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Bright Balkan Morning: Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia [Paperback]

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Item description for Bright Balkan Morning: Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia by Dick Blau, Charles Keil, Angeliki Vellou Keil, Dick Blau & Steven Feld...

The authors take readers deep into Gypsy country in search of the sounds and dance that profoundly shape their lives, and the lives of their neighbors in Greek Macedonia. (Performing Arts)

Publishers Description
A stunningly-illustrated interweaving of first person narratives, photographs, cultural commentary and soundscapes, Bright Balkan Morning provides an unprecedented view of settled Romani lives in the Balkans and the unique roles of "Gypsy" instrument players in the region. These Romani instrumentalists from Iraklia, an ancient Greek Macedonian crossroads and market town that is home to about 2,000 Roma, provide the sounds that facilitate parties and rites of passage, performing an essential and highly valued service for their multicultural neighbors.

At the heart of the book are ten first-person Romani life stories. Charles and Angeliki Keil situate these personal accounts within the cultural, historical and economic setting of Greek Macedonia, and provide an overview of musical events in diverse localities. The 161 black and white photographs by Dick Blau include parades, parties, weddings and wrestling matches; portraits of the musicians and their families; studies of domestic life in the Romani neighborhood; reproductions from Romani family albums and other historic images. Steven Feld's soundscape CD features the voices and instruments of people whose stories are told in the book. Familiar sounds of markets, church, neighborhood and countryside set the context for exuberant performances at home and at parties, cafes and nightclubs.

CONTRIBUTORS: Angeliki Vellow Keil, Charles Keil, Steven Feld, Ian Hancock.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wesleyan
Pages   352
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 11" Height: 10.25"
Weight:   4.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 30, 2002
Publisher   Wesleyan
ISBN  0819564885  
ISBN13  9780819564887  

Availability  0 units.

More About Dick Blau, Charles Keil, Angeliki Vellou Keil, Dick Blau & Steven Feld

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Charlie Keil is Associate Professor of History and Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto and author of "Early American Cinema in Transition: Story, Style, and Filmmaking, 1907-1913 "(2001). Shelley Stamp is Associate Professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of "Movie-Struck Girls: Women and Motion Picture Culture after the Nickelodeon "(2000).

Charles Keil has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Toronto.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Arts & Photography > Photography > Photojournalism
2Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Music > General
3Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Music > History & Criticism
4Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Music > Musical Genres > Ethnic & International > Ethnomusicology
5Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Music > Musical Genres > Ethnic & International > International
6Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Music > Musical Genres > Folk & Traditional
7Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Music > Reference > General
8Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Music > Reference
9Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Greece > General
10Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Greece
11Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Macedonia
12Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Anthropology > Cultural
13Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Bright Balkan Morning: Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia?

Extraordinary  Nov 28, 2004
This book is, in a word, extraordinary; so is the accompanying CD recording, which gives in addition to music of the Macedonian Romany people, a slice of their life in cafes and markets. One hears their daily activities, the sale of pita, and various wares, as well as juke boxes and street sounds as the Mahala awakens.

Mahala, for those unaware, is the village ghetto to which Rom people are generally confined, although the anthropologists who compiled this book do not seem to know that it is Arabic for ghetto, and the same word used in North Africa and other Middle Eastern Muslim nations to describe the Jewish and Christian ghettos in which those dhimmi groups are similarly confined. Dhimmis are the non-Muslim minorities in Muslim lands, and their treatment (and in Muslim nation remains) generally described and defined by the Islamic laws of jihad.

Unlike most other recent books about the Rom, this one contains a massive amount of research on the lives and music of these people, as they live it; but what I like the most are the oral histories that provide readers with a real sense of the hardships suffered by the Rom in Greek Macedonia. While the book mentions the great and disastrous Turkish invasion of Greece in 1922, it does not note the great massacre of an estimated 150,000 Christian Greeks and Armenians in Smyrna on the Aegean coast that year. This undoubtedly included some Rom, as the town was then (as now) central on the Turkish coast.

But without knowing it, the authors have demonstrated some of the ill effects of Muslim rule, for they do discuss, via oral histories, the great liberation experienced by Greek Roma in 1924, when Turks were repatriated to Turkey and 1 million Greeks from Turkey to Greece. The latter may have lost some territory, but she gained liberation from Muslim oppression.

As Greeks from Turkey poured into Greece, the town fathers in Jumaya, for example, and presumably everywhere else the Roma then lived in Greece, began to allow the Roma to go to school with Greeks. Beforehand, the Turks had imposed separation on non-Muslim peoples. But with Turks gone, Greeks exiled the old cast system too, thereby relinquishing the system that had helped imprison Greek Roma in lives without equal education. Now, suddenly, the Rom could attend the same school as everyone else.

There are many wonderful features of this book, including the photographs and the music CD at its end. But make no mistake, the oral histories are the best feature, making this one of the best books on the Rom I have read to date.

--Alyssa A. Lappen
Bright Balkan Morning = Late Chicago Night!  Jul 2, 2003
Last night I planned to read this book for just a few minutes before going to sleep. Hours later, instead of sleeping I was transformed into the world of the Balkan Roma musicians and their incredible culture! I simply couldn't put this amazing book down. I love the stories and interviews with the old musicians, the informative history of the Roma people and their culture, the full-of-life photos, and the CD with soundscapes. All these pieces combine to give the reader a great view of a people and their heritage, and one that has been largely overlooked in the past. I found the work ethic of the musicians described in this book to be very inspirational. To be able to play all kinds of requests for days on end is really something to admire. Musicians of any genre could learn a whole lot from reading about the musicians in this book. Years ago, these authors turned me on to the subculture of polka in the USA (and made a polkaholic out of me) with their super "Polka Happiness" book. They have clearly done it again - informed the world about an incredibly rich culture that was largely hidden from view.
Big Fat Roma Music Book  Feb 17, 2003
This book responds to my interest in the social context of folk music and dance. The focus was on the lives of the people who make the music, in this case the Roma of Jumaya (Iriklia) in Greek Macedonia. The writers give you quite a rounded view, describing how the music is performed, at what kinds of events, how people relate to the music and each other, how the musicians see themselves and their occupation and how making a living as a Roma musician fits into Greek society. There is also a strong sense of history and how things have changed over time in many ways - the history of Roma in Greece and other Balkan countries, the specific history of Roma in Jumaya, and the stories of individual musicians and their families. The consistently positive way that the writers approach their subject is also refreshing - they describe how Roma have used music to survive and, in some cases, prosper, and how in doing so they have contributed to the multi-layered fabric of Greek-Macedonian ethnic identities.

What is especially interesting to me is the authors' view of how multi-ethnic society works in Greek Macedonia as compared to Bulgaria or Former Yugoslavia, and how the strategy of Roma musicians is different in these different countries. In Greek Macedonia the musicians play the music of all ethnic groups in order to maximize their flexibility and income. During multi-ethnic celebrations the musicians follow a strict policy of playing everyone's requests in the order requested, so that no one feels that they have priority. There is a fascinating description of an ethnically mixed wedding where the families have to adjust their various wedding traditions to accommodate each other, making it up as they go along to some extent.

The authors compare and contrast this with the approach taken by Roma musicians in other areas of the Balkans. In Kosovo in the 1980s the Roma musicians are said to have purposely selected music from traditions from other than Serbian and Albanian in order to avoid conflicts. In Bulgaria the wedding band tradition is described as leading to a new pan-Balkan "fusion" style which borrows from many cultures but still feels Bulgarian. Ultimately the motivation behind each strategy is the need of musicians to make a living.

The book is interesting reading from a North American perspective as well. Keil contrasts the multi-ethnic consciousness of Greeks, where the same person may have several types of ethnic and national identities simultaneously, with the concept of "multiculturalism" which he describes as slices of a pizza in which there are lots of ethnicities but everyone is either one thing or another. This raise the question of what is really going on in such immigrant nations as Canada and the United States.

The accompanying CD is a potpourri of sounds, including music of various types, and there is a section of the book describing the contents of the CD. Some of the track titles are Market Day in Jumaya, Afternoon at a Mahala Café, At Home in the Mahala, New Year's Party in Serres, Taverna Party at Nikisiani. The combination of the text, the many high quality black and white photos and the soundscape are successful in putting you into the experience, as much as this is possible. There was also a nice balance between Angeliki Keil's straight-forward and very readable reporting of the lives of the musicians and Charles Keil's more theoretical musings about ethnicity, the music and the role of the musicians. My only complaint about the book is its weight - it's printed on very heavy, glossy stock, no doubt adding to the quality of photographic reproductions, but it is so big and heavy that you pretty well have to read it sitting up. An alternate title could be, "Your Big Fat Roma Music Book."

Evocative, Engrossing, Encompassing  Jan 16, 2003
When you get Bright Balkan Morning you are likely to open it up and then leaf through it, looking at the photographs. After a few minutes of this you'll remove the CD from the inside back cover and put it on. Then you continue looking at the photos while listening to the sounds.

That in itself is a rich and satisfying experience. But don't stop there. Read the text!

It tells of Roma (aka Gypsy) musicians who have cornered the market on live music in polyglot Greek Macedonia. While they are at the bottom of the social order, anyone who wishes a proper wedding, festival, or party of any kind hires these musicians. The musicians generally perform in trios, one playing a bass drum while the other two play the zurna - a double-reed woodwind found throughout Eurasia and Africa. Their repertoire is drawn from the peoples who live in the area, or passed through at one time, and is sometimes more Oriental, sometimes more European - whatever the customer wants.

Keil and Keil give detailed accounts of several performances - a baptism, a wedding, and a saint's day festival - tell the life stories of a dozen or so musicians & family, and recount the broad history of the Roma in the Mediterranean as well as presenting a more focused account of their sojourn in Greek Macedonia. Blau's photographs range from intimate portraits, to dancers in full party whirl, through street scenes jumbled or measured, to serene landscapes. Some of his shots are so strikingly composed - the cover image, for example - that the effect is both subjective (Blau's aesthetic) and objective (we're looking at things, out there, in the world). Steven Feld's soundscapes give us the living flow of sound. Not only do we hear the twin zurnas flying through drum rhythms, but dancing feet, shouts of joy and exertion, motors churning, sheep braying, and Stevie Wonder piped in through a tinny sound system.

Bright Balkan Morning is a milestone. See it, hear it, read it. Take pleasure in it.

In the rich and wonderful BRIGHT BALKAN MORNING: Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia (Wesleyan University Press. Includes a CD), Charles and Angeliki Vellou Keil write of how, since the earliest days of Byzantium, commentators have remarked, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively, on the power of the Romani people to "steal your heart." With its stunning photographs by Dick Blau and its evocative CD produced by Steven Feld, this book is just one more instance of stolen hearts. The Romani, who are sometimes called gypsies, have stolen the authors' hearts and are well on their way to stealing my heart as well.

I urge you to buy this book. I say so as someone who almost never reads anything published by an academic press. I am definitely not an anthropologist or a social scientist of any kind. What I know about the raw and the cooked doesn't get very far beyond my kitchen, but I couldn't put BRIGHT BALKAN MORNING down. This book ought to be that rare thing: an academic book with popular appeal.

The easiest way into the riches of BRIGHT BALKAN MORNING are Blau's black-and-white photographs of the Romani playing their instruments for weddings, wrestling matches, and the little parades that apparently form wherever they go. When the dances started up, I have a feeling that Blau joined in, for these pictures just pulled me along. I could smell the perfume in the grandmother's handkerchief as she held it out to Blau and, through him, to me, as we all danced together. I could see the textures of the road when I took my place in the wedding parade; I could almost hear the sound of the zurna (a kind of outdoor oboe) being played in my ear.

Of course Steven Feld's CD brings the actual sounds to life. The CD begins oh so slyly by introducing Romani music emerging from the ambient sounds of twentieth-century Macedonia. The Romani are, if nothing else, great survivors of history's cultural wars, and you can hear so many diverse musical strains-from the Muslim to the techno pop. Eerily enough, the rhythm of the dauli (a two-headed bass drum) being played sounds exactly like the bass-drum pounding at a high-school football pep rally.

I wasn't as happy with the book's writing style, but then the authors seem to be wrestling with shaping this heartfelt information of theirs into all the requirements of academic publishing, and that struggle oddly mirrors the lives of the Romani. This sometimes awkward prose becomes just one more instance of the dance the Romani inspire everywhere they go as they blend in and out of the moment's culture.

--R. M. Ryan
Duncans Mills, CA


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