A lot of folks think that Romanians are Gypsies. Maybe because the proper name for the ethnic group many call Gypsies is Roma. But, really, Roma are maybe 2 or so million of Romania’s 22 million inhabitants, and, unfortunately, they have a poor reputation among Romanians. Well, among Europeans in general. Nobody wants them and everybody hates them. Reminds me of that old Cher song…”they called us gypsies, tramps, and thieves.” There, now it’s in your head, too.
I started reading up on the Roma people, because I have been reading through The Rough Guide to Romania, and there is a section in there where the author recommends a day trip to a small commune called Clejani about 20 miles SW of Bucharest. Now, before you think hippies and free love, commune is the term used for the smallest governmental administrative unit in Romania. It is usually a collection of villages (which have no official government themselves) with a mayor in charge.
Clejani is known as the home of some of the best Gypsy musicians. A very well known band to have arisen from this town is called Taraf de Haidouks, which literally means “band of thieves.” Thieves in the Robin Hood sense. Jake and I saw this band perform in the movie, “Gypsy Caravan,” and they were amazing. YouTube Taraf de Haidouks. You’ll see what I mean. You might just start snapping your fingers and kicking up your feet along to the music.
But this great musical artform with a joyful sound has risen out of a town that looks straight out of a Third World nation. 20 miles from bustling, chaotic, modern Bucharest is this village of tiny, one room homes, run down and dirty. Now, I’m not saying this with an attitude of, “Let us Americans go help those poor Gypsies,” but just with a sadness that one group of people could be so hated and thought of as nothing more that second-class humans who happen to make good music by everyone else around them. The Romanian Roma have in recent years tried migrating to France and Spain, but, if you keep up with international news at all, you’ll remember that in 2010, France departed hundreds of them back to Romania. Nobody wants them.
They have no place to call home. But they’re people. They left India way back in somewhere between 800-1000 A.D., and ever since, they have been enslaved, reviled, mistreated, and neglected. But everyone loves their music. Yeah, they get hired to play for weddings and other events, but it stops there.
I want to visit Clejani while we’re in Romania. And I don’t want to just hear great music, leave a great tip, and leave, but I’d love to get to know the people. I’m sure there are some great stories to hear. One of my biggest prayers for Romania is to really, truly know the love of God. That love that breaks through barriers of ethnicity, economic status, and even long-held prejudices. I guess, really, that’s my prayer for every nation. Maybe I’m an idealist and have a romantic view of missions, or maybe I just believe in the power and love of God and the wonders of revival.