Romani band Kal will perform at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center on September 23. Kal, playing music from Bosnia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia, are the young Belgrade-based Romani (Gypsy) band whose self-titled album (Kal) topped the European world music charts on its release in March with its dynamic blend of traditional instruments, hard driving rhythms, and soulful yet confrontational style.
The disparate sounds of Kal’s music describe a new, post-modern Roma identity that confronts romantic Gypsy clichés. Dragan Ristic, who founded the band with his brother Dushan, says, "We are not living in the past… I’m an urban person, belong to the modern world, [and] go to rave parties… so mixing traditional and urban elements is the best way of presenting our culture."
"Kal – Romany for "black" – are more than pure spectacle, and they spit indignation at being called "Gypsy". "I’m a Roma," says the band’s leader and vocalist Dragan Ristic. "Gypsy is pejorative, a misnomer. We’ve always called ourselves Roms, so I find it distasteful to be called a Gypsy."
Ristic’s family were beneficiaries of Yugoslavia’s President Tito’s desire to involve the Roma in Yugoslav society, and his father, a schoolteacher, emphasized education. The multilingual Dragan worked as a theatre director before focusing on music.
The Kal concerte is part of Romani Routes, a project of Voice of Roma, a nonprofit organization based in Sebastopol, California. The aim of Romani Routes is to present the virtuosity of Romani musicians and the richness and depth of Romani music in a way that counteracts the hype of the mythologized "Gypsy". It is routine for presenters of sensationalized "Gypsy" music and even traditional Romani music to surround those performances with half-truths and stereotypes about Roma and Romani culture. Furthermore, in an atmosphere of rampant prejudice and unfair discrimination against Roma, far too many presenters exploit Romani musicians unjustly. Voice of Roma, through Romani Routes, seeks to lead the way out of this situation by ensuring connections among the musicians, Romani culture, and the cause of Romani rights.
Buy Kal’s debut CD:
Doors open at 7:00 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. discussion with the band, followed by the show at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 day of show or $12 for students. Advance tickets are available at Ashkenaz during business hours and evening concerts, as well as online through www.ticketweb.com.
Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center
1317 San Pablo Ave. at Gilman Berkeley, CA 94702