“Not just about music”: Khamoro festival highlights diversity of Romani culture

Billed as “the world’s largest professional Romani festival”, Khamoro, meaning ‘sunshine’ in Romani, has been taking place in Prague since 1999. But as Izabela Chalupníková from the festival’s production team told me, it’s not your typical Romani festival. While most Romani festivals focus on music, Khamoro, in addition to concerts, presents a diverse programme of exhibitions, children’s activities, oral history, film screenings, dance performances, workshops, conferences and more.

“Our main goal is to show how colourful Roma culture is – it’s not all about music, we also have a lot of artists who are painters, dancers, writers, or work in movie production, for example. We want to show this and that’s why we not only have a musical programme during the festival, but also an accompanying programme of movie screenings, activities for children, Roma writers, and so on.

“And our second goal is to show Roma culture to non-Roma people and connect the two groups together.”

What are some of the particular highlights of this year’s festival?

“For me, the biggest event is cooking with food blogger Pavel Berky. He’s quite famous – he was on Czech Masterchef two years ago and now he has his own book. He is giving a workshop on Saturday at Náplavka showing how to cook Roma dishes with a twist – in his style, more modern. We’ve never had an event like this before, so I think for me this is the most interesting event.”

Do you have any other tips or highlights for visitors?

“We have concerts almost every day – we started on Sunday with an open-air concert. On Wednesday there will be a classical music concert with great musicians from Prague who will play classical music but with Roma motifs mixed in. From Thursday until Saturday there will be traditional Roma music concerts, with a big gala concert on Saturday where all the bands from Thursday and Friday will play together.

“We also have a great dance troupe from Spain called the Barcelona Flamenco Ballet. It’s a combination of ballet and flamenco and they are very famous all around Europe, they travel a lot and have a lot of gigs. That will be very nice as well.”

Do you have any idea how many people you’re expecting to come to the festival this year?

“Not exactly, but I think you’ll see the largest number of people at the parade through the city centre on Friday at 12pm with all the artists and dancing groups in traditional dress. It goes from Wenceslas Square to Old Town Square and this year it will be even bigger than usual because there will be about 300 kids dancing. Since the event is outside we get a lot of visitors and tourists can watch it as well.”

More than 260 bands from 33 countries all over the world have performed at Khamoro – including world-famous groups such as Mahala Rai Banda, Kočani Orkestar and Parno Graszt.

Organized by Slovo 21 and Studio Production Saga, the festival connects the Romani minority with the non-Roma majority through arts and culture and attracts approximately 10,000 visitors from Czechia and abroad every year.

Khamoro has been supported by notable people including Václav Havel and awarded the prestigious EFFE Label quality stamp.

The festival is taking place in Prague until Saturday 1 June, 2024.

For more information about the festival programme you can go to Khamoro’s English webpage