Česky English Deutsch Francais
Balkan, Indian rhythms collide at Khamoro World Roma Festival
01-06-2007 - Rob Cameron
In this week's Arts, we look at the annual Khamoro Roma Festival, one of the largest festivals of Roma arts and culture in Europe. For the past week the Czech capital has reverberated to sounds from as far afield as India, Portugal and the Balkans.

Orkestar Strumica, photo: Macedonia's Orkestar Strumica - blasting passers-by in Prague's Zelezna street with its ear-splitting blend of traditional Balkan gypsy music and their own, more modern compositions. Orkestar Strumica formed the vanguard of the traditional Khamoro parade through the Old Town, something that's become very much the highlight of the festival.

Now in its ninth year, Khamoro is certainly one of the most colourful events in the Czech capital, and judging by the crowds of people - both locals and tourists - thronging the route of the parade, this year's festival was another big success. Michal Miko is one of the organisers:

Michal Miko "Festival Khamoro is one of the biggest festivals of Roma culture in Europe, and I can say one of the biggest such festivals in the world. Because we have bands from Portugal, Ukraine, Macedonia, India, Russia and other countries, and I think all of them are good musicians and good bands. So I want to invite all the listeners to visit our concerts at the Roxy on Friday and the gala concert on Saturday at the Congress Centre."

When the bands arrived in the Old Town Square they took turns entertaining groups of passers-by, carefully marshalled by Khamoro organisers so they didn't drown each other out and occasionally merging in an extraordinary meeting of eastern and western musical styles. Orkestar Strumica definitely won the prize for loudest ensemble, but the award for longest journey to get to Khamoro must have gone to the Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan in India.

Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan "I'm Rahis Bharti, director artistic of Dhoad Gypsies of Rajastan, the band who is representing India, Rajasthan."

Not many people know that the Romani populations in Europe, they originally came from India, didn't they?

"Yes, actually they came from Rajasthan. From India, they started travelling as a herd, from my forefathers. They started travelling from India, from Rajasthan til Spain. And Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan is a band with musicians, singers, dancers, fakirs, everyone. They're touring most of the time, ten months in the year they're on the road, from Asia to North America."

Today there aren't many similarities in the music. If we listen to music from Macedonia and your music, it's quite different isn't it? Over the centuries it's become very different.

Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan "But the melodies are still similar we can say. The roots are the same. We understand the names and we understand the melodies. The music is a universal language, we understand this thing. We have a lot of things similar there."

Can you tell me a bit about the instruments that you use?

"Actually in Dhoad Gypsies of Rajastan we are using tabla, dholak, harmonium, castanets, singer, there is a fakir who is eating the fire, dancing of the knives, musicians, singers. Altogether we are trying to bring different colours of Rajasthan."

There is of course a serious side to Khamoro. Many of Europe's millions of Romanies live on the very margins of society, subject to discrimination in both schools and the workplace, and generally living shorter and less fulfilling lives than their non-Roma counterparts. To address some of the issues facing Europe's Roma communities today, Khamoro hosted a number of workshops and seminars. Jelena Silajdzic is from the NGO behind the festival, Slovo 21:

Jelena Silajdzic "Sure, we try to show here in Prague not only music, but talk about very important points and focus on Roma problems. So during the Khamoro festival we have two international workshops and seminars. One of them is the Decade of Roma Women, and the second is about Roma People and the Media, because it's very, very important for the Roma question."

The festival's been going for nine years. Do you have the feeling it's having any effect, that you're contributing to an improvement in relations between the Roma community and majority society?

Photo: CTK "I'm sure, really. We are really happy when we can see Roma people and ordinary people together at the gala concert, for example. The first two or three years, it was Roma people were going to these concerts, but now more and more Czech people and other 'white' people are attending them."

But what draws the crowds to Khamoro of course is the music, the universal language that brings together not only disparate Roma groups from as far afield as Spain, Portugal, Ukraine and of course India, but also unites - albeit for just a moment - Roma and gadzo, or white people. The organisers of Khamoro don't pretend they've succeeded in bridging the huge gap between the Roma and majority society. But for a few days in Prague you do get a glimpse of how it could be otherwise.

Related articles
07.04.2019Romany music from the Czech RepublicNews
29.05.2012World Roma festival begins in PragueNews
27.05.2011Khamoro festival brings Roma music, culture to PragueNews
30.04.201012th World Roma Festival KhamoroNews
14.05.2009The eleventh year of the international Roma Khamoro festivalNews
30.05.2008Khamoro Festival celebrates 10th anniversary in PragueNews
25.05.2008World Roma festival Khamoro in PragueNews
02.06.2007Khamoro - Gala concert of traditional Roma music: Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan (India)Current images
02.06.2007Khamoro - Gala concert of traditional Roma music: Ando Drom (Hungary)Current images
All related articles
Format for printing
Send as e-mail

Also in section "News"
31.10.19  Roma children’s choir Chavorenge and members of the Czech Philharmonic to perform in UK
13.09.19  Archaeologists discover graves of Roma persecuted during WWII in Lety camp
02.06.19  Ida Kelarová and her Romany children’s choir Chavorenge
29.05.19  Two Roma activists to receive Charter 77’s František Kriegel Award
07.04.19  Romany music from the Czech Republic
13.03.19  Czech singer Věra Bílá, dubbed the Ella Fitzgerald of Gypsy music, dies days before her comeback tour
21.11.18  Roma social worker from Ostrava listed on BBC 100 Women list
12.10.18  Why are there so few Roma politicians?
17.09.18  Virtuoso pianist Tomáš Kačo: When I tell somebody I’m a Gypsy in the US, they’re excited about it
06.06.18  Study indicates ethnic hate is contagious
Archive of the section

Most popular articles
3153053   26.02.00 Some Basic Information about the Roma Population in the Czech Republic
290319   27.01.05 The 'Devouring': A look at the Romani Holocaust
184516   26.02.00 The History and Origin of the Roma
141463   26.02.02 The Language of the Roma
107706   13.06.00 The History of the Roma Minority in the Czech Republic
105260   26.02.00 The Traditional Family Life of the Czech Roma
103929   02.06.03 The Roma Holocaust
88238    World famous Roma Personalities
88174   21.02.04 Extreme right activists demonstrate for skinhead in jail
74801    Photographs by Romani Children
Copyright © Český rozhlas / Czech Radio, 1997-2023
Vinohradská 12, 120 99 Praha 2, Czech Republic