Developing project ideas for teaching Roma musicians how to read and write notes

With 10 – 12 million members, Roma are the biggest ethnic minority in Europe. Roma communities can be found in almost all European countries. Their share of the entire population is the highest at the Iberian Half Island, in the Visegrad and Balkan countries. What connects them despite of their heterogeneity, are their myths, habits and traditions, their language and, in an even higher extension, their music. It is their daily life companion and one of the most important parts of their cultural identity.

  Since 2007, MOFEDI has been implementing projects for the benefit of Roma communities. Study Visits in Roma settlements are integral parts of all Partner Meetings. They do not only enable the partners to get an authentic overview on the real living conditions of Roma in Europe but also to talk to their members on the spot.

  During those Study Visits, we also found out that Roma music exists, but not as a unique Roma music. It differs from region to region in which Roma live. Based on this, it was possible to determine that there are several 'hotspots' of Roma music in Europe, based on the main features and characteristics of each of these varieties, namely: music of Balkan Roma, music of Hungarian Roma, music of Romanian Roma, music of Russian Roma and the music of the Spanish Roma.

  The Roma tradition is to nurture music, to pass the skill of playing instruments from generation to generation, so this skill has become one of the most important recognisable signs of the Roma ethnic group. Music among the Roma is diverse and very complicated, both in its origin and in its functions in the society in general, and in the Roma ethnic groups in particular.

  Various forms of zurla, daira, drums, defofa, tarabuka, percussion, brass and string instruments appear as traditional instruments among the Roma. Songs are often heard in front of the place where Roma live, accompanied by some of these instruments. The songs most often sing about love, beauty, fear of death and more. Experts point out that Roma music influenced the Middle Eastern musical tradition, flamenco and jazz, and many of the famous composers also drew on the tradition of Roma music: Liszt, Bizet, Verdi, Rachmaninoff.


Music is of a high importance in the Roma communities; musicians enjoy a high standing and receive a special appreciation. For many Roma, music is breadwinning. Often, it is the only source of income for the partly very large families.

Targeted surveys in selected Roma communities in the partner countries showed in addition that Roma musicians, no matter how virtuoso and talented they are, do not have a music education, nor do they know how to read and write notes, nor the process of copyright protection and marketing. So, it often happens that formally musically educated composers or musicians take their works and register them as their own. One of the most famous examples of such an event is the famous Roma singer and composer Saban Bajramovic, to whom Goran Bregovic, a world-famous performer, stole the song "Djeli Mara" and protected it as his own called "Moonlight, Moonlight", which became a world hit. Furthermore, many Roma musicians are functionally illiterate. This leads to the fact that they have relevant difficulties to advertise and sell their products. Particularly in the last two years of the pandemic in which they only rarely had public performances, e.g. at weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, festivals etc., this had devastating financial consequences.

  At first, the project „ROMusicA“ shall detect if the participation in alphabetisation courses is an urgent pre-condition for a musical education, or if there are alternative possibilities, particularly for learning to read and write notes.

  Besides, best practise examples with the potential of the European transfer in relation with the successful advertisement and marketing of Roma music shall be identified.

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