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«These Songs Tell About Our Life, You See»

Music, Identity and Gender in Finnish Romani Music

Kai Åberg

Based on intensive fieldwork among the Finnish Roma, the Kaale, between 1995 and 2015, this book explores their traditional songs. It presents an introduction to the subject of traditional Romani music and offers different interpretations of how the Roma themselves produce meaning for the songs. Performing the music is not a repetition of heritage – instead, the meanings of the songs are aimed at different contexts of everyday life in various musical practices. They not only maintain a community spirit, but also underline gender identity or create a boundary with the majority population.
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1. Introduction


1.  Introduction

Research Questions and Structure

This study is rooted in my long-term interest in the music of the Roma people; twenty years will have soon passed since my first fieldwork on Finnish Romani music and musical culture. My musical path has wound in many—perhaps too many—directions over the years, encompassing several different genres of Romani music. My occasional work with Romani artists working in Finnish popular music has enriched not only my personal musical identity but also my understanding of the multiple meanings of Finnish Romani music. The text in your hands also fulfils one of my dreams, to publish the first wide-ranging study of Finnish Romani traditional music and musical culture in English.

The object of study in this book are the traditional songs performed by the Finnish Roma—the Kaale—I have interviewed over the years and these singers’ own concepts of what their songs express, their history, their present, and their significance to Romani society. Traditional Romani songs are part of the common Finnish Romani musical tradition passed down from generation to generation and are sung primarily within the community. I feel privileged to have been able to come to know and study this unique and in some ways silenced field of Finnish folk tradition. When I speak of musical concepts I am referring to questions of the transmission of musical tradition, performance contexts, classification, and individual and communal characteristics (Merriam 1964).

This work is both...

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