían Porras.

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