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Hej Romale
Čhavorenge/Ida Kelarová (vocal solos)
Desiderius Dužda (vocals, guitar)
Lelo Nika (accordion)
Ivan Herák (violin)
Jazz Trio
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Marko Ivanović
rec. 2017, Rudolfinum, Prague
Texts and translations included
SUPRAPHON SU4246-2 [46:13]

From the look of this release I was expecting a DVD, but though it’s housed like one, it’s actually a good old-fashioned CD. Presumably it was to have been conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek, as he worked with this ensemble back in 2011 but his death meant that the podium responsibilities were taken over by Marko Ivanovic.

Čhavorenge is a Roma vocal group, nurtured and directed by the inspirational Ida Kelarová. The collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic on their home turf at the Rudolfinum offers a strong and binding commitment between the Czech musical establishment and the more far-flung Roma children who form this vocal group – it’s most definitely not a chorus in the conventional Western sense of the term. The children are scattered amongst numerous Czech and Slovak towns and meet only a few times a year. Kelarová and her husband Desiderius Dužda, with their assistants. meet them and try to ensure that the children don’t lose their spark and cultivate a reasonable ensemble.

The concert showcased the singers, instrumental soloists and orchestra in a 46-minute concert that springs a few surprises. The music is largely sunny and couched in a popular vernacular some way removed from the more resinous intensities and melancholy of Gypsy folklore. Thus, there’s a bit of a Big Band sound after a feint of folklore in the opener, Bari Vera, a feeling only intensified by the presence throughout the concert – sometimes more, sometimes less – of a Jazz Trio with percussion. There’s also a Latin vibe to Amen Chave Sam, with its fine guitar solo from Dužda. The Czech Philharmonic’s oboist plays eloquently on Baripen – the tracking is wrong when it designates him on track three – before a pop-rock drenched groove takes over rather wildly. There’s a nice violin solo in Av Tu Av, Chave and it’s played by Ivan Herák – listen out elsewhere for the accordion work of Lelo Nika.

By the time of the ninth track there’s something of a fiesta feel to the performance and they make it sound like a real anthem for them before the affecting lyrics of Šun devloro dictate a more emollient approach. The arrangement of Roma songs in Efta cardaša offers a more concentrated look at the musical wellsprings that lie behind the more affirmative and easy-going populist elements. The final track, which is the title track, predictably allows genuinely unbuttoned joie de vivre to permeate the Rudolfinum.

The formation of Čhavorenge offers a more hopeful, disciplined and inspiring way forward for children whose lives are often disadvantaged. The profusely illustrated booklet explains the background of the concert and of the group and the many individuals who have given their time and talent to developing it.

Jonathan Woolf

Bari vera [2:37]
Soske mange na phenes [3:29]
Amen chave sam [3:52]
Baripen [3:41]
O del man sikavel [3:03]
Suno [4:15]
Av tu av, chaje [2:35]
Dural avlas [3:24]
Bašavahas gilavahas [2:45]
Šun devloro [6:34]
Lidová romská, Desiderius Dužda: Efta cardaša (O Del marel/Joj na somas/Soske mange romna/Motoris/Bijav/Sarme khere/Kaskere ola) [4:27]
Lidová romská: Hej Romale [5:24]


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