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Added by James OK on 17 Apr 2024 08:06

Stardust & Sequins

Gypsy Lifestyle & Romani Culture

The Romani, also spelled Romany or Rromani and colloquially known as the Roma, are an ethnic group of Indo-Aryan origin who traditionally lived a nomadic, itinerant lifestyle. Linguistic and genetic evidence suggests that the Romani originated in the Indian subcontinent, in particular the region of present-day Rajasthan. Their subsequent westward migration, possibly in waves, is now believed by historians to have occurred around 1000 CE. Their original name is from the Sanskrit word डोम, ḍoma and means a member of the Dom caste of travelling musicians and dancers. The Roma population moved west into the Ghaznavid Empire and later into the Byzantine Empire. The Roma are thought to have arrived in Europe around the 13th to 14th century. Although they are widely dispersed, their most concentrated populations are located in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Spain, and Turkey.

In the English language, Romani people have long been known by the exonym Gypsies or Gipsies, which some Roma consider a racial slur. However, this is not always the case; for example, the term is actually preferred by most English and Welsh Romanies, and is used to refer to them in government documentation. The attendees of the first World Romani Congress in 1971 unanimously voted to reject the use of all exonyms for the Romani, including "Gypsy".

Since the 19th century, some Romani have also migrated to the Americas. There are an estimated 1 million Roma in the United States and between 800,000 and 1 million in Brazil, most of whose ancestors emigrated in the 19th century from eastern Europe. Brazilian Romani are mostly descendant from German/Italian Sinti (in the South/Southeast regions), and Roma and Calon people. Brazil also includes a notable Romani community descended from Sinti and Roma deportees from the Portuguese Empire during the Portuguese Inquisition. In migrations since the late 19th century, Romani have also moved to other countries in South America and Canada. Though often confused with Irish Travellers and the Yenish people in western Europe, the Romani are culturally different.

The Romani language is an Indo-Aryan language with strong Balkan and Greek influence. It is divided into several dialects, which together are estimated to have more than two million speakers. Because the language has traditionally been oral, many Romani are native speakers of the dominant language in their country of residence, or else of mixed languages combining the dominant language with a dialect of Romani in varieties sometimes called para-Romani.

There is no official or reliable count of the Romani populations worldwide. Many Romani refuse to register their ethnic identity in official censuses for a variety of reasons, such as fear of discrimination. Others are descendants of intermarriage with local populations, some who no longer identify only as Romani and some who do not identify as Romani at all. Then, too, some countries do not collect data by ethnicity.

Despite these challenges to getting an accurate picture of the Romani dispersal, there were an estimated 10 million in Europe (as of 2019), although some Romani organizations have given earlier estimates as high as 14 million. Significant Romani populations are found in the Balkans, in some central European states, in Spain, France, Russia and Ukraine. In the European Union, there are an estimated 6 million Romanis.

Outside Europe there may be several million more Romani, in particular in the Middle East and the Americas.

The Romani identify as distinct ethnicities based in part on territorial, cultural and dialectal differences, and self-designation.

Romani music plays an important role in central and eastern European countries such as Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania, and the style and performance practices of Romani musicians have influenced European classical composers such as Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms. The lăutari who perform at traditional Romanian weddings are virtually all Romani.

The distinctive sound of Romani music has also strongly influenced bolero, jazz, and flamenco dances (especially cante jondo) in Spain.

Romani contemporary art emerged at the climax of the process that began in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s, when the interpretation of the cultural practice of minorities was enabled by a paradigm shift, commonly referred to in specialist literature as the "cultural turn". The idea of the cultural turn was introduced; and this was also the time when the notion of cultural democracy became crystallized in the debates carried on at various public forums. Civil society gained strength, and civil politics appeared, which is a prerequisite for cultural democracy. This shift of attitude in scholarly circles derived from concerns specific not only to ethnicity but also to society, gender and class.

In Europe, Romani are associated with poverty, blamed for high crime rates, and accused of behaving in ways that are considered antisocial or inappropriate by the rest of the European population. Partly for this reason, discrimination against the Romani has continued to be practiced to the present day, although efforts are being made to address it whilst this particular fraction of the population breaks with the conventions and responsibilities of a stationary life in favor of the open road, letting old-rooted traditions and newfangled technology coincide.

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