“About us without us. The Romani music in the Polish People’s Republic”
In 1953 the Ministry of Culture of the Polish People’s Republic issued a law on ensembles of ethnic minorities. As a result the Ministry of Culture controlled the organization and repertoire of the minorities’ band. One of them was the Song and Dance Ensemble “Roma”. “Roma” was a professional Romani (Gypsy) band and at the same time the only one official Romani band. The Communist Party appointed them a new role. The Song and Dance Ensemble “Roma” were to promote the settled way of life among other Romanies. The ideology and the policy of the Polish United Workers’ Party was more important than the music.
At the same time, songs about the Romani people and their traditional lifestyle were very popular in Poland. Written by professional authors, but not the Romanies themselves, most of them reinforced the stereotypes about the Romanies, for example the Gypsy would steal the hen. Their popularity was so high that in 1971 the critics in Poland wrote about “the invasion of Gypsy”. These songs were more popular than the official Romani band. What image of the Gypsies did they create? How did these songs influence the relation between the Polish majority and the Romani? What was the attitude of the Gypsies toward these songs?
Karolina Bittner, PhD is a researcher at the Institute of National Remembrance in Poznań, Poland. Her research is concerned with such issues as pop music in the Polish People’s Republic, song festivals in Communist Poland, Poznań June (1956). Bittner has written numerous book chapters and articles. Her newest book is Music at the service of propaganda. Festiwal Piosenki Żołnierskiej in Kołobrzeg 1968-1989. She is currently editing In the culture of the Polish People’s Republic: Sport.