The documentary Gypsy Caravan, which came out in 2006, is now available on DVD. Gypsy Caravan is an uplifting and moving film which explores the music, lives and heritage of 5 distinct Gypsy bands from around the world as they unite for the World Music Institute’s "Gypsy Caravan" 6-week concert tour across North America, selling out shows and astounding every audience they meet.
Their musical styles range from flamenco to brass band, Romanian violin Balkan pop, Indian folk, raga and jazz. With fire in their bellies and soul in their voices, they present an explosion of song and dance that celebrates the diversity of the Romani people and the best of Gypsy music.
The film follows the breath-taking performances and behind-the-scenes action of this unique concert tour, traveling with the musicians as they laugh, cry, argue, play and learn about each others’ past hardships and future dreams. This moving progression of their relationships, reflected in their shared stories and jam sessions, is the backbone to the film and the tour.
The artists are packed together for the highs and lows and whimsies of a U.S. road trip that spawns practical jokes and spans from no food or sleep and cold coffee at Motel-6 machines, to screaming fans flocking hundreds of miles for an autograph. And as they befriend each other on World Music Institute’s 16-city concert tour, they celebrate the majesty and glory of music whilst overcoming the prejudice of their shared ancestry.
This musical film highlights performances by five eclectic and compelling bands: Macedonian diva and “Queen of the Gypsies” Esma Redzepova; traditional Indian folk troupe Maharaja; Romanian brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia; Romanian superstars of violin wizardry Taraf de Haidouks; and Spain’s Antonio "El Pipa" Flamenco Ensemble from Andalucía.
Gypsy Caravan explores the real lives of the musicians when the crew travels to their homes in Macedonia, Romania, India and Spain, meet their families and see what music brings to their lives – a link to an ancient culture, a common language, a traditional career – all of which is a stark and often painful contrast to life on the road. The personal drama and stories of these characters are interwoven with their performances, reflecting the imagery and emotion of their music. "We see love and death and tales of lives that are raw and rich," say the filmmakers. "They make us laugh and cry and laugh again, allowing us to understand and expand on the riches of Romani music and history, and letting us enjoy knowing the bands intimately."
From Romania we meet the electrifying Taraf de Haïdouks, a band with many fans all over the world, including the likes of Johnny Depp (who speaks as an avid fan in the film, saying "it would be great if by experiencing the Romani people and their music, people can learn more about them and understand that what you’ve believed about these people has been a lie your entire life"). Taraf band members range in age from 22-80 and their albums and tours support much of their village of Clejani. It is here that we meet Nicolae, the old patriarch who single-handedly supports, educates and feeds his extended family with the earnings of his violin and voice.
Esma Redzepova from Macedonia, hailed as the Queen of Gypsies, has a voice full of joy, power and sadness. An institution in her own country for over 40 years, in her childhood she broke down many prejudicial barriers and with her late husband she adopted and educated 47 children.
In Spain, everyone knows that flamenco came from the Gypsies. Antonio El Pipa flamenco ensemble, a family troupe from Andalucía, is a sight to be seen – blending the power of Antonio’s elegant dance with the haunting sound of his aunt Juana la del Pipa’s raspy voice, they silence audiences with the drama and soul of their performance. Juana and Antonio clearly love and admire each other, yet their lives also appear to contrast off stage; Antonio has a frilly pink house and teaches at his new flamenco school, while Juana shares stories of hardship (without a hint of self-pity) – from her poor childhood to the distress of her son’s and husband’s drug addiction.
Originating from India, the homeland of the Romani people, Maharaja is a group of artists from many varied castes: poets, singers, musicians and a very unique dancer, Harish. He turned to dance to feed his family when his parents died – and is one of the few artists in the world to perform the spectacular Rajasthani knee dance.
Fanfare Ciocarlia’s brass horns uniquely blend traditional Romanian Gypsy music with Turkish and Arabic influences. The speed of their playing and thrill of their sound is legendary, and DJ’s play Fanfare’s tunes in hot nightclubs from New York to Berlin to Tokyo. The sales of the first album enabled them to bring electricity to their home village – such is the power of their music.
The diverse yet related musical styles eventually come together in a grand onstage finale, bringing the entire audience to their feet. This musical extravaganza is movingly contrasted by the death and funeral of Nicolae, as he leaves his family and fellow musicians to fend for themselves, but also leaving a legacy that will never die.
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