Rapper Gipsy introduces traditional music on new album

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Romano Hiphop is the title of the latest CD by the Czech Romany rap artist Gipsy. The album is actually released under the name Gipsy.cz, because this time he has collaborated in a group project with other Romany musicians. When I met Gipsy in a Prague café, he told me why - unlike on his previous release Ya Favourite CD Rom - he had incorporated traditional Gypsy music this time round.

Gipsy, photo: David Vaughan
"After some time and the live shows the group and I just recognised that it's a great idea, why shouldn't we just make it more...concrete, to put much more traditional music in hip hop. That should sound amazing.

"We were searching for the sound we want to have and after two years of showcases we found this sound, and it sounds great! There was no 'why' - it was just a very good idea. And perhaps nobody else did it before.

"The live show is simply...amazing. When you see these hip hop beats with the traditional music - it works."

What are the lyrical themes on your new album?

"They're just more directed to the troubles and problems of the Roma community in the Czech Republic. I was trying to be much more political and much more directed to my community."

You use Romani, Czech and English - why all three languages?

"When you want to sell in your country you must have Czech tracks. When you want to be successful in other countries, like England, you must have some English. If you want to use a very beautiful language, which is Romani...because when I'm rapping in Romani that sounds great - so hard, so real."

What has been the reaction of your own community to your music?

"Very good, very good reaction. And I feel very good about that, because all Gypsies respect me because I'm using very old language that many young guys have forgotten. It is a forgotten language and I am using words that people have not heard for 40, 50 years.

"They respect me because I use this language. They respect me because I'm connecting back...not only Czech Romani language but Russian, Magyar, from Romania."

One song Gipsy's album Romano Hip Hop, Jednou, reflects on the obstacles which can arise when a Romany boy goes out with a white girl. It includes the line "vsechno bude proti nam" - everything will be against us. Does this reflect the rapper's own experiences?

"My personal experience with this is I had a lot of white girls, and sometimes we had to explain to her parents...what kind of kids are we going to have, what are we going to do, if I don't feel weird that I'm a Gypsy - bad questions. So that's personal experience, of course."

In the same song you have a line 'jednou kazdy bude chtit byt cigan' - one day everybody will want to be a Gypsy. What are you trying to say with that line?

"I believe with my group we have started something very new. And I believe there will be a lot of others trying to go in our steps. I believe one day this is going to change. Today a typical Czech man thinks 'Gypsies are a problem'.

"I believe after ten years they will much more understand our culture, music, and there will be a lot more Gypsies doing this. And they are going to feel, like, respect.

"And I believe one day people will be trying to speak like us, to behave like us. Because it will be famous, it will be 'in'."

You think it'll be cool to be a Gypsy?

"It'll be cool be a Gypsy. I believe that."

The album Romano Hip Hop is currently available only in the Czech Republic, though there are plans to release it in Britain, the United States and Germany. There is also a chance it will come out in France and Spain.

Meanwhile, Gipsy is hoping to perform in the United States for the first time this summer.

www.gipsy.cz