Gipsy.cz – A phenomenal mix of hip hop, rap, r n’b and traditional gypsy music|
In this week’s Music Express my guest is the talented singer, rapper and
composer Radek Banga, the frontman for one of the Czech Republic’s
best-known bands Gipsy.cz. The four-member group first broke onto the scene
six years ago and quickly rose to the top with an unusual mix of
traditional Romany music crossed with rap, hip hop, pop and r n’b. They
have only grown in popularity since.
Last week Radek Banga stopped by the Czech Radio building last week to
discuss the band’s career.
“Gipsy.cz was much more specific than my previous solo work because you
had Vojta Lavička, who is a violinist, and he really influenced me so
much, as did the other members, the brothers Petr and Jan Šurmaj, who come
from traditional families. I need to say here that I am not from a
traditional family but something different. My father was into stuff like
Pink Floyd, he was quite a rocker. But these guys were real gypsies and it
was more about music, more about the real gipsy feeling. They had it but I
had the hip hop, ideas, the lyrics. But they had the real gipsy feeling!”
Your first album Romano Hip Hop really launched you guys into the
spotlight, it received great attention, lots of radio play and it really
put you out there. If we look at the opening song, Tajsa, what does the
title mean and what is the song about?
“Yeah, Tajsa translates as ‘tomorrow and’ it’s a song about hope.
It’s about two guys who believe they are going to make a final, you know,
‘steal’ and they go the street to steal quite expensive cars. And they
believe that if they get a chance and they sell them well, they will get a
chance to go to school and to live like a normal person. They believe in a
better tomorrow. Džas te čorel o tajsa... that translates as go and
‘steal your tomorrow’. I wanted to say that sometimes you meet people
who are on the street and were born into really bad families and into
poverty. But they haven’t chosen it, it’s not about choice. It’s
simply like that: they were born into it and they need a chance. They need
hope and that’s what the song is about.”
You’ve said in interviews that you also were on the street for a while
as a teen. Did you also hold that hope inside that ‘Ok, I’m a gypsy but
I’m going to break out one day’, I’m gonna get out of this situation
and change things?
“Yeah of course, it was all about my whole life. I didn’t really have
a nice childhood: my father, for example, is a good man but his demon was
always alcohol and it was a difficult situation. But I believed that one
day I could break it up and that not everything was lost, that one day
there will be some hope. I believed it. On the other hand, I began with
music when I was 13 and I ‘made it’ when I was 24. So it was the work
of ten years. But yeah, I believed things could change.”
Now besides singing in Romany, Gipsy.cz incoprorates all kinds of
traditional musical elements: violin, cymbalo... how do you like that
creative aspect of mixing the traditional with the modern?
“You know, I like it very much because hip hop alone is quite boring. If
you create music for hip hop obviously it’s a loop, a beat... but
that’s it. It’s a loop and after ten years you get really bored. The
other thing is that I am still a gypsy, you can not delete it, it’s in
you, it’s inside, it’s in your veins, so you have to feel music. Many
people don’t know that I am also a guitarist, I am a musician and one day
you just wake up and say ‘Ugh, I hate these loops! No more, please, my
God!’ So yeah: I love it! Because Gipsy music is beautiful, it’s one of
the things from our culture... you know there are a lot of bad things,
gypsy kids steal, they don’t go to school... bad things... blah blah blah
whatever... but this is really ‘no mistakes’. This is really good. This
is the best that we have. Music.”
I want to talk about the song Jednou (Once): it’s basically a ballad to
a white girl written from the perspective of a gypsy or Roma man who says
that he can’t love her. The crux of the problem or the deeper message is
about racism, it’s about the fact that her family won’t allow her to be
with a gypsy. I wanted to ask you if you had also suffered that kind of
discrimination or other situations similar...
“So of course when you are a gypsy, when you are a Roma in eastern
Europe you always find yourself in such situations. But my first
inspiration here was Romeo & Juliet.”
The star-crossed lovers...
“Yeah, it’s classic, it’s classic. There is a story of two people
who can’t be together. It may be about families, but this is a situation
also about families. I was with a blonde girl and I believe she loved me.
And she said I was a normal guy and that I had dreams... and that I was
working hard on myself. But anyway she was listening to her mother who said
‘You cannot be with a gipsy guy, what kind of kids do you wanna have?!’
To which I replied – and this was a joke, I said it as a joke ‘I am
going to work as hard as I can so that they will be as white as
“It’s impossible to predict what will happen in the next years. So,
she was beautiful, she was smart, but she was still her mother’s girl,
you know? So that was my own story and I told myself one day I have to sing
about it: how a beautiful thing like love can be completely destroyed by
stupidity. By people who look only at the colour of your skin: c’mon,
Since their inception Gipsy.cz has produced a lot of great music and
performed often both at home and abroad, including the famous Glastonbury
festival. Radek Banga says they are now also currently preparing a
much-awaited third album.
There was one more song, though, on the debut that I wanted to discuss:
their entry a few years back in the Eurovision song contest: a mysterious
but catchy song called Muloland. In minute we’ll play you a bit, but
here’s the story that goes with it. Once again, frontman Radek Banga:
“So Mulo in the gypsy language means the soul of a dead man. And land is
land, so it means a land of dead people. One time we were playing in
Germany at some university at a time when we were not as known, and we were
staying overnight on site. And I believe that we met a ghost there...
gypsies really believe in ghosts, we are a very spiritual people. That was
the first message of the song: to let white people know that we believe in
spirits, we believe in God, but much more in the soul and spirits. If your
father is dead, for example, and you’re all eating, it’s normal to take
a plate of food and leave it on the window sill. So he won’t be hungry.
Many people can not understand it, but for gypsy families it’s normal.
“In Germany on the site of the university there was a tragedy 80 years
ago there in which more than a hundred people died. There was an explosion
and they died there and that was the story. And I think that we gypsies can
feel that and I felt it. I couldn’t sleep because I could hear voices.
That is what the song was about. How we were all so scared that we all
slept in one bed, you know all the members of the band! Really scared!”
Thanks again to Radek Banga for coming in for Music Express. Want to learn
more about Gypsy.cz? Visit their website which has sections in both English
and Czech: www.gipsy.cz