Khamoro Festival 2010

Expats.cz looks at the line-up for this year´s festival of Roma culture

Jacy Meyer

Written by Jacy Meyer Published on 30.04.2010 12:16:07 (updated on 30.04.2010) Reading time: 3 minutes

For the past 12 years, the Khamoro Festival, a world festival celebrating Roma culture, has been introducing locals and foreigners to traditional Roma music and dance. Starting with a one day event in 1998, the festival expanded rapidly one year later to a seven day affair. Visitors have the opportunity to experience a range of Roma bands from across the world; see exhibitions; attend dance workshops and discussions. It´s all part of the message the festival hopes to impart.

“We think this festival had the power to break prejudices against Roma in the Czech Republic,” said Michal Miko, PR Manager for the Khamoro Festival. “A high percentage of visitors are foreigners and it´s a good way to improve opinions about the Roma community throughout the world.”

Miko says the festival has hosted more than 600 performers and seen more than 100,000 visitors during its decade plus run. Traditionally, the festival offers both traditional and jazz gypsy bands; screens films by or about Roma; put on exhibitions and hosts international experts in workshops designed to explore Roma issues more in-depth. This year (festival runs May 23-29, 2010) will be no different.

Music

Khamoro is really all about the music. The skill and passion these musicians have spins through their instruments and infuse the concerts with energy and excitement.

“There are not many professional Roma musicians and we have made space to introduce them to the public,” Miko said. “Many stars of Roma music have performed here throughout the years.” While the majority of bands come from around Europe, Miko says they´ve had said some come from as far as the US and Brazil.

FEATURED EMPLOYERS

The musical festivities kick off Monday night with what Miko says is “a concert of modern Roma music” by well-known Czech band Gipsy.cz. Tuesday and Wednesday are reserved for Gypsy jazz bands; 16 Gipsy Strings from Germany plays Tuesday with a Dutch/French group, Gipsy Swing Trio letting loose on Wednesday. The next two nights are reserved for traditional Roma music. At the ROXY, you´ll hear three or four different bands each night. A gala concert of seven bands (Mahala Rai Banda/Romania, Black Panthers/Serbia; Šukar/Slovenia; Orkestar Braka Kadrievi/Macedonia & Belgium; Romano Atmo/France; Romano Stilo/Slovakia and Surmajovci/Czech Republic) will perform at the Congress Center.

Exhibitions and Film

Two exhibitions are being put on this year. At the Slovakian Cultural Institute, you´ll have the opportunity to view Genocide of Roma during the Second World War. On a lighter note, Serbian photographer Srdjan Stanojević has spent the past three Khamoros snapping photos of the musicians immediately after they´ve finished performing. A Minute After is his exhibition of these moments. It´s being shown at Café NOD.

Three films are being shown this week, all at Aero Cinema. Miko says they are excited to be premiering ROM_ID, about young Roma throughout Europe. The documentary follows Roma youth in different countries and examines how they identify themselves. There will also be two films by Želimir Žilnik about Yugoslav refugees who spent years living abroad after the war and then were forced to return home.

Something very different being premiered here this year is a Roma opera entitled Invisible Gipsy. Miko says it tells the story of a Roma family and their relationships; both between each other and their community. There will also be a seminar “Roma Identity” being held at the US Embassy with a variety of international experts in Roma studies and issues discussing changes in the population´s culture, amongst other topics. One of the most fun events (and free) should be the annual parade of musicians. On Thursday at noon; all the bands participating will put on their traditional best outfits and walk from Můstek through Ovocny trh on to Old Town Square for an impromptu musical celebration.

The festival is put on by SLOVO 21, an NGO dedicated to educational, cultural and public awareness programs relating to the Roma as well as the integration of foreigners. Tickets can be purchased now through Ticketstream.

Miko is enthusiastic that all attendees will have a good time, and he hopes the events will contribute to a breakdown of Roma preconceptions.

“The week is about the celebration of Roma culture in the Czech Republic,” he said. “Roma are happy that non-Roma attend; it´s where the two cultures meet.”

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