Romany music from the Czech Republic|
On the eve of International Roma Day, Radio Prague is featuring music by
some of the country’s best Romany singers.
If you want to experience the diversity of Romany music –not just from
the Czech regions – but from around the world, you want to attend the
annual festival of Romany culture Khamoro (which means “sun” in the
Romany language). The week-long festival has a twenty-year-old tradition
and has grown in strength, offering Romany bands and singers from around
the world, exhibitions, film screenings, dance work-shops and seminars on
Roma history and culture. The highlight of the Prague festival is a
colorful procession of costumed singers and dancers winding their way
through the city center. Over the years Khamoro has attracted over 160
Romany bands from 40 countries the world over and is now considered the
best-known Roma festival in Europe and beyond.
Iva Bittová is an avant-garde Romany singer, violinist and composer whose
fame transcended Czech borders. Bittová's music is a blend of rock
and East European music which she describes as "my own personal folk
music". Her violin playing mixes different techniques, including
playing the strings with various objects and plucking them like a banjo.
Her vocal utterances range from traditional singing to chirping, cackling
and deep throat noises. She puts her whole body into her performances,
drawing on her theatrical skills. She has performed across Europe, in the
US and Japan, riveting audiences with her unique style.
Ida Kelarová (Iva Bittová’s sister) is a singer, musician and
choirmaster who performs some of the best Romany music to come out of the
Czech Republic. She annually holds a summer school for talented Romany
children from socially vulnerable families living in excluded localities in
the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Her Romany children's choir
Čhavorenge tours abroad and cooperates with the Czech Philharmonic
One of the best known Romany singers from the younger generation is Radek
Banga known as Gipsy who merges traditional Romany music with hip hop. In
2006 his band Gipsy.cz won an Angel award for Best Newcomer. In 2007 they
performed at the Glastonbury festival, the first Czech band to get invited
A number of Romany singers got their break thanks to song contests. Vlasta
Horváth won the Czech Superstar contest in 2005 and has since recorded
four CDs. Monika Bagárová, one of the finalists in the Czecho-Slovak
Super Star contest released her debut album in 2011. She’s into jazz,
soul and r’n’b. Jan Bendig first got noticed when he won Academy Idol
in Britain where he spend a few years with his family. In 2009 he was one
of the finalists in Czecho-Slovak Superstar. He cooperated closely with
Romany singer Vera Bilá who died a few weeks ago.