Romani Studies

The traditional songs of the Finnish Romany: Silent tradition

Romani Studies (2008), 18, (1), 71–91.

Abstract

Romany music is a rather new topic of ethnomusical research in Finland despite the fact that the Romanies came to Finland in the early sixteenth century and music plays an especially important role in Roma society. Music is an important tool for social interaction as status. Traditionally two types of Romany music-making are known in Finland; one is musical service for outsiders (popularised ethnic Romany music), that is, for non-Romany audiences, and the other is folk music for the small-scale community. The aim of the present article is to give voice to the Finnish traditional Roma songs. As in the rest of the world, also in Finland the folk music of the Romanies is inevitably connected to the local music culture. For example, the older song layer of the Finnish Romany—modal songs—is related to the old sleigh song of Southern Ostrobothnia (southern part of Finland). These melodies are monophonic, and unaccompanied, being sequences in a natural minor key. The structure of the new-style songs consists of a melodic or rhythmic motif of the length of one line. Songs are accompanied by guitar. The topics of the songs, as well as any folkloristic material, widely reflect the former Romany way of life and culture. The reality of former generations and the norms of the community have been passed down verbally from one generation to another. The lyrics of the ones I collected consist of poignant love songs, songs of horse trading and markets, and boasting songs, such as were once sung in the event of conflict.

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Åberg, Kai