Romani “Gypsy” Wedding in Vranje, Serbia
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My dissertation research uses ethnographic methods to explore how Romani (“Gypsy”) identity is linked to the professional performance of music in southeastern Serbia. Primarily focusing on brass bands in the Vranje area, my research asks how Romani musicians variously use, negotiate, and perform notions of their distinct identity in order to navigate changing social and economic contexts in the region. Although historically marginalized, Roma in the area have monopolized the economic niche of professional musical performance, and these same musicians strategically engage with widely-held stereotypes of the “innate talent” of “Gypsies” for music and dance to secure income, patrons, and prestige. In this snapshot I took at a Romani wedding in Vranje, I captured a young woman dancing the graceful Romani dance called “chochek” to the accompaniment of Romani brass band music. The image encapsulates the important performances that Roma male musicians and female celebrants give at these celebrations- while men play music and allow patrons to display tips that enhance their social prestige on the musician’s bodies, Roma women wear folk attire specific to their ethnic community and strive to dance effortlessly for hours to show appropriate joy and participation in these highly musical public events.