Energetic International Tribute Reflects Resiliency of Gypsies


For centuries, in country after country, Gypsies have been treated as outsiders. Efforts to repress or even exterminate them date from before the infamous Nazi death camps in which they, too, were killed. But such efforts also extend to more modern times, including Ceausescu’s Romania in the ‘70s, Bulgaria in the ‘80s and elsewhere in Eastern Europe in the ‘90s.

Why they have failed and must continue to fail was evident in the indomitable vitality of the “Gypsy Caravan: A Celebration of Rroma Music and Dance” program Monday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. (The program was repeated Tuesday at UCLA’s Royce Hall.)

Beginning with an ensemble from Rajasthan, India--the country where scholars now believe the Gypsy--or, more properly, the Rromani--language originated, the program presented groups from six countries. These also included the Kolpakov Trio from Russia, Taraf De Haidouks from Romania, the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble from Bulgaria, Kalyi Jag from Hungary and the Antonio El Pipa Flamenco Ensemble from Spain.


The program never flagged. It began at a high level of energy and artistry and maintained that astonishing level through all the variety and all the rhythmic and vocal similarities discernible as the diverse Rroma people assimilated into and also transformed the cultures of those different countries.

One song from the Hungarian group seemed to embody the pain of a people but it also shifted into an electrifying affirmation of life. This is a guess, however, because unfortunately this song, like most of the vocal music, was not translated into English.

The Romanian group, which suffered some initial amplification problems, ended in a burst of music evocative of Enesco’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1, but much more authentic.

The whole program was like that--one revelation after another. If they come back, go.

Carol Silverman, a professor of folklore at the University of Oregon in Eugene and a singer in the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble, wrote the highly informative and literate program notes.