Constant absorption of the influence of their surroundings and the creative transformation of these influences belong to the very basis of musical expression of those Roma groups whose members performed music as a traditional profession. (This is true for Spanish-Andalusian influences in flamenco as well as for the music of Russian Roma or Hungarian "Gypsy musicians".)

Since the 1960's, elements of pop music have also been among these influences, especially the use of appropriate musical instruments (first, guitars; later mainly amplified, so-called electric instruments), the composition of new melodies and contemporary Romani texts. This direction is termed rompop.

Texts of modern rompop songs vary in content as well as in quality – and, incidentally, the content and quality are often mutually dependent. From the point of view of poetry, texts with cliches such as "kames man? / soske manna kames? / kamav tut…" ("Do you love me? Why don't you love me? I love you…") understandably have less value than texts that reflect (1) feelings of contemporary Roma or (2) succinctly describe some concrete situation. Such texts include, for example(1) "Šele Romengero lav jekh gadžo prephagla" ("the word of one hundred Roma is broken by one Gadžo") or (2)"Andro foros bari khangeri / rovel odoj cikni chajori / rovel rovel pal e daj / kaj la mukla koror / korkorora pro svetos" ("In the town there is a big church/there a little girl is crying/crying, crying for her mommy/who left her alone/all alone in the world"). Non-cliched texts testify mainly to the vibrancy and the durability of Romani folksongs. Even if this does not seem to be the case - as the themes are completely different - modern texts continue in the tradition, not by presenting phurikane (ancient) themes of hunger and poverty, but by fulfilling one of the important traditional functions of Roma songs: "lachi gili vakerel cacipen". ("A good song speaks the truth/talks about reality.") Contemporary reality "walks in different clothing"; contemporary Roma "na phiren chingerde melale pindrangle" ("do not walk shabbily dressed, dirty and barefoot"), but anguish and joy fill their lives just as before, and good rompop texts can speak of them in the context of contemporary life.

It is necessary to mention the texts in which the hackneyed kale bala (black hair) and šukar chaj romani (pretty Roma girl) are repeated. Apparently they work like a cliché. These slogans metaphorically express what the magic formula "sem Roma sam" ("Still, we are Roma!") - and we can be proud of that - implies. Are they not expressions of Roma identity? It seems to us that they are.

In contrast to older (phurikane) songs, a number of rompop compositions have non-anonymous authors whose names are affixed to CDs or audiocassettes, and/or copyrighted. Some of these texts – songs by the group "Točkolotoč", some texts by the musicians Vera Bílá, Jožka Feci, the defunct group "Cercen", and the excellent verses of Vojta Fabián – are examples of outstanding modern Roma poetry.

Characteristic of rompop melodic lines is their notable departure from hallgató melodies, which do not have a strong rhythmic pulse. Formally symmetric melodies, often arranged as verse-refrain, are enriched with alterations. These melodies are usually heard in vocal-instrumental performances; the vocal lines are polyphonic: the melody is accompanied in the third or fifth progression. Among the instruments the strings (guitars), keyboard and percussion predominate; some groups (e.g. "the Ginovci of Rokycany") also use or used wind - mainly brass – instruments. The use of traditional texts with newly composed melodies is not unusual. [audio illustration 1: Kaskre ola duj chavore]

The most important groups are often composed of members of the young generation of traditional musical families (e.g. in Rokycany, in the 1980’s, the "Ginovci", "Rytmus 84", "Cercen". [audio illustration 2: Amen Roma sam] or Vera Bílá with the group "Kale"; in Náchod, the family group "Cilágos"; in Svitavy, "Točkolotoč"; "Terne chave" from Hradec Králové.)

There are rompop elements – sometimes more, sometimes fewer - in nearly all of the music of Roma groups, including, for example, those playing Christian (especially Pentecostal) music and those who declare themselves to be "traditional".

Image Printable version
Image Kaskre ola duj čhavore
Image Amen Roma sam