Monday, 4 January 2016


“It is impossible to imagine a more complete fusion with nature than that of the Gypsy.” - Franz Liszt

We watched an excellent film at the weekend. It was Tony Gatlif’s 1993 documentary “LatchoDrom”. This is the second in a trilogy that examines the life and culture of the Roma people. The Romani (also spelled Romany) are a traditionally itinerant ethnic group living mostly in Europe and the Americas, who originate from the northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent, specifically from Northern India, presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan and Punjab.

The Romani are widely known among English-speaking people by the exonym “Gypsies”. However, according to many Romani people and academics who study them, the word has been tainted by its use as a racial slur and a pejorative connoting illegality and irregularity. Other exonyms are Ashkali and Sinti.

Romani are dispersed, with their concentrated populations in Europe (especially Central, Eastern and Southern Europe) including Turkey, Spain and Southern France. They originated in Northern India and arrived in Mid-West Asia, then Europe, around 1,000 years ago, either separating from the Dom people or, at least, having a similar history; the ancestors of both the Romani and the Dom left North India sometime between the sixth and eleventh century.

Since the nineteenth century, some Romani have also migrated to the Americas. There are an estimated one million Roma in the United States; and 800,000 in Brazil, most of whose ancestors emigrated in the nineteenth century from eastern Europe. Brazil also includes some Romani descended from people deported by the government of Portugal during the Inquisition in the colonial era. In migrations since the late nineteenth century, Romani have also moved to other countries in South America and to Canada.

The Romani language is divided into several dialects, which add up to an estimated number of speakers larger than two million. The total number of Romani people is at least twice as large (several times as large according to high estimates). Many Romani are native speakers of the language current in their country of residence, or of mixed languages combining the two; those varieties are sometimes called Para-Romani.

This film is an amazing celebration of Roma music, explored through travel along the migration route from India to Spain. The music and dance of the Roma is the common thread that binds them all, but it is interesting to also note the differences in the various countries they have settled in and the various local influences they have absorbed.

It is a touching film, very sad in parts while full of joie de vivre and unbridled passion in others. The music is quite amazing and varied, ranging from the flamenco music of the Spanish Gypsies, to the sweetly melancholy music of the Central European Gypsies – and everything in between! If you like music, this film is a treat. If you are interested in world culture and folklore this is the film for you. And I am sure that some people who watch this and have no special interest in either gypsy music or culture will enjoy it because of its sheer humanity.

1 comment:

  1. So many good film-tips, I will never more need surching in the net!
    Herzlich Pippa