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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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6. Singers and Songs Telling about the Past


6.  Singers and Songs Telling about the Past

In this chapter I seek to give in-depth insight into the meanings of the past from both personal and social perspectives via music. I ask what kind of memory of the past or oral history can be constructed by a musical tradition. How is the past of the Finnish Roma, Kaale, communicated through traditional songs? This chapter, therefore, aims at uncovering new and different perspectives on musical memory. It is based on the principle of the social construction of knowledge, relying in turn on the concept of social construction. In practice, this means that there must be an understanding of the fact that reality is transmitted to us by various processes involved in the symbolic allocations of meaning (Berger & Luckmann 1966/1994). My ideas about musical memory are mediated and interpreted representations, which are produced and given meanings in continuous cultural interaction. The songs do not represent something that is stable, old or completed, but, like identities, they represent something open, moving and changing. Hence, the constructions of the past via music are affected not only by overall Romani values but also by the age, gender, lifestyle and locality of the singers and listeners alike. From this viewpoint, e.g. musical ownership has changed a great deal, having involved not only ethnicity but also formations of nationality, gender, personality and social groups.

Before moving on to some of the details of my argument, I want to preface this discussion...

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