Roma culture in Europe
Roma and Sinti, sometimes called Gypsies, are the largest national minority in Europe, at an estimated population between 1 and 20 million. They don't have their own country but live in a diaspora all over Europe and beyond.
Since one of the primary reasons for travel for some is to experience different cultures, this article aims at collecting pointers to places where Roma can be met and their culture can be experienced first-hand.
In Europe, there are many ethnic groups with lifestyle similar to Roma, such as the Irish Travellers and the Jenish people of Germany.
The Romani people are believed to have been descended from immigrants from what is today northern India. The name "gypsy" comes from the formerly widely-held misconception that they originated from Egypt.
The Romani language is part of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. This means that it is only distantly related to most other European languages like English and French, and more closely related to North Indian languages such as Hindi and Bengali. There are many dialects of the Romani language, and most Romani speakers are also able to speak the official language of their respective countries.
All over Europe, but mainly in the Balkans, in the south of Spain and South of France.
The Finnish Roma minority, of 10,000–15,000 people, is recognised in the constitution and their culture gets governmental support; there is still quite some prejudice against them. They are well established in harness racing and in some genres of popular and spiritual music. The Finnish Roma language is threatened, as its use outside certain contexts has decreased (Finnish is used for most everyday talk), but there are revival efforts.
The breakthrough in mainstream music might have been with Taisto Lundberg's (known as Taisto Tammi) career as tango singer in the 1960s. Since then, several top names in the genre are Romani, with Sebastian Ahlgren crowned King of Tango in 1993 (and others following suite). The Romani band Hortto Kaalo, founded in 1969, introduced (mostly foreign) Romani music to the mainstream Finnish audience. The band Hurriganes, founded by Romani Remu Aaltonen in 1971, had an important role in the development of the Finnish rock scene. Jasmine Valentin (Jasmine) represented Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1996.
Šuto Orizari or Šutka (Шутка) one of the municipalities that make up Skopje, the only municipality in the country where Roma are a majority of the population. Documented in The Shutka Book of Records, a film made by one of the inhabitants.
While Sulukule near the ancient city walls of Istanbul, which used to be continuously inhabited by the Roma since the days of the Byzantine Empire and as such was the oldest sedentary Roma community in Europe, was gentrified by the local government through forcing its traditional inhabitants out amidst protests in the first decade of the 2000s, Ahırkapı Festival, held in the district of the same name near Sultanahmet on the night of Hıdrellez (May 5th, an ancient Turkish spring festival), provides an entertaining night for everyone with much Roma music and dancing around bonfires.
The Roma were among the forgotten victims of the Holocaust during World War II. See Holocaust remembrance for a guide to concentration camps, museums and other relevant sites.
- Dokumentations und Informationszentrum des Kulturvereins Österreichischer Roma , 1190 Wien, Devrientgasse 1
- German Documentation and Culture Centre for Sinti and Roma (Dokumentations- und Kulturzentrum Deutscher Sinti und Roma), Bremeneckgasse 2, D-69117 Heidelberg, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- [dead link] Museum for Roma and Sinti (Museum für Roma und Sinti) (Sachsenhausen).
Romas are Hungary's most populous ethnic minority but, until now, there are only rumours of a Budapest Roma Museum about the history of the Roma people in Hungary and no concrete address or other details.
Like Jews, communists and homosexuals, they were targeted for extermination by the Nazis and hundreds of thousands or more were murdered (called Porajmos, which means devouring in some dialects of the Romani language).
- Memorial and Museum[dead link] at Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau
- Ethnographic Museum in Tarnów
- 1 [dead link] Gordon Boswell Romany Museum, Clay Lake, Spalding, Lincs PE12 6BL, ☏ . late Mar- end Oct, F-Su and Bank Holidays. Traditional Romany horse-drawn Vardos (caravans), carts and harness. Large lecture room for slide-shows and talks on the Romany way of life. Collection of Romany photographs and sketches covering the last 150 years. Fortune-telling tent and a collection of cooking utensils used on the open fire.
- 2 The Gypsy Memorial Stone, Kirk Yetholm. Small stone commemorating the fact the village was the headquarters of the Scottish Gypsies [formerly dead link]
- 3 Appleby Horse Fair, Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria. Annually, early June. A huge gathering of romani and other gypsy groups (e.g. Irish and Scottish travellers) and most importantly their horses and caravans, which attracts about 30,000 visitors. The fair is spontaneous and not organised or planned, but you can expect to see horses "trotted" for show and sale, and people washing their steeds in the river. There are a bunch of side attractions such as fortune tellers, music performances and market stalls.
Listen to Roma/Sinti music
Central and Eastern Europe: Romani violinists are particularly famous for their virtuosity.
Bulgaria: There are some fantastic Turkish-Romani musicians, including Yuri Yunakov and Ivo Papazov, who play what they call "Balkan jazz," a type of improvised music based on traditional Bulgarian wedding music but with inflections from various other types of music.
Finland: Several of the foremost singers in some popular music genres, especially tango, are Romani. Some bands playing music in the Romani tradition have got popular also among non-Romani.
France: Pop-folk singer and guitarist Kendji Girac is of Catalan Romani descent. He performs songs in French, Catalan and Spanish in a style heavily influenced by his upbringing. Many of his songs refer to gitano culture.
Hungary: Hungarian Romani music is very famous and can be heard in many places in Hungary.
Spain: Flamenco music and dance are in large measure credited to the Spanish Roma.
European Roma Cultural Foundation [dead link]
- 14 January: Vasilica (New Year) Balkans
- 8 April: International Roma Day
- 6 May: Djurdjev dan/Herdelezi (Spring festival) Balkans
- 24 and 25 May: Pilgrimage toSaintes Maries de la Mer [formerly dead link] (France)
- June: International Romani Art Festival  in Bucharest
- June: Roma Summer Festival in Tarnow, Poland
Though it is widely used, especially among non-Romani, the word "Gypsy" is often considered offensive because of its associations with negative stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions of Romani people. The terms "Romani" and "Roma" are generally safe, though some authorities advise that "Romani" should only be used as an adjective (not as a noun) and others say that "Roma" should only be used to refer to one subgroup.