It's now pretty much common knowledge that the people most of the world refers to as Gypsies originated in the northern part of India. When they began their western migration isn't exactly known, but it is known that from India they set out on a road that took them first to Egypt, then Turkey, and from there on into Europe. Even though they have spread throughout continental Europe as far west as the Iberian peninsula it is the East that most of us seem to identify as being where Gypsies live.
Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Balkan states that stretch from what was once Yugoslavia down to Greece are the primary countries associated with Gypsies. Roma, as they call themselves, have become part of their cultural fabric. This is especially true in Hungary and Romania, where the folk music of these countries is now irrevocably linked to Gypsy music. This hasn't stopped them from being treated like second class, or even third class citizens in the years since World War Two.
Despised by a great deal of the general population, and denigrated as thieves, only Jews have a longer history in Eastern Europe of being ostracized and persecuted and both have suffered horribly for it. Yet somehow they have managed to survive. From the persecutions of the Inquisition to the Death Camps of the Nazis, and the intolerance of repressive Communist regimes, the Gypsies have been marginalized almost since they set foot in Eastern Europe. Living within their own communities and following their own traditions, the only bridge that has been built between them and the rest of the world has been their music.
Garth Cartwright is from New Zealand but like so many other people fell in love with the romantic side of Gypsy life. It was that infatuation that brought him to the Balkans in 1991 to begin the travelling that would end up becoming the basis for his book Princes Amongst Men - Journeys With Gypsy Musicians.
The book recounted his meetings with the men and women who performed Gypsy music in the Balkans, specifically Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Macedonia. He chose those four countries for their "deep reservoirs of Gypsy music" and because their proximity allowed him to travel back and forth between the four countries with ease.