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Bright Balkan Morning

Romani Lives and the Power of Music in Greek Macedonia

One of a string of towns and villages in Greek Macedonia that have significant settled Romani populations, Iraklia is well known for the number and quality of its instrumentalists. Up until the era of electric amplification, two double-reed zurnas and a dauli bass drum delivered the loudest and most exciting dance music possible from three instruments.  With this simple set-up, the Romani trios provide not only a mind-blowing music but also important ritual structures to the diverse audiences who populate Greek Macedonia. Across the Balkans, Middle East, North Africa, across central Asia all the way to Korea, double reeds and drumming are used for outdoor celebrations and rites of passage.

Romani zurna players perform virtually without pause for many hours at a time by means of a technique called circular breathing. Listening to their spell-binding music -- think eastern modal roads crossed with John Coltrane--  it is not hard to understand why their patrons believe that these instruments are a conduit of power.


Photographs by
Dick Blau

Text by
Angeliki Vellou Keil
Charles Keil

Soundscape by
Steven Feld