Via Romen

Nuevo Russian-Romany Music

They dazzled audiences with enchanting Romany (Gypsy) sounds during Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet World Tour 2008-2009. Vadim Kolpakov had been raised in a famous musical Romany family in Russia,
and Arkadiy Gips, a virtuoso violinist from Ukraine, impressed the pop icon so
much that she invited them to join her on stages all around the globe.

For the musicians, the tour was not just a big professional break, but also an opportunity to share a rich and ancient culture with millions. Romany music, more often associated with the widely used term Gypsy,
is an expression of the history of an ethnic group made up of highly developed
subcultures with a common language and roots. Many Romany groups settled
early on, while others traveled around for centuries, soaking up customs,
history, and music. Each place the Roma called home provided a venue for their
artistic creativity and added a new layer to their musical story. The latest
chapter is Via Romen and their Nuevo Russian-Romany style, created primarily by
Vadim Kolpakov and Alex Gorodezky, a jazz guitar player and composer. On the
violin and backup vocals, Arkadiy Gips soars over the musical foundation with
stunning melodic work that pushes the cultural envelope.

Incorporating the influence of Romany music with Latin, Jewish and jazz musical traditions, Via Romen has a new and unique sound that’s winning the hearts of both the old and the young. The group members’ disparate
musical backgrounds, rich professional experiences and advanced levels of
virtuosity, along with an overarching commitment to authenticity in everything
they produce, are the key elements of the Nuevo Russian- Romany musical
movement that is gaining steam in the United States.

Via Romen invites you to perceive tradition in a new and exciting way. If you listen closely, you will hear thoughtfully constructed compositions, intricate rhythms, dazzling ornamentation and free-flowing
improvisation. Skillfully weaving elements of Romany and Russian themes together
with jazz, samba, klezmer, tango, flamenco and other idioms, Via Romen offers
unprecedented interpretations of the music we thought we knew.

“Many contemporary artists, playing within the ‘Gypsy’ genre, get lost in the expanse of musical influences, but not Via Romen,” wrote Nat Levy in the Bellevue Reporter.

“Applause, sighs, [and] screams gave away the excitement of the public. I bet that most of them wished there was a dance floor in front of the stage, so that they could join the performers and share their passion for
this soulful music. The flood of energy pouring from the stage was
unstoppable,” said Olga Kazakova from the Russian
World Newspaper
of the Pacific Northwest.

The musicians hold dear the words of Rada Volshaninova, the legendary Russian-Romany singer: “I feel privileged to reconnect with Gypsy sounds through the performance of such great musicians. Thank you, my dears,
for your heavenly gift! Let the whole world celebrate your talent!”

The group’s CD, My Two Homes, is about music and life in both halves of the world, about the past and the present. The recording uses
the Romany language and traditional melodies while adapting those materials the
way Roma, Jews and other minorities have always done. The baby girl featured on
the album’s cover is a child of Via Romen’s lead vocalist and accordionist,
Petra Gelbart. Petra
modifies and adds to both melodies and lyrics in a manner that’s sometimes
emotionally raw and sometimes refined. She is also a Romany educator and
activist, continuing her involvement in volunteer projects that span two

Her story highlights the entire group’s involvement in community-building. Every concert turns into a cultural event – the group invites local Romany, Russian, and/or Jewish musicians, singers and dancers to
participate in performances that celebrate ethnic and musical diversity. The
group also strives to foster understanding and appreciation of Romany culture
through a series of workshops that its members conduct across college campuses
in the United States.

Reaching across generations, Via Romen also partners with children’s choruses across the country. When on a tour, they frequently invite young singers to join them on stage for a rendition of “Solnyshko” – a Russian
Romany folk song, traditionally performed by a choir. These soulful and
touching collaborations don’t leave anyone indifferent. For many children, it
is their first connection to the Romany world, and the musicians hope that such
experiences will help battle negative perceptions and stereotypes about the
Romany people that spring from a lack of education and personal involvement
with the vital and resilient Romany culture.

By Tamara Gruzbarg.10/10/10

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