Czech Roma singer Vera Bila takes New York by storm

The sound of Vera Bila, the queen of Czech gypsy music. Last week, Bila and her band Kale sang in New York's Central Park, as part of a popular open-air music festival called Central Park Summer Stage. The singer drew a crowd of several thousand as she took to the stage to entertain a rather damp audience, and by all accounts the concert was a huge success. Alena Skodova is here with more:

Vera Bila is one of the most significant contemporary artists on the world music circuit, but is less well known at home in the Czech Republic. As a successful international recording artist highly in demand abroad, Bila does not represent the typical image of the Roma living in the Czech Republic.

Bila grew up in a poor family in Slovakia and many of her songs speak of a life of heartache and misfortune. At present she lives in the town of Rokycany, west of Prague, looking after her disabled husband and devoting herself to her adopted son. She is a firm believer in maintaining Roma family traditions, and recently visited Slovakia to find a wife for her son.

Irena Kovarova from the Czech Centre in New York described last week's concert in Central Park as a resounding success. She said the multi-lingual audience was enthusiastic about the songs sung in the Romani language, the atmosphere was tremendous and each new melody added to the audience's delight as they listened to this deeply emotional music. Vera Bila's concert in Central Park was the last in a series of concerts in the United States, which Bila kicked off at the end of July in Redmont, Washington. On the 1st of August Bila sang in a club in New York's East Village.

In September, Vera Bila and Kale appear at the famous WOMAD world music festival organised by the British singer and musician Peter Gabriel, which--for the first time ever--will take place here in Prague. The festival, which began in the English town of Reading, will also be held this year in Singapore, Sicily, Spain and the United States.