Zbyněk Andrš and Milan Durňak
Conference paper:
Romani Music in the Course of Time


The ethnographic film „Romani Music in the Course of Time“ features the music and the dances of the so called Slovak Roma who are the largest Romani subethnic group in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The film, which took several years to make, illustrates the present-day situation of the Romani songs, music and dances in both countries mentioned. Originally, the film was to be instructive and didactic, yet the vividness of the footage inspired the authors of its final version - Zbyněk Andrš and Milan Durňak – to take another attitude. In accordance with the concept of reflexive and visual anthropology, their approach takes into account the viewer’s subjectivity and highlights the interactions between the people behind the camera and those in front of it.

In terms of ethnomusicology the film focuses on the transformations in genre and style of the Romani music which are related to the succession of generations, the progressing globalization and the rapid expansion of audio-visual technologies. Some traditional Romani song genres, particularly the plaintive lamentations (halgató), are as good as extinct, yet the Roma are still well versed in the old rhythmical dance songs, such as czardas, as well as the more modern songs in the rhythm of tango and fox which now have become a sort of tradition as well. The film allows the viewers to enjoy the Romani music as experienced by the singers, musicians and dancers in their original background, and tries to capture the musical productions and its meaning from their perspective.

The film’s main protagonists include Romani musicians and singers coming from various backgrounds, some of them very popular while others completely unknown. The film provides their close-ups through recordings and interviews. The interviews, in Czech and Romani, are provided with English subtitles, and so are the lyrics. The film is supplied with commentaries on the situation and context of the given recording. The film’s focus is the ethnomusicologic dramaturgy that abandons the documentary narrative in order to create a cultural and audio-visual dialog of all concerned.

The movie is a music-film collage that tries to render the transformations in genre and interpretation of the Romani musical folklore as well as other segments of the life of the Roma.

P.S. In the cooperation with the organizators there will be a official film screening after the paper presentation.

Trailer: https://youtu.be/oPJbITJtS78