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Romani Singing

Teacher: Carol Silverman

Today Romani (Gypsy) music is both an integral part of Romani communities in the Balkans and a commercial commodity in the world music market. A diasporic ethnic group originally from India, Roma have played a significant role as professional musicians, mastering the music of neighboring peoples, adding their own repertoire, genres, and styles, while simultaneously facing prejudice and discrimination.

Some instruments such as zurna (double reed wind instrument) and tupan (drum) have been historic Romani monopolies. Balkan Romani music varies from region to region and sub-group to subgroup, but improvisation, innovation, and eclecticism are widely valued. Čoček (or kyuchek) is a popular dance genre that often uses Turkish-derived scales (makams) and characteristic rhythms in variations of 2/4 and 9/8. Vocal styles emphasize solo performance, extensive melodic ornamentation, rhythmic flexibility and emotional expression.

Roma sing in many Balkan languages, including Romani, which is Sanskrit based. My Romani singing classes emphasize varied repertoire, styling, phrasing, ornamentation, pronunciation, and cultural contexts. We often collaborate with instrumental ensembles such as brass band and tamburica and Trans- Carpathians ensemble; this provides professional training as well as materials to take back to your own groups.

  Written by Carol Silverman, 2011