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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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9. “Gypsy Dance” as a Stereotype – Mystery, Secrecy, Passion and Sex


9.  “Gypsy Dance” as Stereotype – Mystery, Secrecy, Passion and Sex

Like in Bulgaria, Russian Romani dance and costumes (flared skirts and shawls for women, wide shirts and boots for men) are also becoming more popular among Finnish Romani music ensembles (Åberg 2002; see Peycheva & Dimov 2005: 21; Silverman 2012: 122). In this chapter I compare and discuss Finnish Romani dances in various contexts, emphasizing their stylistic, social and power dimensions in relation to the marginality of Roma in the broader society and the ambivalent positions of women (Silverman 2012: 19). I seek to demonstrate the processes by which dance and descriptions of dance originated in various time periods, here also utilizing various cultural contexts. I address a diverse range of questions relating to Gypsy dance and Roma musical practices in Finland such as: the ethnographic history of gypsy dance – early descriptions; influences of Romani exoticism on dance ethnography; Gypsy dance as described by the Roma themselves; regional differences in dance and the fluctuating significance of dance. With these questions I consider how early Gypsy dances and descriptions of dances differ from the dances and dance concepts presented by the Roma themselves. I also examine the alienating nature of early Gypsy dance ethnography: how particular stereotypes and features of Romani culture became ethnically loaded in the literature and came to represent “Romaniness” in cultural encounters. I also discuss the use of satire in debunking stereotypes; in popular contexts of Gypsy dances many stereotypes are mocked in an effort...

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