Following the routes of Roma migration across Europe via music
In 1955-56 the Bengali ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya recorded the music and singing of Roma people in various countries in Western and Northern Europe. This is about everything that I know of this recording. But I appreciate a blind discovery as much as an informed one, and diving into this collection was exciting. Identities of the Roma population are dispersed along with their travel and numerous displacements, and this album is a decent place to start because so many facets are represented. To me, who is predominantly familiar with the Romani culture in its Russian iteration, the Romanian recordings seemed most familiar. I also found them to be most distinct from the dominant local cultures: for instance, the music of Roma in Greece was very evocative of traditional Greek music, replete with buzukis, I heard strong Spanish motifs in the Andalusian recordings, and the haunting “Descente de la chasse” from France sounded to me a lot like Catholic choral music. But what’s most interesting, is that you get a swift hint of Indian, which is amazing, because the Roma people had been migrating westward since around 250BC. What a genius preservation of identity and culture!
Zingari by Deben Bhattacharya
Released in 2011 by New Earth Records