Research of Music and Dance of Roma in the Balkans (seminar)

The music and dance of the Roma are essentially still not known enough to music researchers in Serbia. There are writings written during the 20th century that place Romani music making exclusively in the domain of performance, but not of creativity. Those studies are dominantly focused on deviations of Serbian melodies, and although the perspective of evaluating such processes has evolved from negative to positive, Romani musicians are still perceived as Others. Since there are still no cultural insiders among Romani communities in Serbian ethnomusicology, and unfortunately neither are there any Romani researchers, this seminar, which is conceived as a reading group, strives to establish a knowledge from previous outsider research in Southeastern Europe, the outcome of which should be theoretical-methodological and potentially collaborative framework for further projects (national and/or international) that would contribute to the scientific promotion of the cultural heritage and music and dance creativity of this marginalized social group.

Starting from the past folkloristic and anthropological research of Romani communities in Serbia in order to better understand the local context, the seminar will basically explain the general issues of the language, customs and social position of the Roma. After that, a discussion will begin on several broader aspects of Romani musical life: on musical and dance performance structure, on instrumentation, on informal methods of learning to play and dance, on interpretations of the emotionality of Roma performance, on genres and on entrepreneurship in the contexts of tavern and wedding performances, on festival presentation of Romani music.

The aim is to establish in the future a model for the analysis of Romani musical creativity – starting from the analysis of performances (including the lyrics), introducing discography analysis and analytically positioning Romani creativity within the framework of the cultural industry. Such research of Romani music in Serbia would be complex due to the heterogeneity of Romani musical practices in Serbia, but also due to the polymusicality of the Romani musicians. The internationalization of the preparation of such research is justified by the fact that the music and dance practices of the Roma in the Balkans connect assumed historical links that need to be investigated, that today it is a pan-Balkan phenomenon, and it is also Western European – both due to the existence of Romani communities that emigrated from the Balkan countries and which have their own music market, as well as due to the establishment of a special popular hybrid genre for the non-Romani audience “Balkan music”


At the ethnomusicological seminar (in English), pre-selected texts in English by the following authors (in alphabetical order of last name) will be discussed: Filippo Bonini Baraldi, Ventsislav Dimov, Ursula Hemetek, Elsie Ivancich Dunin, Alexander Marković, Ivana Medić, Svanibor Pettan, Lozanka Peycheva, Mattijs van de Port, Carol Silverman. Invited discussants from Serbia and abroad will also contribute by presenting an overview of the literature in their own language about Romani music and dance in their countries, and in particular they will apply theoretical models from the literature to the material they know based on their own field experience and from their basic disciplines (including ethnology, anthropology, ethnochoreology, musicology).

The seminar is financially supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia and it is the part of the final activities of the bilateral scientific cooperation project “Exploring the Tracks of Balkan Culture: Serbian–Turkish Connections in Music and Dance from Ottoman Period until Today (TRackeRS)” (2022–2024), which is being implemented by the Institute of Musicology SASA and the Istanbul University State Conservatory, and it was financially supported by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia and TUBITAK. Romani music and dance were in focus during the second year of the TRackeRS project. In an effort to examine the existence of similarities in music and dance traditions (even in the structural sense) in today’s Serbia and Türkiye, the project included research into historical and contemporary practices of Romani family music making. Apart from the invited discussants, some of whom will participate online from abroad due to other academic obligations, the seminar will also be open to an interested audience at the Institute of Musicology SASA.


Convener: Marija Dumnić Vilotijević
Coordinating Assistant: MA Katarina Nikolić (Junior Research Assistant, Institute of
Musicology SASA; ethnomusicologist and ethnochoreologist)
Organizer: Institute of Musicology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Location: Knez Mihailova 36, Belgrade
Date: June 11th, 2024

09:00 – Welcome and coffee (Room 410)

Room 101
Moderator: Katarina Tomašević (Institute of Musicology SASA, Serbia)
10:00 – Welcoming address: Katarina Tomašević (Institute of Musicology SASA, Serbia)
10:15 – Literature about Romani music and dance in Serbia: Marija Dumnić Vilotijević, Ivana Medić (Institute of Musicology SASA, Serbia)
10:45 – Literature about Romani music and dance in Türkiye: Belma Oğul (Istanbul Technical University Turkish Music State Conservatory, Türkiye), Mehtap Demir Güven (Istanbul University State Conservatory, Türkiye; online)
11:15 – Historical view on Roma musicians in Hungary: Tamás Hajnáczky (Archiepiscopal
College of Veszprém and Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church, Hungary)
11:45 – Discussion

12:15 – Coffee break

Moderator: Marija Dumnić Vilotijević (Institute of Musicology SASA, Serbia)
12:45 – Cultural and linguistic context or Romani communities in Serbia: Biljana Sikimić (Institute of Balkanology SASA, Serbia)
13:30 – Romani (Gypsy) Music and Musicians from Bulgaria – development and researches: Lozanka Peycheva (Institute for Ethnography and Folklore with Ethnographic Museum BAS, Bulgaria), Ventsislav Dimov (Institute for Art Studies BAS, Bulgaria)
14:15 – Discussion

14:30 – Lunch break for participants (Hotel “Palace”)

Moderator: Ivana Medić (Institute of Musicology SASA, Serbia)
16:00 – Romani routes – ethical, methodological and theoretical issues: Carol Silverman (University of Oregon, USA)
16:45 – Roma music and emotion: Filippo Bonini Baraldi (Institute of Ethnomusicology (INET-md), NOVA University Lisbon, Portugal)
17:30 – Discussion
18:00 – Final remarks