World Roma festival begins in Prague

They call it the biggest Roma culture festival in the world, and it’s back in Prague for the 14th year. The Khamoro, or World Roma Festival, means nine days of some of the best gypsy bands from all corners of Europe, but also a wide array of cultural and sociological events all aimed at promoting unity and understanding.

Khamoro, which means ‘little sun’ in Romany, took its name from an incident at a concert produced by the festival’s organisers in the 90s. They say a band, called Khamoro, was trying to play and continually suffered their sound being turned off by the sound technician. Fourteen years on and gypsy music will be dominating pubs, clubs and cultural centres all over Prague, from now until the 6th of June. Michal Miko is one of the festival’s producers:

“The Khamoro festival is not only about the music. We have a lot of accompanying programmes, there will be a fashion show by [Cuban fashion designer] Osmany Laffita and exhibitions on Wednesday and Thursday. But the main programme is the music. The most famous bands that have been invited this year are Kočani Orkestar from Macedonia and Urs Karpatz from France. The main aim of the festival is to bring Roma and non-Roma together more this week in the Czech Republic, because the situation in the Czech Republic is not normal, and we have been trying for ten years to build up relationships between Roma and non-Roma in the Czech Republic. And we think the best way to do that is through culture.”

Kočani Orkestar
Have you had real signs over the last ten years that the Khamoro festival has indeed made progress improving race relations?

“Having worked on the festival from the beginning, I can say there were a lot of Roma visitors at the festival the first year, and looking back on recent years there have been a lot of Roma visitors and non-Roma visitors. So I think we’ve made some progress, that we’ve brought some interesting ideas to the Czech Republic and shown that non-Roma and Roma can be together in one place.”

The festival is accompanied by a media campaign that highlights not only the festival itself but also Roma issues in general.

The programme includes a performance of the National Theatre called ‘My Neighbour, My Enemy’, about the co-existence of Czechs and Roma and composed from public documents and resources.

This year for the first time, Roma from around Europe will be able to take part in workshops in cultural management aimed at helping them organise cultural events elsewhere.

Most of the festival’s programme though centres on the colourful culture of the Roma, which you can appreciate in a dance procession that will move through the centre of Prague on Thursday. Roma history is also represented, in part with an exhibition of traditional crafts.

The musical programme wraps up with a gala concert Saturday evening in Prague’s SaSaZu club starring the band Nightwork and singer Martin Svátek