A Look at The Roma Band Kal

In In These Times, a look at the Roma music group Kal.

Anti-Roma sentiment runs high in Europe, where Roma people suffer hate crimes, high incarceration rates, and lack of educational and housing opportunities so often as to barely warrant mention in local or international news. In Europe, Roma people have long since been thought of, or addressed as, “Black,” which translates to “Kal” in Romani…

A Serbian-based Roma music group, Kal, has become an important new voice in the fight for Roma rights, with their eponymous debut album (Tango Records, 2006). It is a reclaiming, of sorts, and a way of diffusing the negative connotation affiliated with being called “Black”—and all of what is supposed to be associated with that word: dirty, ugly, impure and undesirable.

Kal is a brave, engrossing album deeply rooted in Balkan Romani music; the musicians’ training forms the solid backbone to this album. But Kal also blends an unlikely combination of Middle Eastern, Argentinian, Turkish, Indian, and even Jamaican influences, musical genres that the band has absorbed into its repertoire.