“ Festival presents the top artists from all over the world. „
Khamoro World Roma Festival is a one week festival in Praha that I have just attended (2008), celebrating Romani culture since 1999, I witnessed the 10th anniversary of this festival which attempts to create better dialogue between Czech Rep's gypsy minority and the majority of the population.
The week has live musicians nightly with the finale taking place on Sunday, street parades, films, theatre, paintings and other workshops. I only got 2 days off work and went to see Thursday's concert which took place in Roxy Club in the centre, I bought tickets from ticketmaster.cz - a website which can be found in English that allows you to buy tickets for all manner of concerts throughout the Czech Republic. The ticket was about 9 quid for one person, one day.
Drinks were relatively cheap - about 80p for a beer which was served in a plastic cup, as to be imagined at such a concert, security guards were loose and a couple of dogs even allowed in. The crowd was a mixture of young and old and was made up of Czechs, gypsies, older observers (I picked out British, Americans and Germans) and a couple of rather short Chinese tourists who had problems to see over their crowd due to their size!
First up were Bengas, a six piece Czech flamenco gypsy band with 5 additional dancers (1 man, 1 woman, 2 girls in beautiful sequined dresses and a cool little kid with a hat).. these guys were great, full of energy, talent and skill and amazing entertainers, the dancers were in great costumes and really performed very well including the little kid who did quite an outstanding little dance with his hat! A similar performance can be found on their myspace page at www.myspace.com/bengascz (2nd video on the left)
Next were Puerto Flamenco, a gypsy flamenco band out of Sevilla who started off slowly by introducing themselves in what I guess is a traditional flamenco manner and then really got into rythm and did some amazing things, one of the guys and girls were particularly good looking and the former is probably the reason why there was undoubtedly more girls a the concert! Once they got into it, it was one of the most amazing performances I've seen. The girl struggled at one point because her microphone which was attached as an ear piece kept on falling off due to the dance movements, she simply disgarded it and sang louder.. this worked a treat but I'm sure she regretted it in the morning!
This was followed by Romans, Ukrainian performers from the professional Romany theatre, also called Romans, they played a variety of songs with a great amount of members on stage (violinists, accordian players, guitarist and a number of dancers) fronted by two large old ladies who could really belt it out and were really rather mobile in their unbelievably colourful costumes, also a rather personable accordian player who regularly chirped up with "horosho" and he took it up on himself to blast "Everybody Dancing Now" in possibly the most fun accents of all time. This band really got the crowd dancing as Puerto Flamenco had been more about admiring and the first band is always a ground breaker!
This was just in time as it was time for legendary Queen of the Gypsies from Macedonia - Esma Redzepova to take to the stage, her band came on and played a song whilst the fans were left chanting Esma, she entered after the first song and took to the stage in an outfit similar to a wedding dress, when she sung you really knew about it as it was 10 x louder than anyone else had been on the night. For those who don't know Esma, she sang Caje Sukarije (which was then stolen as the soundtrack to Borat) is 64 years old and has made more than 15,000 performances, she won an award as a 14 year old and joined national band leader Steve Teodosievski and his ensemble with one dress and a Coceck costume. She later married Steve Teodosevski and fostered 48 children with him, he however died quite recently and she did a rather dramatic performance in a black vale and with tears to him, later pulling out roses from somewhere on one of the songs. Upbeat and very good music, she is the main reason that I went that night.. the only disappointment was that it was a bit shorter than I thought. Each band only played for around 45 minutes but it was definitely worth the value and I'm definitely going back next year.. hopefully for the whole week.
Other bands that were playing over the week, included legendary Ferus the King - a great gypsy saxophonist and clarinet player, Oluja from the south of Serbia, another wind instrument band, Yorgui Loeffler someone that I was disappointed to miss out on - a French gypsy who is considered to be today's Django Reinhardt, french gypsy jazz guitarist Angelo Debarre, classical and lively Loyko from Russia, Arbat - French/Russian former theatre acts, Basily - Spanish Romani Music and finally two Czech groups who started off the whole festival Gulo Car and Le Chavendar.
If you want to watch good, talented musicians amongst a nice crowd in a beautiful city (albeit one that had a lot of Scotland fans at the time ;)), for very little money with the possibility of drinking cheap beer, then this is the festival for you.