Khamoro Roma festival brings music and more to Prague


This week Prague plays host to the ninth annual Khamoro Roma Festival, one of the largest festivals of Roma arts and culture in Europe. For the next five days the Czech capital will reverberate to sounds from all over the world, from Macedonia's Orkestrar Strumica to the Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan. At the same time, there will be a number of discussions examining the issues facing contemporary Roma communities. Barbora Subertova is one of Khamoro's organisers.

"Khamoro is about having the feeling of Roma culture or Roma spirit and people have the chance to meet Roma people in their natural environment and enjoy the music and different arts we are offering."

And there is also of course a serious side to the festival as well.

"Yes, there are two international seminars. The first is called The Decade in the Eyes of Roma Women, and the second is called Roma in the Media. We have the directors of Roma TV stations and broadcasters, and they will present their stations and explain how important it is for them to have media in Roma languages."

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek with the Roma delegates of Khamoro festival,  photo: CTK
I hear you've had some problems with financing Khamoro.

"Yes, that's a very complicated problem. The sponsors - the companies and individuals who could contribute to the Khamoro festival - they don't look at the festival as a cultural event, but they look at the festival as a Roma event. And this really determines the source of the funding, because most people have negative opinions of Roma people and Roma culture as a whole. So we have to really try and explain to them that they should support this kind of event because it shows people what the culture really looks like and that can even improve the relationship between the majority society and the Roma community."

This festival has been going for nine years now. Do you have the feeling it is having any effect in bringing the two communities closer together?

"We feel this closeness during the festival. When you see the people dancing to the bands and singing, you don't see any differences. But that's the question. Why should things be so nice during the festival, but when the festival ends it just goes back to how it was before, we don't really see any visible changes."

And is that quite depressing or disheartening?

"It can be, but we can't think about it that much. We really have to focus on the festival and try to spread the main idea across the society."