The Rajko Ensemble: celebrating the influence of Romany tradition on classical music
The Gypsy fiddler is an enduring Romany stereotype, but we often forget there are also many Romany classical musicians and that in Central Europe the Romany tradition has had a huge influence on the history of classical music. Recently, as part of the Prague Autumn music festival, Czech audiences had the chance to hear the Rajko Ensemble from Hungary, with a concert in the Lucerna Ballroom that celebrated these links. All the orchestra's members are Roma; many are students or graduates from the Rajko School in Budapest, where talented Romany children learn to become professional musicians. The head of the ensemble's advisory board, Beatrix Berendy, spoke to Radio Prague about the Rajko Ensemble's past and present.
"At the beginning there were twenty of thirty musicians only, but he always wanted to work with a bigger orchestra, so sometimes it was even sixty or seventy children in the group, and they slowly grew up - so not only children but they became adults.
"Children can come to the school when they are eight years old, and when they finish the school at about eighteen or nineteen years old, they are already professional, and they can play in our Rajko professional Gypsy orchestra, or they can play in any other orchestras, or they can form their own orchestra and go to play wherever they want."