My first encounter with the Khamoro festival was when I moved to Prague after my Erasmus studies. My friend was working in Amnesty International and probably collaborated with the Romani community in Prague. She took me to the first night of the Khamoro festival which was that year (2015) held at riverbank Náplavka. I loved it! Great Romani bands were playing, people were dancing and having fun.
Since then, I went two more times to Khamoro festival, last year and this year. The great concept behind the festival, the idea to promote Romani culture and celebrate everything that they brought us (mostly traditional and modern music, gypsy jazz, as well as contributions in other art forms) makes it one of the must-see festivals in the Czech Republic.
What does „Khamoro“ mean and what's the story behind the festival?
Well, the interesting fact is that the couple behind the project came from Sarajevo during the war years in Yugoslavia. He was a professor of music in Sarajevo and she was a movie producer. During one cultural event that spouses organized in Prague, they faced with an unpleasant situation.
They invited many Czech popular bands and musicians to perform at the event and, among them, a Romani band. When the Romani band started playing, something strange happened. The microphone and the sound suddenly stopped. The band came up with a way to continue entertaining the public. They started playing and singing on their own and the public cheered. Only later, the Bosnian couple found out that the band was sabotaged by the tone-meister because of their ethnicity.
The same night, the couple, disappointed and outraged at the xenophobia of the tone-meister, came up with the idea of Khamoro festival. Khamoro means „sun“ in Romani and it's also the name of the band that performed that night. The idea of the project was to promote Romani culture, not only their contributions in music but in cinematography, writing, and other arts, as well.
Khamoro festival is celebrated every year the last week in May. The first Khamoro festival was in 1999 and since then it hosted more than 160 professional Romani bands from 40 different countries. The festival connects not only Romani people from all around the world but also Czechs and foreigners who choose to participate. Many important Czech personalities supported the festival, among them the first Czech president, Václav Havel.
Khamoro nowadays counts with a rich program of concerts, exhibitions, theatre plays, movie projections, workshops, and seminars that lasts for a week. At this year's festival, you can learn more about the Romani music in a Summer school of Romani music, attend the international colloquium about minorities and music, participate in the defilé of Romani bands on the streets of Prague and listen to different concerts of both modern Romani music and the classical one.
The bands that will perform are famous Czech and Slovakian Romani bands such as Lače Manuša, Igor Kmeťo, as well as the international ones. You can listen to traditional Balkan Romani melodies from the band NS Begeš, dance flamenco at the concert of Sevillan band 3000...DeSCencias or combine the Hungarian and Spanish rhythms with the Romengo band from Hungary. Last year, the most popular Czech Romani band Gypsy.cz performed at Khamoro.
How much does it all costs, you wonder? The first concert night, on Sunday, is always for free. You can also see some of the exhibitions for free. The big gala nights of classic Romani music or gypsy jazz cost about 300kč, which is not that much for an unforgettable cultural night.
So, check out the program of this year's Khamoro festival, choose an activity that you want to see and come. If you're not around, there's always next year at the end of May. Khamoro will always welcome you with its lively rhythms and positive atmosphere.