Indian and European musicians embark on a road trip through Rajasthan. Together they explore the mythical origins and ancient tales of the Sinti and Romani.
The album is about survival and the strength that allowed Sinti and Romani to endure despite centuries of hostility and attempts at extermination in the Third Reich. Contemporary and traditional Indian music as well as interview excerpts and field recordings from the joint research trip are the basis for unique performances and improvisations.
Ancient tales describe the origin of the Romani from Rajasthan. For the avant-garde musician Iva Bittová and the artist duo Damian and Delaine Le Bas, the encounter with this legendary origin also means a movement back to a part of their origin. The journey into the foreign becomes a journey into their own existence.
I EXIST - a travel diary by Nataly Bleuel
Damian Le Bas already fell by the wayside before the others got to the Sun Gate. The Sun Gate lay on the other side of the vast square, with the September sun blazing down on it. It lay across the entrance gate and below the stairs that were leading up to the inside of Amber Fort. Where the monkeys squatted and munched on the orange chrysanthemums given to tourists as necklaces. Damian was still standing outside the front gate. As though paralyzed by one of the souvenir vendors, he was staring at the elephant pattern on the small bags the vendor held under his nose. Was his gaze one of longing? Or slightly melancholy, as it was most of the time? Sad perhaps? It was, in any case, the kind of gaze a street vendor could immediately interpret as: There's something to get from this man! It was from the Sun Gate that the Mughals looked out over their empire in Rajasthan as early as 400 years ago, and their empire did not end at the walls that wound over the mountain ridges on the horizon. Now, Damian's travel group stood in the Sun Gate, sweat on their foreheads, hot as hell, fanning themselves.
Vinod Joshi himself comes from the village, but made it to the capital Jaipur to study sociology. And loves music and freedom, which is the only way to explain why the female musicians like Raju so gratefully dub him Vinod Joshi Ji as if he had saved them.
After all, "there is no word for freedom in our language. Maybe because freedom is where we always are."
The trip had been initiated by Marc Sinan and Markus Rindt in 2016. And so European artists set out for the mythical origin of their Roma ancestors and met Indian village musicians in the countryside. Not Brahmins, but those who lived on the fringes of communities: those who were from low castes, poor, untouchable, and outsiders.
What does it feel like? Do we have things in common? Do we speak a similar language, in music, physically, aesthetically, emotionally, socially? Do we recognize anything? Any details or sense of community? Is it a move "back to the roots" or something even more?—namely the question: What makes us different, what sets us apart?
The luggage: recording devices, acoustic and optical, because the Indian musicians and the European female artists would, after all, communicate—Damian with hands and feet alike; Delaine via looks; and Iva Bittová with violin and voice.
Three white cars with four-wheel drive whirred over bumpy roads, air-conditioned, clean, cool, kicking up sand and dust in the heat outside. It was as if three capsules from another time had landed in Rajaldesar, on a desert planet.
It was Raju Bhopa's village, a few hundred kilometers northwest of the big city of Jaipur. Still rolling, children were already clinging to the capsules as if they were not cars but jam jars.
Raju and her brothers had accepted their father's family inheritance. As a village musician, he had also been the priest, performing the important ceremonies of life, birth, marriage and death for the common people, with instruments and singing. He had died recently, and now his adult children had to fight for the survival of the entire kin, dozens of people in a small space.