We stopped playing there

Author: Martin Cichy
Location: Usti nad Labem
One day I met a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. His name is Chumaj. When I asked him where he had been for so long, he told me this story.
"I’ve been playing guitar since I was little boy. I used to play with the Roma folklore ensemble Jekhetane, which at that time was led by Mr. Horv├íth. He taught me to sing and play. But after three years I left the ensemble: I was lured away by fun and money. But mostly fun. I started a band with my friends called Duel and we started to make money. I got two hundred, three hundred, sometimes even a thousand crowns a day. But sometimes I played for nothing, for the hell of it. In those days it didn’t bother me: I was young. You must have heard us play. We were pretty good.”
“Right,” I said. “But listen: it was four of you guys playing, not two. Why were you called Duel?”
“We were just called Duel,” he answered.
“But hang on: let me tell about a job we had. We were playing a wedding in Germany. The people at that wedding were just dying for our music they liked it so much. They’d never heard anything like it. They were completely knocked out – not just by the music, but by the Gypsy dancing too. The czardas and stuff.” He laughed. “Then we had a chance to play in a bar in Germany. And on the way something strange happened to us. Once we had crossed the Czech border and were approaching the German one, the customs officers started to shake us down. They even searched our instruments. They probably thought we were transporting drugs or something like that. We told them we were going to Germany to play, but they didn’t believe us. So we had to play for them at the customs office so they could see we knew how. Then they let us go.”
“So do you still go to Germany to play, Chumaj?”
“No, we stopped playing there. We played here for a little bit, but even here it all started to fall apart. The club owners wouldn’t pay us and you know Gypsies: they know how to fight. So Gypsy entertainment doesn’t happen so often anymore. Now if my friends and I want to play, we play in the attic or in someone’s apartment. Sometimes we get a chance to play for someone else’s entertainment. We always get into it and do silly stuff. But that’s all.”
So now he makes his living doing odd jobs, mostly as a ditch digger.

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