Highlights of World Roma Festival Khamoro|
Every year we report from Khamoro the World Roma Festival, when top
international Gypsy musicians gather in Prague. Their performances are
always received with great enthusiasm. This year's 7th festival was no
exception, and has been hailed as a great success.
One of many highlights at the Khamoro festival was Vera Gondolanova a well
known Gypsy singer of Czech origin, who has settled down in Australia.
Vera came to support the festival and was given the honour of leading a
parade of all the musicians in the festival, through Prague's downtown.
Did she enjoy the ride in a horse-drawn carriage?
"It's the first time I've seen something like that in the Czech
Republic. I have seen it in San Mare in Spain and other countries. But it
was beautiful because Prague is a very baroque city. Such a beauty, the
colours of the costumes from the different nations that have arrived in
Prague with the beautiful buildings of our country. It was so
Vera Gondolanova calls herself more than anything else a jazz singer. She
says it is closer to her heart than Gypsy music which she took up once
again only recently.
"I like music. For me music is everything. It doesn't matter whether
it is jazz or pop or Gypsy music. I like everything but my heart is with
jazz. Why am I singing Gypsy songs right now? It is because I have been
touring France and at one of the jazz festivals was a guy who is actually
my manager and he said to me: 'Vera why don't you do Gypsy songs? Ethno is
in right now and I am sure you are going to do it well as well.' "
The manager was right. Traditional Slovak, Hungarian and Czech Gypsy songs
moved the hearts of the audience at Vera's concert in the Roxy Club where I
caught up with her before a rehearsal. She told me not only about her music
but also about Roma and their lifestyle.
"The Gypsies in this country are a bit little different to Gypsies
elsewhere. The Gypsy nature is to be very friendly. But as we live in this
terrible time everything is going somehow wrong. I would like to tell all
Gypsies in the Czech Republic that everything that they want to do in
their lives it depends on themselves. I am a Gypsy as well. I like freedom
and everything as far as Gypsy life is concerned. But we live in the year
2000; we live in the new era."
"We were like at home. People were cheering for us 'Yeah, yeah, it is
very nice, good. Bravo.' It was a good feeling."
says Marko Putkonen the lead singer of Finnish Gypsy band Hortto Kaalo
what in Finnish Romany dialect means 'Real Gypsy'. They were the first to
play Gypsy music in Finland some twelve years ago.
"Our first record 'Why is the door not opening for us?' became very
popular in Finland. It was played on radio all the time. It made us
famous. Even now it is sometimes used for TV advertisements when they are
opening a new gas station or something. They say 'Why the doors are not
opening for us?' Then it opens and then we are singing."
The attitude of Finnish people towards Gypsies has changed rapidly and
Marko is sure that it was their music that drew attention to
discrimination in Finland.
"When I was a young guy and I wanted to buy a lighter, they would not
sell it to me, they did not sell to Gypsies. Today that is a crime."
Marko has devoted all his life to music. He has played rock, pop music,
gypsy folk music, and sung in Finnish opera as a soloist for twenty years.
"All singing is good. I like singing Mozart, I love singing classical
music. But you see Gypsy music I can sing straight from the heart. It is a
little miracle. I just close my eyes and I am thinking 'I am singing to
you. I don't know who you are but I am singing to you.' "
I asked Marko whether he would mind singing his favourite song. He agreed
at once and chose a song about the beauty of the Hungarian flatlands
which, as he explained, used to be home to Roma.