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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Roma Festival in Sebastopol

14th Annual California Herdeljezi Roma Festival
Friday April 30, and Saturday May 1st in Sebastopol

Please join Voice of Roma at the 14th Annual Herdeljezi Roma Festival, a celebration of Herdeljezi, a traditional Romani (Gypsy) neighborhood celebration announcing the end of the cold indoor season and the beginning of the warmer season of movement and outdoor life.

Survival from the winter and the seasonal renewal of life is celebrated through the sharing of music, dance, food and community. Romani musicians and dancers from around the world will be in Northern California to take part in the Herdeljezi festival beginning with film screenings Friday evening, and on Saturday, daytime and evening programs with workshops and live performances.

This year’s festival features a stellar line-up of performers including: Ruzsa Nikolic-Lakatos & the Gypsy Family, Nadia Hava Robbins, Stevens Family Gypsy Boys with special guest Danny Fender, Lefteris Bournias, Ivan Milev, Petra Gelbart, Vadim Kolpakov performing with Via Romen, Rumen "Sali" Shopov (percussion, tambura) from Bulgaria, Chris Bajmakovich (accordion) (Macedonian Rom) from Chicago, FLAMENCO! LIVE! DANCE ENSEMBLE, Sani & Benji Rifati, and the Brass Liberation Orchestra.

Celebrated for centuries by the Roma world-wide, Voice of Roma brings Herdeljezi to a much broader audience. Drawing upwards of 1,200 attendees (Roma and non-Roma alike) from Europe, the United States and Canada, the celebration begins Friday April 30th with a screening of Romani films with discussion at the Vets Hall in Sebastopol.

Events May 1st include music and dance workshops and a daylong festival (rain or shine) at Ives Park that concludes with a time-honored music and dance procession that replicates Mahala (the act of gathering the entire local community) and then moves back indoors to the Vet's Hall for an evening program of Romani music.

Other festival highlights include an exhibit and sale of embroidery and crochet work through Voice of Roma’s the Threads That Connect Us project. This micro-enterprise project features the products of refugee Romani craftswomen of Kosovo and Macedonia. Also included are wonderful children's activities with engaging Romani storytelling, face painting and more.

The festival, produced by Voice of Roma, an educational and charitable non-profit organization established in 1996 to promote and present Romani cultural arts and traditions, is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, the Creative Work Fund, Walter and Elise Haas Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and local business and community sponsors.

Tickets are available at the door and online at

Proceeds benefit the educational, cultural and humanitarian aid programs of Voice of Roma.

Please contact Andrea Jolicoeur at (707)823-7941 if you have questions about this event or Voice of Roma programs. Additional information is available on the VoR website:

· Note: Rom (Gypsy), Roma (Gypsies), Romani (adjective)

Schedule of events:

April 30th:

7:30 pm - 11 pm. Romani Films with Discussion

at the Veteran's Memorial Hall 282 High Street, Sebastopol

May 1:

11am 12:30pm Romani Vocal Workshops ($15)

12:30pm 1:30pm Romani Dance Workshop (free with admission)

1:00pm 8:00pm Festival Daytime Program at Ives Park, 7400 Willow in Sebastopol

($15- Children under 12 free)

9 pm - 1:00 a.m. Festival Nighttime Program ($10)

at the Vet's Hall 282 High Street

Saturday day / evening combo ticket ($22)

Artist Biographies:

Ruzsa Nikolic-Lakatos & the Gypsy Family: The singer Ruzsa Nikolić-Lakatos, who was born in Hungary in 1945, has lived in Vienna since 1956. Having grown up in a traditional Lovara family, she has been singing traditional Roma songs since she learned them from her father in early childhood. These songs tell true stories of the life of the Roma, of happiness and sadness. Ruzsa sees herself as an “ambassadress of the Roma”: she hopes that her songs will help to enhance awareness of her people and that coming generations will preserve the musical resources of the Roma. She is accompanied in her performances by her family, with whom she also writes new songs.

Ivan Milev: A musical genius and legendary performer, Ivan Milev has established the rules of Balkan folk music throughout his 40-plus year career. Ivan is an accordionist of incredible virtuosity and technique, and his vision of combining multiple ethnic styles has produced tunes with daring key changes and dizzying tempos. His incorporation of classical, jazz, Eastern European, and middle-eastern sentiments sets him apart from his contemporaries.

Though Ivan plays music from the Balkan countries, it is his innovation in Bulgarian wedding music that has earned him the recognition and admiration of his numerous fans. After learning accordion from his father at a very early age, Ivan continued to grow and bring the intensity of his music to stages of the world.

Ivan’s first album of Rom music was recorded in 1979 in Bulgaria with singers Ivo Barev and Asiba Kemalova. His music was featured in several movies, one of which is the Hollywood film “Everything is Illuminated” starring Elijah Wood. Ivan has been performing with the Ivan Milev Band at festivals in Los Angeles, Texas and New York, at concerts, and many other folk venues. He has recently been opening for renowned soul singer Sharon Jones.

Nadia Hava Robbins: Nadia Hava-Robbins, MA, has studied dance (classical, modern, ethnic, folk, historical, and ballroom) since the age of 4, starting in her native Czechoslovakia, culminating in her acceptance to the National Ballet Theater of Prague, and continuing in the USA after emigrating in 1968. She has performed dance, poetry, storytelling, puppetry, and magic (and integrated combinations of these) in major cities and festivals across the USA and Canada, and appeared in a documentary produced by the National Film Board of Canada. She is founder and artistic director of the Traveling Bohemians, originally in Honolulu, HI, and now in Redding, CA for over 10 years, creating and presenting eclectic performances of music, dance, spoken word, and art. She has produced, directed, and performed in multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, dance festivals, and storytelling/puppetry festivals for both adults and children. A lifelong student of the meditative arts, she remains a student at heart, studying music, T'ai Chi, and Flamenco dance. She teaches, dances in, and directs Eclectica Dance Company in Redding, devoted to interpretive, sacred, folk, ethnic, and period dance, and also teaches Meditative Movement. She is a nationally and internationally published poet, and founder and editor of the Bohemian Press.

Stevens Family Gypsy Boys with special guest Danny Fender: The Gypsy Boys are Paul Stevens, accordionist, guitarist, lead and backup vocals and coordinator, composer & manager, and George Stevens, Lead Guitarist, Bouzouki and Mandolin, lyricist & performer. Paul and George Stevens (Gypsy Boys) have been playing music since they were children. They started performing about ten years ago, and have turned a lot of parties into experiences that will never be forgotten. They don’t just stand there and play. The guitar player plays guitar and dances at the same time creating a really cool show. They also have a 10 piece band known as A Band of Gypsys

Either way you go with it you will have a great time at the performances because they are all immensely talented individuals. But the Gypsy Boys are really Gypsy and Gypsies are known for being very talented performers and entertainers. They will dazzle you with their music as only real Gypsies can do. Gypsies have a way of playing that gets into you and makes you want to get up and dance. And when these guys play you can tell they are having a good time and you will too!

Lefteris Bournias: Lefteris Bournias has been a clarinetist since the age of 11. While a young child, he remembers sitting on his father’s lap (Elias Bournias, a Greek flogera player) and, under the direction of his father, he would bang out rhythms on pillows while listening to Turkish and Greek night club music. When a few years had elapsed and now living in Greece, Lefteris’ interest in music was still very strong. Only it was Classic Rock and the bands of the 70’s and not the music he would later grow to love and perform. One evening in Athens, while his father was in New York, Lefteris was with his mother, talking and looking at a magazine with electric guitars and electric basses. He then asked his mother, “Mom, can you buy this guitar for me?” While his mother was hesitant at first, she conceded but also offered the idea “Hey, why don’t you get a clarinet instead and make your father happy.” And Lefteris thought “Clarinet!!! What are you talking about?” It had been some time since his involvement with music that wasn’t rock. But almost like a bolt of lightening, the idea stayed with him and that summer he bought his first clarinet.

Petra Gelbart-Safarova: Gelbart was born into a family of Romani musicians, amateur and professional, in the former Czechoslovakia, where she has spent half of her life. She owes her most important musical skills to her mother, grandmother, and great-aunt, who trained her in Romani styles of singing. These styles rely on the intuitive yet specific use of vocal technique in which tone production and breath flow are varied according to the emotion of the moment. She has performed at venues in the United States and in the Czech Republic.

Vadim Kolpakov: Kolpakov is performing with Via Romen as Russian seven-string guitarist, vocalist, actor and dancer. One of the foremost Russian Romani guitarists in the world, and a leading artist at Moscow's Romen Theatre. Born in Saratov, Russia, he began his training in early childhood, and at the age of fifteen, started dancing, singing, playing the Russian seven-string guitar, and composing for the Romen Theatre. He has toured internationally with The Kolpakov Trio and Gelem, playing for heads of state, Romani music festivals, the World Music Institute's Gypsy Caravan tour, and at Carnegie Hall. In 2008 and 2009 Vadim and the Kolpakov Trio performed on Madonna’s world tour “Sticky & Sweet”. Founder of the Boston-based Russian Romani group VIA Romen, Kolpakov has made historical reconstruction, solo, duet, and ensemble recordings. Kolpakov was Artist-in-Residence at Harvard, Boston University, Oberlin, Grinnell, and the University of Iowa, and is now Artist-in-Residence at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.Vadim performs Saturday in the group "Vadim Kolpakov and VIA Romen": Arkadiy Gips (violin), Alex Gorodezky (guitar), Petra Gelbart (vocal, accordion), Helena Safarova (vocal) and Vadim Kolpakov (guitar, vocal, dance) -

Chris Bajmakovich: Born in Chicago into a Macedonian Rom family, Chris Bajmakovich began playing accordion at age 5. He first professionally performed with a band at age 14, and gave solo performances in smaller venues, playing at weddings, christenings, church dances, and private parties, primarily in the large Balkan immigrant communities of Chicago. He also toured throughout the US with Macedonian singers. Bajmakovich has performed with many well-known musicians, including Ferus Mustafov, Milan Zavkov and Sasko Velkoy. He performed at VOR's 2006 International Roma Day event and has recorded several CDs.

FLAMENCO! LIVE! DANCE ENSEMBLE: Since 2002, Artistic Director Phoebe Vernier "La Fibi" has been teaching, performing and producing quality Flamenco Shows in Sonoma County. Presenting the collaborative efforts of the Bay Area's finest Flamenco singers, dancers and musicians and supporting local students, talents and dreamers, they have been hailed as "Best Performing Dance Company" 2007 and 2009 in The North Bay Bohemian’s Readers Poll! Performers to be announced soon! Come and see for yourself...,

Sani & Benji Rifati: Sani Rifati, President and co-founder of Voice of Roma and of the California Herdeljezi Festival, is an exuberant and exhilarating dance instructor. He has taught at Kolo Festival in SF, the Chicago Spring Dance Festival, Mainewoods Camp in Portland Maine, Balkanalia in Portland Oregon, Folkball in Madison Wisconsin, and at Balkan music and dance camps in the U.S. as well as at schools and folk dance events throughout the Bay Area. His son, Benjamin Rifati will perform on trumpet.

Rumen “Sali” Shopov: Shopov is a master Turkish-Romani drummer, singer, and string-player from Goce Delchev, Bulgaria, a crossroads town in the Pirin Mountain region that hosts a rich intersection of Bulgarian, Macedonian, Greek, and Turkish musical influences. Rumen has performed and toured with the Nevrokopski Folk Ensemble, Yuri Yunakov and his Romani Wedding Band, Edessa, Ziyia, Kitka, Ivan Milev, Chris Bajmakovic, Ismail Lumanovski, Frank London, Eugene Hutz (Gogol Bordello), and many others. A charismatic and patient teacher, Rumen has taught at the Eastern European Folklife Center’s Balkan Music and Dance Workshops, Berkeley’s JazzSchool, UC Berkeley, University of Oregon, Eugene; The College of Santa Fe, Kosmos World Music and Dance Camp, World Camp, Stockton Camp, Balkanalia, and at other universities and cultural centers throughout the US and Canada. Since 2003, Rumen has been artist-in-residence with Voice of Roma, a humanitarian aid and cultural organization based in Sebastopol, California. In 2006, Voice of Roma released “Soul of the Mahala” a CD featuring performances by Rumen and his son, Angel.

The Brass Liberation Orchestra (BLO) has performed primarily in the streets since 2002, establishing itself as a well known Bay Area musical group of brass, reeds and percussion that helps build a society that respects all cultures and promotes cross-cultural understanding. BLO is an all volunteer, diverse group of cultural workers who have come together to use music as a political tool for social change. Recently, nominated by the SF Bay Guardian as the Bay Area‘s Best Street Performance Band, the BLO performs approximately four times each month, mostly on the streets as a way to engage, inspire and support those who are fighting on the front lines for a more just society. By drawing on a rich musical repertoire from around the world, such as the folk music of Italian political movements, US civil rights groups, workers unions, Central American freedom songs, Nigerian Afro-beat, New Orleans second line traditions, and the vibrant music of the Roma, the BLO moves people to dance, sing and join together to fight for a better world.