The thriving Roma communities in Slovakia are known for their vivid and soulful folk music that are composed purely on the basis of passion and their desire for freedom. Their music and culture contrasts with the concert music played by classically trained Slovak musicians found in paid venues and events. The ethno musical project featuring Slovak cellist Josef Luptak, accordionist Lenko and African percussionist Ehan serves as an excellent experiment of the communities bridging the differences between their approaches to music.
It should not be a surprise to find traditional Slovak acapella such as Šuki prajta na Čerkinen chosen for the project. The piece features a male and female voice pair that copies, calls and responds to each other over a melody that carries itself to wherever the mood takes it. Especially since there’s a lack of organised bars and boundaries created by the theories that restricts classical music. The phrases flow naturally as if the singers are telling a folklore with each breath of air they expel, there is almost no need for careful arrangement because most of the accompaniments would be improvised to truly accommodate the singers. It portrays how the music would have been performed on the spot in gatherings within the migrating Roma communities.
Amongst the numerous Roma medleys, we may find ourselves stumbling over a few classics that are adored by Slovaks and Romas alike. Take the Libertango (av ke pale) by Astor Piazzolla for example, the team performs the song in a faster tempo than the original, perhaps purposefully to reflect the vivacious spirit of the Roma and Slovak musicians. The Roma singers improvises lyrics and melodies over the top of the instrumentation which adds the distinct gypsy signature to the piece.
The journey for the musicians started off in 2007 as an experiment for a music dialogue between the East Slovakia gypsies and the professional Slovak musicians. The music they created were so enlightening that it attracted attention from listeners across the country and this lead to the team into organising large festivals that welcomed audiences from all backgrounds. It is truly an event that binds us all together in our love for expressive and naturalistic music.
Jenny Yiwen Qin