Once they lived in a northern province of India, but something or somebody set their feet upon the road west. From India they followed the trade routes that brought them to the Middle East and Egypt where some stopped and began a life there. Others continued on into Asia where they circumvented the Black Sea and crossed over to Turkey and Istanbul.
Following the Danube River the people dispersed out through Europe, from Bulgaria to as far away as Ireland. The Romany, gypsies, travellers, tinkers, and Roma are the names we now know them by, and a great many of them still keep to the ways of their ancestors. While modern countries, visas, and passports have curtailed a great deal of their wandering other aspects of their lives have remained unchanged in the thousand or so years that they've lived among the "unclean."
Due to their taboos of what is considered unclean they still live apart from the non-gypsy community as they always have. Like their fellow second-class citizens of Eastern Europe, the Jews, their tendency to isolation has caused resentment and anger among the non-gypsies who they live among. Even now in countries throughout Europe they are still treated with derision and suspicion.
But since the fall of communism in the East the gap between the Roma and European culture has started to be bridged via the music that is the Roma's main means of artistic expression. Even as early as the 19th century Hungarian composers Franz Lizt and Bella Bartok were incorporating their music into orchestral pieces. Now it's the people who carry on the traditions of their nation who are playing the music for audiences around the world.
Fanfare Ciocarlia from Romania, are one of the foremost proponents of gypsy brass band music and are playing a large role in bringing the music of the Roma into the public eye. Their latest release on Asphalt Tango Records, Kings and Queens, is a perfect example of the work they are doing. Aside from their own prodigious talents they have gathered together other musicians from around Europe to join them in celebrating the music of Roma to be listened to by audiences around the world.