Local audiences can experience a taste of Roma culture tomorrow when “Gypsy Caravan II” serves up a variety of gypsy music and dance from around the globe at Hill Auditorium.
The show presents the Roma people and their musical traditions, which originated in the Rajasthan region of India. The Roma migrated to areas throughout Europe and Asia during the past 2,300 years, incorporating local musical and cultural influences into their traditions. The performers in “Gypsy Caravan II” represent Roma musical styles from Macedonia, India, Romania and Spain.
“It”s (like) fast food with various tastes of gypsy culture,” said Azzouz, the manager of Maharaja, the Indian dance troupe from Rajasthan featured in the performance.
“Gypsy Caravan” returns to Ann Arbor after a successful appearance in 1999. That performance featured the talents of Maharaja, then known as Musafir, and Antonio El Pipa”s Flamenco Ensemble of Spain, which are returning with “Gypsy Caravan II.” Macedonia”s beloved Roma singer Esma Redzepova and the Romanian brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia are joining them on the current tour.
Combining folk music from the desert of India with flamenco dancing from Andaluciaa, Spain and other varying Roma traditions may seem like a strange idea, but Maharaja dancer Harish Kumar said the artists relate well to one another. The performers share the common link of music and Roma culture, he said.
Even within the Maharaja dance troupe, the performers hail from a variety of backgrounds. The members of Maharaja are not Roma, but they do come from the Rajastan region where the Roma culture originated. The troupe contains Hindus and Muslims, and the members belong to several different Indian cultures, including the Langas and Manghaniyars. Dancer Sayeri Sapera accompanies them in the performance.
Maharaja”s members would normally not appear together because of India”s caste tradition, but they have grown close through the music, Kumar said.
“Together we have feelings like family members,” he said.
Kumar performs a dance called the “chakari” in “Gypsy Caravan II.” The “chakari” involves him dancing on his knees to fast-paced music. Kumar said he believes he is one of two people in the world who knows how to perform the chakari.
While furthering his own art, Kumar said he also has enjoyed watching the other groups featured in “Gypsy Caravan II.” Each brings their own talents to the show.
Esma Redzepova is popularly known as “The Queen of the Gypsies” and has been performing Roma music for more than 40 years. The 10-member Fanfare Ciocarlia, one of the last of the traditional Romanian brass bands, will perform songs from Turkey, Bulgaria and Macedonia as well as Romania on their first U.S. tour. The Antonio El Pipa Flamenco Ensemble will perform the spirited dancing that founder Antonio El Pipa brought to the hit Broadway show “Gypsy Passion.”
Although they hail from different areas of the world, the performers” music shares common features. The stories of migration and human experience behind the Roma music make “Gypsy Caravan II” a fascinating performance, Kumar said.
“We play gypsy songs, and in every song, there is a love story, a story of long ago and far away,” Kumar said.