His tunes meant bread,water,fire,rain and sun

Jan Horváth August 2000Studénka
I would like to tell you the story of a man who has made history in Romany music. Unfortunately he is no longer with us. He died three years ago. Jozef Gina was born into a musical family in May 1928 in the Saris region of the Presov district in eastern Slovakia. He was gifted from God, and his family endowed him with an exceptional talent for playing the violin and viola. He was an amazing first violinist of a family musical group: Ladislav and Jan, his late brothers, played with him. In Opava, where he lived for more than forty years until his death, he set up a family group which also performed one radio and television in Ostrava. His art could be enjoyed by people in the whole of the then Czechoslovakia, since he used to play in many events and festivals.
He passed his art of playing the violin and dulcimer to his son Jozka, now an outstanding violin, dulcimer and viola player. His other eight children play and sing Gypsy songs. "Jochko”, as his fellow people called Mr. Gina, presided over a large musical family dynasty. He firmly steered his family towards a good and honourable life.
He was a natural philosopher. Although he had no formal education in philosophy, he knew a great deal about life. Like many Romanies, he was a man of common sense. He could always find his way around, and could tell the good from the bad, the right from the wrong.
I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Gina. I visited him several times in his home in Ostrava, and it was an unforgettable experience. He was a great man with a real Romany heart – hospitable and wise. Nearly a month before his death we spoke about his life. He told me about music, about Romanies who have forgotten all about their romipen, their Romany identity. I videotaped for future generations of our nation a man who gave love and the art of Romany music to other people throughout his life.
Of course I went to his funeral in Ostrava. Hundreds of Romanies and non-Romanies came to accompany him on his last journey. The graveyard resounded with beautiful Gypsy tunes from dozens of his friends – musicians from Brno – with who he used to play with while he was alive.
Today Jozef Gina plays in heaven, and our hearts and minds will always sound with his beautiful Gypsy tunes. They meant everything to us – bread, water, fire, rain and sun. Gypsy music helps us Roma survive all the bad things we face in this life full of violence and hatred. It is our hope and light guiding us to our sun: a guarantee that the Romany nation will live on, although its life is not easy or simple.
And the guarantee is there thanks to such people as Mr. Jozef Gina, baro romano lavutaris.

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