MSU Libraries: William G. Lockwood Romani Music Collection

By MSULibraries MSULibraries
updated 10 months ago

The William G. Lockwood Romani music collection is a sub-set of the larger William G. Lockwood Collection of Romani Ethnology and Gypsy Stereotypes that was donated to Michigan State University Libraries. These musical recordings date from 1912 to 1998. The collection follows a loose set of rules in which anything Romani related was added. If a song title or album name had the word "gypsy" in it, or any translation of the word such as "tzigane," "gitan," "cigány," “Zigeuner,” it would have been fair game for this collection. The artists are most often Romani themselves but they could also be singing about Romanies, playing music in the style of Romanies or just inspired by Romanies. A wide variety of countries are represented in this collection which is indicative of the distribution of the Romani diaspora. Included are several Hungarian Romani musicians who escaped the Hungarian revolt of 1956 and made the trek to the United States to earn their living playing csárdás and other folk tunes at American night clubs and restaurants with a "gypsy" theme. Many of the Hungarian violinists such as Sándor Lakatos and Imre Magyari, referred to as prímás, led “Gypsy Orchestras” that performed throughout the United States. The "Gypsy Jazz" of legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt and his followers from France is found here. The Spanish Romanies, who invented flamenco music, are included here with guitarists such as Carlos Montoya, Sabicas, and Manitas De Plata, and dancers like Carmen Amaya, among others. There is a selection of Balkan Romani music by Esma Redžepova and Stevo Teodosievski, and their friends. There are Greek, Rumanian, Yugoslavian, Scottish and Bulgarian recordings. Russian Romanies are included in albums by theater groups, operatic singers and cimbalom virtuosos. Composers who used Romani themes such as Bizet, Bartok and Liszt, are interpreted. Some of the more outlandish records of this collection include an avant garde, free jazz performance by a Russian “fortune teller” who calls herself Valentina Ponomareva, a flamenco-prog rock band named Carmen, jazz funk and fusion albums with a “gypsy” theme, Hungarian Romani comedy records, the haunting countertenor voice of Alfred Deller, and a 78 rpm recording from 1913 of a woman named Ruby Helder who had been dubbed “the girl tenor” due to her unusually low voice. Musical instruments such as the violin, cimbalom, tárogató, guitar, balalaika, tamburitza and the percussive elements of flamenco dancing are showcased with virtuosity in this collection.