By Tom Schnabel


My friend Donald Cohen has written a new book about Gypsy Music called

Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul

. It is his third book about music; his earlier books include

Fado Português: Songs from the Soul of Portugal


Tango Voices: Songs from the Soul of Buenos Aires and Beyond


Like the earlier volumes, Gypsy Voices is filled with wonderful photographs, commentary on all 21 songs on the cd that comes with it, lyrics translations, and even sheet music. It’s everything that a music fan could want. It also was a labor of love, involving many difficult choices among the thousands of songs in the Roma diaspora (Macedonia, Russia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Serbia).

The Roma people have been misunderstood and maligned for centuries, experiencing repression and rejection wherever they went. Yet they have endured. Originally from Northwestern India, they were called “gypsies” because of their dark skin: people thought they came from Egypt. The word “gyped” as in “The salesperson gyped me…” (meaning ripped off) is an example of the negative attitude.

Don CohenThe new book features music from Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Balkans, not the gitano flamenco music from Spain, the Andalusian flank of the Roma diaspora. Perhaps that will come in the next installment?

If you are a fan of this music, you must also check out Tony Gatliffs films about gypsies. His first was the masterpiece Latcho Drom, which traces Roma culture from Rajasthan all the way to Spain, including Eastern Europe and the Balkans. His other films include Mondo, the moving tale of a young gypsy boy very out of place in posh Côte d’Azur, as well as, Vengo and Gadjo Dilo.

Rhythm Planet Playlist: 10/11/13
Don Cohen, Author and guest.

  1. Karandila, feat. Maya / Djelem, Djelem / Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul
  2. Esma Redzepova / Moite Zlatni 50 / Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul
  3. Kal / Ding Deng Dong / Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul
  4. Saban Bajramovic / Mi Romnori Nasvalili / Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul
  5. Kalyjag / Ushzyen Taj Khelas / Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul
  6. Gabi Lunca / Suparata Sint Pe Lume / Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul
  7. Dzansever / Ki Zandana Me Kamerav / Gypsy Voices: Songs from the Romani Soul

This article is reprinted with permission from Tom Schnabel's Rhythm Planet blog at KCRW.com.

Tom Schnabel began producing radio for KCRW in 1977. He developed the eclectic music format and introduced World Music to public radio. Schnabel resigned his position as music director in 1990 to broaden his career as a record producer, music consultant, and teacher. Tom Schnabel's Rhythm Planet online show at KCRW.com features the latest and best in jazz and international music, with an emphasis on new Brazilian, European, African, and Tropical Latin music.