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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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2. Theoretical Approach: Themes, Concepts and Methods


2.  Theoretical Approach: Themes, Concepts and Methods

The Constructivist Perspective

Over the past 20 years, I have sought various things in the empirical material of my research. The basic question, however, was already crystallized in an early stage of the research process: How are the elements of cultural meaning of the songs and the informants’ conceptions of the songs constructed? The purpose of my research is not only to describe the songs (musical or lyrical features) or events of song culture, or to chart their distribution, but also to seek more complex ways of understanding and explaining them.

My approach is based on the notion of knowledge as socially constructed. According to my theoretical framework of social and cultural constructionism, the reality of music culture is constructed via its actors (cf. Berger & Luckmann 1966/1994; Hacking 2009; Strand & Marsh 2005; Järviluoma 1997; Rice 2007: 24–30). By this I mean that when we perform music, or discuss it, we construct or lend signification to the subject. Recent studies of Romani music have also focused attention on the relations of interaction between it, the musicians and the audience (cf. Hemetek 2007; Fennesz-Juhazt 2007; Helbig 2007; Jurkova 2010; Silverman 2012), and between Roma groups and their surrounding cultures (Marushiakova & Popov 2007; Belisova 2002: 13). Along with discourse concerning the music and its performance, the researcher’s interpretations of the phenomena concerned are also activity. Like Clifford and Marcus (1986), I maintain that explanations that...

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