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Mr Gigac with just a few of his bells, and a walking-stick whistle A

track from their recent album Destilát was on the fRoots 55 compilation. So, to follow up, on my way through Bratislava I met up with two members who could spare time from their day jobs: kontra (viola) player Michal Brdársky and bassist Peter Obuch.

“The initial engine was some old recordings that somebody from the band at that time had available. And the other members kind of fell for it. I think especially Tomás Brunovsky, who you talked to. He’s not the leader in a primary sense, but he pulls the whole thing together; he often chooses what he likes from the music, what we should practice. We play music from across Slovakia, but I think the best of what we do is from the north and centre”

The usual question again: where do they get their material… the villages?

“We mostly use recordings. Because not too many really tradi- tional bands are still alive. But there are a lot of recordings, from all regions of Slovakia, that we have access to. You can still meet a cou- ple of singers, old ones, and also a couple of musicians that are still… not always playing, but still alive. So they can show you, or at least tell you, how it was. But there are really not many people still living who would be interesting for us. We as Muzicka are focused on older sounds, for example using major chords in minor songs. So that’s why the sources for us would be only somebody who is older and used to play in the middle of the 20th Century. Because, although there are people in villages who sing and play, it’s often influenced by something new. They have a musical education and…”

I asked what they consider the identifying sounds of Slovak music – apart, of course, from the voice. “We could put it in two cat- egories: solo instruments and bands. Solo instruments – those are mostly from the highland regions: various horns, many sorts of pipes such as fujara, and bagpipes. That’s in the older sort of music; the newer would be stringed instruments – fiddle bands, dulcimers. And, newer than that, brass. And the instrumental music tends to be newer than the songs. In the old times not so many people had instruments – they sang and danced and used drums.”

Walking down Šumiac’s main street, observed from the houses’ yards by goats, gobbling turkeys and barking dogs, one comes into the part where the village’s Roma live. As in most of central and east- ern Europe, Slovak Roma are no longer itinerant, partly because the Soviet regime didn’t allow it, though most had settled before then. But they usually live alongside rather than among the general com- munity. In Šumiac all the children go to the same primary school, and everyone uses the community centre – there was a Roma wedding there on the day I arrived – but there was little Roma involvement in the festival. (But then, consider the demographic of British folk festi- vals…) Šumiac isn’t a hotbed of Roma musicians nowadays, but the fine and long-established Roma Pokoš family vocal and string band Pokošovci, while now based in Valkovna, originated there.

At EtnoKraków I’d seen the moving documentary Cigarety A

Pesnicky (Cigarettes And Songs) about the ‘After Phurikane Gila’ project which brought together six Roma singers from villages in east Slovakia to record together, in conjunction with some top non- Roma musicians. The screening was followed by an even more mov-

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