World Roma festival begins in Prague|
They call it the biggest Roma culture festival in the world, and it’s
back in Prague for the 14th year. The Khamoro, or World Roma Festival,
means nine days of some of the best gypsy bands from all corners of Europe,
but also a wide array of cultural and sociological events all aimed at
promoting unity and understanding.
Khamoro, which means ‘little sun’ in Romany, took its name from an
incident at a concert produced by the festival’s organisers in the 90s.
They say a band, called Khamoro, was trying to play and continually
suffered their sound being turned off by the sound technician. Fourteen
years on and gypsy music will be dominating pubs, clubs and cultural
centres all over Prague, from now until the 6th of June. Michal Miko is one
of the festival’s producers:
“The Khamoro festival is not only about the music. We have a lot of
accompanying programmes, there will be a fashion show by [Cuban fashion
designer] Osmany Laffita and exhibitions on Wednesday and Thursday. But the
main programme is the music. The most famous bands that have been invited
this year are Kočani Orkestar from Macedonia and Urs Karpatz from France.
The main aim of the festival is to bring Roma and non-Roma together more
this week in the Czech Republic, because the situation in the Czech
Republic is not normal, and we have been trying for ten years to build up
relationships between Roma and non-Roma in the Czech Republic. And we think
the best way to do that is through culture.”
Have you had real signs over the last ten years that the Khamoro festival
has indeed made progress improving race relations?
“Having worked on the festival from the beginning, I can say there were
a lot of Roma visitors at the festival the first year, and looking back on
recent years there have been a lot of Roma visitors and non-Roma visitors.
So I think we’ve made some progress, that we’ve brought some
interesting ideas to the Czech Republic and shown that non-Roma and Roma
can be together in one place.”
The festival is accompanied by a media campaign that highlights not only
the festival itself but also Roma issues in general.
The programme includes a performance of the National Theatre called ‘My
Neighbour, My Enemy’, about the co-existence of Czechs and Roma and
composed from public documents and resources.
This year for the first time, Roma from around Europe will be able to take
part in workshops in cultural management aimed at helping them organise
cultural events elsewhere.
Most of the festival’s programme though centres on the colourful culture
of the Roma, which you can appreciate in a dance procession that will move
through the centre of Prague on Thursday. Roma history is also represented,
in part with an exhibition of traditional crafts.
The musical programme wraps up with a gala concert Saturday evening in
Prague’s SaSaZu club starring the band Nightwork and singer Martin