Gypsy Music

The Roma have been regarded highly as musicians for centuries, but ‘gypsy’ music has changed over time. Indeed, as Alan Ashton-Smith, sets out to show in Gypsy Music: The Balkans and Beyond, defining what ‘gypsy’ music actually is poses many problems due to its multiple forms and connotations in the popular imagination.

‘Gypsy’ music is not only tied to a people; it also has strong connections to places, and the key locus of ‘gypsy’ music, both geographically and in the popular imagination, is the Balkans. The Balkans is home to world’s largest Romani populations, and is therefore a major site of ‘gypsy’ music production. But just as the traditionally nomadic Roma have travelled globally, so has their music, feeding into a variety of ‘gypsy’ music genres that have their roots and associations outside of the Balkans, developing as new, and sometimes hybridized, styles. These include Russian Romani guitar music, Flamenco and Gypsy Jazz – all of which have strong Romani antecedents – and also the more recent forms of Gypsy Punk and Balkan Beats, which are self‐defined through associations of ‘gypsiness’, but whose ties to the Romani people and the Balkans are in fact weaker than they might seem.

Through an examination of culture and place, Gypsy Music seeks to illuminate the multiple facets of these forms of expression more clearly. And through an analysis of its history, its sound and instrumentation, the book will offer a revealing portrait of the music and the people who have made it.



ALAN ASHTON-SMITH holds a PhD in Humanities from Birkbeck College, University of London, where he completed a thesis on the subject of ‘Gypsy Punk: Towards a New Immigrant Music.’ He has published academic articles on Romani Studies, East European and Contemporary English literature, and has also written about music for websites including MusicOMH and Shout4Music, where he was the live reviews editor between 2012 and 2014. He is currently Research Development Manager for Arts and Humanities at King’s College London.


By John Scanlan

John Scanlan is the Series Editor of Reverb with Reaktion Books.