Klezmer History: What is Gypsy Music?

What is Gypsy Music?

Gypsy music is music of the Roma (Romani or Gypsy) people.  It should be noted that the word ‘gypsy' often has a negative connotation, and the Romani people would never use this term to refer to themselves.  Therefore it is preferable to refer to them as they refer to themselves, as ‘Roma'.  (Please see this website, The Voice of Roma, for a much more thorough discussion of this topic)

The Roma are a diverse ethnic group originating from the Indian plateau and spreading throughout the Near-East, Europe and North Africa on a journey that has lasted at least 1500 years maybe much longer.   They have been known by many names in the various lands they have inhabited such as Tsigane, Zigeuner, Gitano, Bohemian, Egyptian, Gypsie, gipsy and of course, gypsy.

Along their long journey, they have come to embody a certain mystique of wandering people, adept as entertainers and tradesman, but most famously trained as musicians.  Along the thousands of years they have journeyed since leaving the Indian plateau, they have learned and assimilated the musical styles of every culture they have come in contact with.  Because the Romani people have lived and played in such diverse lands as India, Spain, Turkey, North Africa, the Middle East and all over Europe, it is difficult to come to a singular definition of what gypsy music is.

In many ways the Roma people have acted as repositories of endangered music, preserving art and traditions that would otherwise have been lost.  Even more amazing is the fact that they have been extremely successful at preserving their own unique culture and legacy while absorbing the influences of those around them.

Here is a list of some of the most important Roma musicians and bands:

• Django Reinhardt
• Taraf de Haidouks
• Camaron de la Isla
• Paco de Lucia
• Ivo Papazov
• Gypsy Kings
• Boban Markovic
• Yuri Yunakov
• The Rosenberg Trio
• Jimmy Rosenberg
• Birelli Lagrene
• Esma Redzepova
• Fanfare Ciocarlia

Here is a good article on Romani music from wikipedia.com:

Here is a great, in depth article on Romani music from rootsworld.com: