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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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3. The Finnish Roma (Kaale): History and culture


3.  The Finnish Roma (Kaale): History and Culture

Finland has perhaps the most homogeneous Romani population in Europe, with the Kaale population comprising groups of the Roma who arrived through Sweden as early as the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth century, this group was strengthened by Russian immigrants who have since merged with the Finnish Kaale (Pulma 2006: 215; 2012). The Finnish Roma, nowadays about 10,000—12,000 in all, lead a traditional way of life; there are also 3,000 Finnish Roma who live in Sweden, mainly in the Stockholm area (Markkanen 2003: 262). The process of estimating the numbers of Roma in Finland is a problematic one. These problems are rooted in the general difficulties associated with counting so-called “ethnic minority groups, and mobile communities” (see also Clark 2006: 19). During the 1990s, Finland became more multicultural than ever before. The growing number of foreigners coming to the country raised discussion about human rights, tolerance and discrimination. However, there is still very little information about the old minorities, such as the Roma, in the teaching materials of the comprehensive school, in materials for different occupational groups, or even in teacher training (Markkanen 2003: 264–265).

The following sections are organized in a way that I hope reflects the main background knowledge about the Finnish Roma and their culture. For example, it is important to understand history, language and cultural features, such as norms and values, gender, occupations and religion and to be aware...

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