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Roma as alien: Music and identity of the Roma in Romania

Lawford, Roderick Charles 2020. Roma as alien: Music and identity of the Roma in Romania. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

Central and Eastern European Romani (‘gypsy’) musicians feature greatly in both the European musical imagination and in reality. Their brand of musicianship has been criticised and idealised at the same time as it has been recognised that the musicians themselves have had a significant role to play in the context of European music. These apparent contradictions are more clearly understood when it is appreciated that European Roma are beyond doubt Europe’s most marginalised people, despite genetic research suggesting that they have probably had some presence on the European continent for fifteen hundred years. They belong to what Herder portrays as an ‘alien’ people, being forever internal outsiders within the nation state. The circumstances of the Romani musicians of Romania (known as lăutari in Romanian) typify these paradoxes in some measure. In order to add to our understanding of the lăutari, and the subaltern group of which they are representative, it is important to comprehend something of the history of the Roma in Romania and the genesis of Romania itself. The geographical area that modern Romania now occupies has provided over the centuries a liminal space where contrasting identities and ideologies have come into contact and frequently clashed. Given its position as a natural European borderland then, it is surprising that Romania is relatively understudied and even misunderstood in western European (and particularly Anglophone) scholarship. This neglect extends to the realm of music, especially with regard to the representation of the lăutari. Although the lăutari are afforded a higher standing amongst Roma in general because of their valued skills, they nevertheless occupy a position in a hierarchy of difference, a chain that has been theorized as ‘nested orientalisms’ or ‘nested alterities’.Evidence that the lăutari are regarded as representatives of a society’s ‘other’ can be detected in the negative reception that their music has attracted at various times. One criticism of the art of the lăutari (and Romani musicians in general) is that they are prone to ‘orientalise’ or ‘exoticise’ music. These charges have been connected with accusations (among others) that Romani musicians appropriate music that does not belong to them (Béla Bartók), or that their ‘oriental’ style is a painful reminder of a past that many wish to disregard (Romania). I investigate these phenomena from two different, but related, points of view. First, I look at the work of the Romanian Romani band Taraf de Haïdouks in the context of ‘world music’. Second, I examine the popular genre, manele. Here, I explore the ways in which manele performers parody and exaggerate the ‘oriental’ in their work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 8 July 2020
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2020 10:41
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/133123

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