EOL CD Review

CD cover

Hungary and Romania: Descendants of the Itinerant Gypsies: Melodies of Sorrow and Joy

Produced by Yuji Ichihashi, Aki Soto, and Stephen McArthur. Recorded by Kazuyuki Tanimoto and Norio Inagaki. Multicultural Media: Music of the Earth MCM3009. 1997. Compact Disc. Liner notes by Kazuyuki Tanimoto and Norio Inagaki.

Melodies of Sorrow and Joy is a re-release of field recordings of songs and instrumental pieces performed by Gypsy (Rom) musicians from Hungary and Romania and originally released in Japan.  The disc is divided into two halves, each recorded by a different researcher, with the pieces in each half grouped together on the recording by geographical region. As a result, the CD and its accompanying notes seem  like two separate projects, which they originally were.


AU sound iconAudio 1: "Khelimaski dyili," opening (152 KB .au)

RealAudio iconAudio 1: "Khelimaski dyili," opening

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AU sound iconAudio 2: "Meselaki dyili," opening (381 KB .au)

RealAudio iconAudio 2: "Meselaki dyili," opening


The first half of the disc, recorded in Hungary, consists of sixteen tracks of vocal music. All of the songs are examples of either thekhelimaski dyili, a rhythmic, sung dance, (Audio 1) or the meselaki dyli, a slow song with free rhythm (Audio 2). Brief, paraphrased translations are provided for each of the slow songs, while no translations are provided for the dance songs.
The generous number of examples of both song types provides a good introduction to these genres, and a welcome opportunity for comparison of styles between various singers and different villages. The meselaki dyli selections recorded in Gyngys Village, for example, are sung in heterophonic style by a group of men's and women's voices, and provide an important contrast to the meselaki dyli examples of Piricise Village, which are performed by solo voices.


AU audio iconAudio 3: Men's Dance, opening (188 KB .au)

RealAudio iconAudio 3: Men's Dance, opening


AU audio iconAudio 4: Wedding March, opening (141 KB .au)

RealAudio iconAudio 4: Wedding March, opening


The second half of the disc provides a more diverse sampling of instrumental styles from the Carpathian Mountain region, including a Csardas, a funeral piece, several varieties of men's dances, (Audio 3) a wedding march, (Audio 4) and couples' dances. With the exception of one piece played by a violin/gardon (cello-like stringed instrument) duo, the instruments playing on each track are not listed.

Multicultural Media is to be commended for releasing these valuable recordings and for translating the original notes. The notes however, and the format in which they are presented, are confusing and perhaps require more editorial comment than the brief disclaimer at the back of the booklet which describes both the difficulties of transliteration as well as the diverse professional backgrounds of the researchers. Several problems are apparent. Some tracks include no annotation other than the name of the genre. None of the songs or instrumental pieces are given a title, and none of the performers appearing in the recording or the accompanying photographs are identified or credited.

The editors state that they wanted to preserve the tone of the original Japanese notes, but the original commentary seems to need some additional context and frame, particularly for the notes which accompany the first half of the disc. While the romantic travelogue-type narration employed here can perhaps be forgiven for its exuberant enthusiasm, at other times the notes are dangerously misleading as when, for example, the first annotator proclaims that in general, Gypsy dancing has no fixed gestures or organized movements.

Although these recordings were originally released in 1992, with the songs from the first half recorded in the 1980s, the photographs in the accompanying booklet are from 1963, leaving some question as to when the rest of the field recordings were made. Again, some historical context for the recordings and the notes would be a welcome addition.

Difficulties in presentation aside, the recordings and the notes too, contain much that should delight and interest many listeners, especially newcomers to Rom music of this region. The song selections are compelling performances representing a variety of individual and regional styles, and the instrumental tracks provide documentation of some fine examples of solo violin and ensemble playing from the Carpathian Mountains. Although the annotations to the individual selections are somewhat incomplete, the notes provide a fine history of Gypsy instrumental music in Hungary, and good, informative general descriptions of the song genres.  

Suzanne Camino

Suzanne Camino is a doctoral candidate in the ethnomusicology program at the University of Michigan. She is currently researching songs of emigration and exile among Albanian communities in the United States. Her past research has focused on Albanian polyphonic singing and Bektashi Sufi chanting.

Thanks to Aaron A. Fox for web design assistance