When the road bends..."
- A Romany-Gypsy proverb
This piece could very easily turn into one of a number of things. I recently discovered that, while the people it refers to are ancient, the term 'gypsy' itself is of relatively recent (late 18th-early 19th century) coinage, and is derived from the dark, laden term 'Egypt' (which, by the bye, is NOT what that Egyptians call it). While this is undoubtedly fascinating in and of itself, it isn't what I want to write about right (ARGH! That ghost of internal rhyme still hath me in thrall!) now.
I could also, perhaps, trundle off into stories about how I've always seen myself as something of a gypsy - how the wanderlust in me, I've always wishfully ascribed to some wild-eyed, dark-haired, wandering minstrel of an ancestor. On second thoughts, that description fits me more accurately than any ancestor of mine - perhaps I should leave them poor souls out of this. Hmm.
Anywhoo, I'm focusing for a minute to tell you what I DO want to write about - this afternoon I saw what is possibly one of the finest music documentaries ever made - and this isn't one of those "Ten thousand saw I at a glance" type of hyperboles either. Jasmine Dellal's 'Gypsy Caravan' is, in a word, splendid, and should be compulsory viewing for any musician or music aficionado. While I'm being didactic and prescriptive, another thing that is "compulsory" for this breed of weirdos, of which I am a loud and proud part, is the reading of Pratchett's 'Soul Music' - just take my word on this one; don't argue - read!
Meandering done with, back to this Caravan, then. What I love about this documentary is that it doesn't dwell on how misunderstood this race has always been - something it could justifiably and easily have done. Instead, it celebrates them in all their glory. And since nothing to do with the gypsy 'way of life' would be complete without their music, so much the better for this avid viewer/listenHer (another of Jayawant's 'jjems'). The World Music Institute arranged for a group of gypsy musicians from Macedonia, Romania, Spain and India (don't look askance at this inclusion - Gypsies originated from the tribe of 'Roms' who migrated westwards from North India in ages bygone), to tour across America, Canada and a host of other countries, a few years ago. Alongside them on this 6-week journey was this intrepid filmmaker, Dellal.
To me, this documentary is an ode to the beauty of exchanged acquiring. The musicians from these countries start out wary of each other, but end on a carnivalesque (can it be otherwise, with this particular group of performers?) and suitably 'emancipated' note, which sees a Rajasthani folk singer plaintively croon, 'is duniya mein kitna hai gam', to the strains of a classical Spanish guitar and a flamenco dancer giving form to his grief.