Home > Europe, History, Media > Gypsy music – a rediscovered heritage?

Gypsy music – a rediscovered heritage?


Modern and classical Western music is solidly based on the music tradition, structure, repertoire, of the Roma Gypsy.

Wax recordings of Roma Gypsy music being made.

Wax recordings of Roma Gypsy music being made.

Folk songs from Eastern Europe were a strong inspiration for the great composers Leos Janacek and Bela Bartok. Both of them travelled through the countryside – Janacek in the Slovak-Moravian borderland, Bartok in Transylvania – and recorded village singers using wax cylinders – the only equipment available at the time. The material they collected is still much sought after.

Yet this fieldwork is far from finished, and more musical gems still remain to be discovered – at least in the Roma settlements of Slovakia. These poor and muddy villages are probably the closest place to Western Europe, where Roma have managed to maintain their lifestyle untouched by urban life.

Jana Belisova - The Slovak ethnographer  | Image source & courtesy - radio.cz | Click for image.

Jana Belisova – The Slovak ethnographer | Image source & courtesy – radio.cz | Click for image.

No wonder many Roma, who have settled in Czech towns have warm feelings for these villages – it’s where their relatives come from. Also, many songs now made famous by the Roma divas Vera Bila or Ida Kelarova come from these desolate regions.

Jana Belisova has spent the last 14 years travelling to these places, recording old Roma singers and musicians in their homes. But it was not until last year that she managed to launch her first CD Phurikane Gila and a beautiful book with some stunning pictures. At 38 years old, she is one of the leading experts on Roma music in Slovakia (via Radio Prague – Magic Carpet: Gypsy music – a rediscovered heritage?).

An estimated 6000 of these wax cylinders formed the back bone for Bartok’s music composition. Many other Western classical musicians used the Roma Gypsy themes and constructs in their compositions.


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