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Nomadic Gypsy Life


Is it possible for modern bands to show real Gypsy folklore?

In former days new members came to performing bands directly from nomadic groups. Boys and girls who grew up in tents brought their unique folk traditions to the stage. Raya Udovikova and Roza Djelakayeva had danced at marketplaces for coins before they became famous artistes. However, in 1956 the then Soviet government banned the nomadic way of life. A lot has been written about the positive results of this decree; but it ravaged Gypsy culture. When the USSR government made the Gypsies settle down, the environment in which folklore traditions were conserved was destroyed. During the first decades after the decree the worst consequences could hardly be seen, yet when people from the old school left the stage, the first signs of a crisis appeared. Step by step the bands became more and more “civilized”; young people from cities gravitated to the glitter of pop-culture. Inevitably this leads to the loss of interest from the audience.

Is there a way out?

“Svenko” has found it in ethnographic trips. It is hard to believe, but even in the modern world there are islands of true folk culture. Of cause it can be difficult to establish a good relationship with Gypsy families or with Gypsies who still live in tents. We have been to many so-called “reserves” with our camera and guitar, in which old people sang us half-forgotten songs as they used to sing in their youth.

We learned a lot from the families of blacksmiths who still make spades, hoes and horseshoes to sell.

Improvised concerts in forest camps left us greatly impressed. We sang and danced for modern nomads, and they also showed us their art.

In this section you will see photographs and records taken during ethnographical trips. These are a window into an unknown world.

“Svenko” professionally analyzes songs and dance movements and adds the best to their repertoire. Yet the main thing is that unlike modern performers we breathe the air of freedom. For us nomadic life is real and part of our repertoire of memories. Certainly, not all the impressions can be reflected directly. But thanks to our “time machine” we achieve a very special effect in our folk songs and dances. Poor Gypsy families who live as our people lived in the past preserve our national identity and atmosphere. The founders of “Svenko” were the first who dared to contact them to seek our national roots and musical rarities.