The Roma and music
The art of sounds in Romani culture
Europe is a cultural mosaic and also a musical mosaic, and each of its people is the guardian of rhythms and styles that have been renewed over the centuries, also due to external Oriental and African American influences. Roma have also made their contribution to this rich European cultural mosaic with distinctive colours and forms ranging from the popular tradition of the Balkans to Spanish flamenco and French jazz manouche.
…The art of music is for them a sublime language, a song mystic in itself though clear to the initiated, which they use to express what they want without being influenced by anything foreign to their desires. They have invented their music for their own use, to speak, to sing about themselves to themselves, to remain united, and they have invented the most touching monologues.
Romani musical language
The learned musician is so surprised by the strangeness of the intervals of Romani music that he is willing to consider them as defects of execution; at the same time he is disoriented by the coarse modulations which clash with his sacred musical dogmas to the extent that if he could take them seriously he would be indignant and scandalised.” Yet Liszt also emphasises that “…a listener who is inexpert yet has good taste is struck at once by these new elements which impose on him and at the same time delight him. However unimpressionable he may be by the more expressive aspect, he will enjoy such music more than a professor, steeped in his scientific prejudices.
…they go from binary to ternary movement according to the requirement of tumultuous impressions or lethargy.
The sound of their instruments is second to none. The note of the violins emerges strident and clear; the vigour of their execution is amazing. The feverishly vibrant strings seem about to break at any time, in a paroxysm of sonorous tension.
… The flourishes are simply musical filigree work, embroidery, an arabesque. Everything that fantasy could imagine of the sinuosity and zigzags through endless periphrasis and paraphrase, all this was used by Roma to adorn their music. Therefore the true artist is the one who takes the motif of the song or dance as a summary of a discourse or as the epigraph of a poem, and based on this original idea, of which he does not lose sight, improvises, wanders and rambles with a profusion of mediums, trills, scales, arpeggios, diatonic and chromatic passages, groups and scherzos. In this powerful blooming of sounds, often the melody is reduced to simple execution of the thread binding the garland, hidden and invisible under the attractive buds and dazzling petals; and the main phrase is glimpsed as a smiling sultana semi-hidden behind her veil, strewn with multiform and polychrome straws.