Romany Recording Studio Project

Drom Recording Studio ProjectThe Romany CenterBratislavská 41602 00 BrnoCzech Republic
I. Introduction
Tomás SenkyríkMuseum of Romany CultureBrno
Roms have immense musical talent. They have a natural sense of rhythm and harmony, and their vocal expression is passionate and urgent. But young Romany musicians often sell out to the tasteless concepts of the commercial music world. This is why Romany young people should have opportunities to explore their own musical roots.
And we must tell them that the contemporary world wants very much to get to know and explore natural traditions and roots. One proof of this is the massive popularity of world music and festivals which present music from all parts of the world. This is a sphere in which Romany music can find its place.
Drom, the Romany Center in Brno, wants to build a recording studio capable of creating fine recordings which will map the musical culture of Roms and other ethnic groups. This is one way that Romany music can find its proper place in the burgeoning field of world music.
II. The Story
Tomas KnaiblCoordinatorThe Stories Exchange Education ProjectBrno
The aim is, then, to create a multicultural, international recording studio which would be open to musicians of various nationalities and enable them to record their own CDs, distribute and promote them.
In the Czech Republic there are many ensembles which produce both traditional and modern Romany music and other folk music. But because the music industry is strictly commercial they have no access to the technology which would allow them to record and distribute their music on CDs and tapes.
This is starting point for the project of a recording studio at Drom which will preserve and distribute performances of music produced in the Brno region and throughout the Czech Republic: music which is significant and has a long history but is not widely known.
A. Drom, The Romany Center, Brno
Bratislavská Street is located in a quarter of Brno where many Romany families came to live in the years after World War II. A strong Romany community has formed there.
In 1989 the city authorities of Brno established a cultural and educational center in Bratislavská Street. Its mission was to serve local residents by organizing educational, cultural and social activities.
The activities of Drom have greatly increased. Drom now offers social-legal counseling and after-school activities, and cooperates with the Brno School Office and Masaryk University Psychological Institute in preparing Romany assistant teachers.
Drom is also assisting the Brno Police Secondary School in preparing Romany policemen.
And Drom organizes discussions and cultural events which contribute to the development of tolerance and multiculturalism.
A major component of Drom’s program is the organization of free-time activities for neighborhood children. A club for children is open every weekday, and is very popular.
The instructors are either local Roms or student volunteers, and work with children according to their needs. They review the school curriculum in an enjoyable manner, and do various handicrafts and drawings with the children. They try to motivate children to engage in tangible activities, extend their interests, and help solve their problems.
Children and young people with particular interests can join various focus groups, including a computer club, a pottery and crafts workshop, and a karate club.
Drom has also organized various musical groups. There are violin, dulcimer, and guitar clubs, a Romany pop band and a folk-dancing group.
Drom has become a respected organization that is an authority for neighborhood people and represents them effectively in municipal, national and international gatherings.
B. The Drom Recording Studio Project
Like Tomas Senkyrik at the Romany Museum, many people consider music and dance the most significant expressions of Romany Culture. This is also Drom’s experience: the music clubs are its most popular activities.
Drom also supports two musical groups, the Ivan Gaspar Hrisko dulcimer ensemble and a modern ‘Trio band’. Both groups rehearse at the Center’ and play at its public presentations.
In September 2000 the Hrisko ensemble also performed in ARTS OF TOLERANCE, a series of performances, workshops and discussions about inter-cultural understanding organized by the Stories Exchange Project: an experiment in generating inter-cultural dialogue which was initiated in 1993 by The Fund for New Performance/Video, New York and was supported during 2000 by the Information for Development Program of the World Bank.
Staff members of Drom participated in the Stories Exchange Project throughout 2000, and took part in the Terezin sessions along with the Dirctor of Drom, Miroslav Zima.
ARTS OF TOLERANCE took place in Terezin, sixty years ago a camp from which the Nazis deported Jews to Auschwitz, but where music flourished. The Hrisko band’s performances in Terezin were filmed for inclusion in a television documentary being prepared by the Stories Exchange Project (see below).
And during further filming of the television documentary in November 2000, the Hrisko ensemble played and talked about Romany traditions on camera with students at the Vranovkska Street school in Brno.
Drom representatives had also taken part in presentations organized by the Stories Exchange Project abroad. Two of these took place in September 2000 in London, at the Embassy of the Czech Republic and at the multicultural Selby Centre. And it was with this visit to London that plans for the Drom recording Studio began to solidify.
The mission of the Selby Centre is similar to Drom’s: Selby organizes re-qualification, free-time and cultural activities for refugees who seeking new homes in the United Kingdom.
One of the facilities of the Selby Centre is a recording studio which preserves and extends the musical inheritance of the diverse national cultures of its members. It also qualifies participants for employment. Participants in training programs organized by the studio are prepared both to make a place for themselves in the British music industry and to enrich the musical environment of their new homeland.
During the September 2000 visit the directors of the Selby Centre and the Stories Exchange Project agreed to develop further ties and help Drom create a similar recording studio in Brno. The Selby Centre offered training for the future sound engineers of the studio and technical advice.
In October 2000 the director and a coordinator of the Stories Exchange Project came to Drom to begin speaking with representatives of various communities in Brno about the feasibility of their cooperating in the recording studio project.
At this meeting the director of Drom, the Center’s employees, representatives of cooperating organizations, and participants n the Stories Exchange Project all expressed a common will to cooperate in working to establish a recording studio. They agreed that this project could solve problems of the local Romany community: not only unemployment but also cultural isolation and stagnation. They expressed confidence that the various Romany communities in Brno would strongly support this project and take part enthusiastically in it. But they also agreed that the project should have impact well beyond the Brno Romany communities and help open them to outside cultural influences.
Both the visit to the Selby Centre and its subsequent offer of cooperation had made it obvious that it would severely limiting the potential of the recording studio if it were to cooperate only with individuals and organizations located in Brno or in Southern Moravia.
As Tomas Senkyrik has observed in an expansion of his opening remarks here [see Attachment I, “The Roms and World Music”] Romany and other minority music is in a similar situation in Slovakia and Austria.
The Drom studio will put its technical equipment and capacity at the service of all those interested in the Central European region. Its enrichment of culture will therefore have a very large geographical range.
An advisory council will assist in the development of the Drom. The council includes members from Brno City Hall, Masaryk University, the Museum of Romany Culture, and other cultural organizations, the media, and the music industry [Attachment II lists the members]. The advisory council will articulate and develop the studio’s mission and strategies, and provide expert information in various fields.
C. Goals
The main purpose of the Drom recording studio is to create high-quality recordings of significant ensembles which perform music by Roms and other ethnic communities in the Czech Republic and throughout Central Europe, but cannot now make such recordings because of the current structure of the music industry.
This primary aim is supplemented by other functions which will have a positive influence on both the Romany community and on the majority culture.
The Drom recording studio will be the only such institution in the Czech Republic that will systematically map and document Romany musical expression and its interaction with music generated by other cultures. The Drom studio will work with the Museum of Romany Culture, located not far from its headquarters in Bratislavska Street to establish a definitive archive of ethnic music recorded in the Czech Republic, with special concern for the mutual influence of majority and minority composers and performers.
Upon obtaining the consent of each ensemble recorded, the studio staff will file their work on CD-ROMs in the Department of Ethnomusicology at the Museum of Romany Culture. This material will be made available in person and, eventually, via the Internet to the general public and to musicologists, social anthropologists and other scholars and teachers interested in Romany and other ethnic traditions and the current activities of minority communities.
This expanding archive will be coordinated with further development of the Stories Exchange Project on the Internet and in schools and libraries throughout Brno, other Czech cities including Prague and Usti nad Labem, and cities in other countries in Europe and North America.
This cooperation of the Drom Recording Studio, the Museum of Romany Culture and the Stories Exchange Project will create further possibilities for the preservation and presentation of the rich culture of Roms and other ethnic groups and help build bridges of understanding between the minority and majority communities in the Czech Republic and elsewhere.
The Drom studio will also enable talented young musicians to make fine recordings which can be presented in the media, in performances at student clubs etc. Individual musicians and groups can also use these when approaching record companies. The recording studio will thus help motivate and advance the careers of young Romany musicians and encourage them to cooperate with majority musicians and agencies in further developing their music and in disseminating and promoting their work.
The Drom studio will in effect serve as an agent for young musicians who use its facilities. The studio staff will develop an overview of the Romany music scene in the Czech Republic and throughout Central Europe. Out of their regular contact with the most interesting and enterprising ensembles, they will create a database of individual Romany performers and groups which, made accessible on the Internet, will be a valuable source of information for organizers of concerts and festivals throughout Europe and on other continents.
It should be emphasized that the Drom recording will not limit its facilities to Romany musicians. It will cooperate with such other national minorities in Brno and the Czech Republic as Greeks, Hungarians, Poles, Slovaks, and with national groups represented by foreign students a universities and conservatories throughout the country.
The Drom studio will be open to anyone interested in the music of national minorities.
In addition to co-operating with ethnic minorities in nearby Slovakia, Austria and Hungary, the Drom studio will provide – both technically and personally – for the of various types of ensemble. It will be able to record both acoustic (i.e. traditional Romany folklore) and electronic music (i.e. pop, techno, rock etc).
The studio will also create employment for the Romany community. It will recruit local Roms for four staff positions.
At the same time, the studio will serve as an educational facility. It will offer courses for sound engineers and arts managers. And Drom will cooperate with the Job Center in Brno and two projects associated with the Selby Centre in London, the Haringey Community Arts Programme and the European Union-funded Music Business course Europe on developing a re-qualification program for the unemployed.
D. Partnerships
Fundraising for the Drom recording studio will be supported by the video documentary ARTS OF TOLERANCE which is being produced by The Fund for New Performance/Video, New York as a part of The Stories Exchange Project. As noted above, the film will feature Drom musicians and will be broadcast on European and American television and also, in part, on the Internet.
Drom has established a link with the Financial Department of GE Capital Bank which will assist the project with the design of business plans.
EDS Czech Republic is expecting from Drom a plan for a computer network that will link the Drom recording studio with other organizations, schools, museums and libraries throughout the Czech Republic.
An Internet discussion forum on the topic of the Drom recording studio project is located at a Stories Exchange Project Web-site:
Stories and discussions related to the vision and strategies of the Drom studio can be found here at the Project’s primary Web-site. In the section Stories and Responses choose the following menus and stories:
The Broken Mirror
“Hearing the music really opened the kids up” (comments on the Drom Music Studio project by Monika Horakova, Member of the Czech Parliament)
“His tunes meant bread, water, fire, rain and sun”
The Holocaust
“How to do something as good as Terezin with the Romany Holocaust” (a discussion during in September 2000 involving the Director of the Museum of Romany Culture)
“How lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing” (comments by Ronan Lefkowitz, violinist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra who played in Terezin with the Hrisko dulcimer ensemble during ARTS OF TOLERANCE.)
“He lost his own life trying to save the violin that had been his livelihood
“May his hand with the bow in it do what he wants”
The Broken Mirror
“He noticed a hand-carved violin on the kitchen table”
Attachment I
“Roms and World Music”
Tomás SenkyríkMuseum of Romany Culture, Brno
Music has always been closely connected with Romany life. It is a crucial component of Romany identity, and one of the most typical manifestations of Romany culture.
But there is at present no recording studio in the Czech Republic which systematically and superbly documents the intensely spiritual music of the Roms.
And there are signs that the musical life of the Roms is in decline. Romany young people know fewer and fewer traditional Romany songs. Sometimes they do not even know what the word “traditional” means.
Young Romany musicians’ repertoires adapt the current commercial taste.
Look at nearby Slovakia.
There are two large studios which are focused on recording and promoting Romany music. Each year they issue a large number of recordings of young Romany groups. But the quality is technically and musically inferior. Listeners get impersonal recordings with bad sound, and this creates a false impression of traditional Romany music.
Roms have immense musical talent. Theyhave a natural sense of rhythm and harmony, and their vocal expression is passionate and urgent. But young Romany musicians often sell out to the tasteless concepts of the commercial music world. This is why Romany young people should have opportunities to explore their own musical roots.
And we must tell them that the contemporary world wants very much to get to know and explore natural traditions and roots. One proof of this is the massive popularity of world music and festivals which present music from all parts of the world. This is a sphere in which Romany music can find its place.
Drom, the Romany Center in Brno, wants to build a recording studio capable of creating fine recordings which will map the musical culture of Roms and other ethnic groups. This is one way that Romany music can find its proper place in the burgeoning field of world music.
Attachment II
Advisory CouncilDrom Recording Studio
Miroslav Zima, Director, Drom
Zuzana Gaborová, attorney at the Ombudsman’s Office; Brno coordinator, The Stories Exchange Project
Ivana Simiková, sociologist, Research Center of Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs; participant, The Stories Exchange Project
Tomás Knaibl, Brno coordinator, The Stories Exchange Education Project
Don Sparling, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, Masaryk University
Irena Pribylová, independent music journalist, Lecturer at the English and American Studies Department of Pedagogical Faculty, Masaryk University
Karla Hoffmannová, Social Department, Brno Magistrate Office
Tomás Senkyrík, ethnomusicologist, Museum of Romany Culture
Roland Barbe, musician
Lubomír Buchaè, Romany entepreneur
Eugen Horváth, Romany musician, a member of Drom Dulcimer Band
Libor Mikoska, sound engineer, Sono Recording Studios
Karel Spalek, sound engineer, Czech Radio Brno
Libor Dvorak, manager, Disk, mastering studio and a studio equipment dealer
Tomás Zouhar, sound engineer at Disk, mastering studio
Ján Gaspar Hrisko, Romany musician, member of Drom Dulcimer Band
Janko Horváth, Romany musician, member of Drom Dulcimer Band
Ladislav Dzurák, Romany manager of Drom Music Studio
Míla Vepreková, director, Archa Chantal Foundation
Jana Vobecká, entepreneur
Jana Foltynová, director, Primary School Vranovská
Gejza Horváth, Romany journalist and musician.

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