TWO VOICES, ONE SOUL:

ROMA MUSIC OF HUNGARY AND ROMANIA

By Donald Cohen

Gypsy-Voices-175My recent book on the subject of Roma (Gypsy) music was the most difficult of the three I’ve written, the first examining Portuguese fado, and the next dealing with tango from Argentina and around the world. The scope of the first two musical forms are limited; fado by the size of the country and its culturally limited relationship to Portugal, tango by its musical form, i.e its unique rhythm and that of the dance that it frequently accompanies.

Roma, or ‘Gypsy’ music, however, has no such limitations. It transcends both musical and geographical borders. The people who produce it, about ten million in Europe alone, and millions elsewhere, have no homeland and, until about a hundred years ago, no written language with which to pass down their music, their lyrics and their history.

It is so vast a subject, that I felt the need to limit the book itself to Eastern Europe and to narrow it down in this article to examining the music of two Balkan countries with large Roma populations and with a very rich musical heritage.

The Romani tribes, originating in central India, some say Rajasthan, began migrating from there in successive waves, reaching Europe around nine hundred years ago and arriving in the Balkans around the fourteenth century.

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Folky Rock?

They Don’t Use the F-word,
but Some of this Rock is Pretty Folky

By Leo Kretzner

Ella Maria Lani Yelich-OConnorYa know, me'thinks the next generation did somehow pick up folk music influences. I'm not sure from where. Probably not a lot from the roots, more by way of some sixties music - which you have to admit is among the most scenic routes back there.

Nobody is calling it Folk-Rock, but mainstream, college and progressive hard-rock radio stations are awash in acoustic tracks. The recent number one record in America is the female a cappella harmonizing of just-17 Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor, aka Lorde, singing her song Royals. The New York Times rightly dubbed it “Dickensian” in noting its use as the city’s new mayor’s celebratory song. Other current much-played acoustic songs go on to include a number of good group chorus songs by groups like the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons. (Actually, Wikipedia does refer to these groups with the term “folk rock.”)

Voices, acoustic guitars and even banjos are ringing out! There’s an acoustic revival at hand! Did you know?!?

Read more: Folky Rock?