"Khamoro" celebrates Gypsy art and music for the 7th time

Photo: CTK

The Khamoro World Roma Festival started in Prague once again this Tuesday. The seventh festival of Roma culture will last one week with the highpoint being a gala concert in Prague's Lucerna Ballroom on Saturday.

Khamoro, meaning "little sun" in the Romani language, is a well-known international festival and a feast of Roma art and culture. Brazilian, Indian, Polish, Ukrainian, Czech and many other Roma musicians will play traditional Gypsy music in numerous Prague clubs.

The festival has become very popular, as was already proven at the opening concert of the French Gypsy jazz band Shine which completely sold out. Czechs appreciate the rhythms of Gypsy music which one of the organisers, Michaela Dvorakova, says adds a special flavour in every country.

"You can see in their music the same routes. You can feel Roma roots there but at the same time the music is very different. For example if you hear a band from India and then from Finland it is something completely different. There are plenty of talented young Roma musicians but they play not traditional music, hip-hop, or pop and they want to perform at Khamoro but it is not about that."

Photo: CTK
Various exhibitions play an important role at the festival, including displays of puppets, textiles, larger than life portraits or glass-painting, and Roma craftswomen will show how typical Gypsy scarves or pictures are made in the Roma shop in Prague's Nerudova Street - the only one in Central Europe.

For the first time in several years Khamoro is featuring films on Roma themes, looking at Roma and their struggle against intolerance in Czech society. Is there hope for change? Michaela Dvorakova

"We are not crazy we don't think that we will change the whole world because of one festival. But we can do it slowly and with time people will slowly change their opinions. For example, my dad, he is a good man but he only knew Gypsies from the centre of Prague, from the tram 22 that pick pockets all day. He came to the festival just because of me and he was shocked. He didn't know that there are such musicians. "

Photo: CTK
The approach to issues of inclusion of Roma in society has been slowly changing in the last few years. How this change has manifested itself in university education will be discussed between non - Roma and Roma university students whose numbers are rising.

A special feature of Khamoro this year is the Day of Hungarian Roma. The programme includes presentation of films, exhibition and performances by Bela Horvath's six-member group famous for its strings and clarinet and cimbalom soloists.

Musicians will entertain passers-by at a parade on Thursday at noon in the centre of Prague. All participants will march in traditional costumes. Each band will introduce itself and play a few songs. There will also be Vera Gondolan from one of the oldest musical Roma families in the former Czechoslovakia.