Category Archives: Music

Gypsy Spirit and Sounds

If my last post on the presence and power of synchronicity didn’t convince you, try this one…

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On Friday, I headed downtown for The Local Gypsy weekly outing to bask in the aural pleasures of a Gypsy music ensemble.

On Saturday, I met a cat named Gypsy.

And on Sunday, over an afternoon glass of wine with my friend, Ross, I learned that he had devoted his undergraduate thesis to Gypsy culture.

Oh, and for much of the weekend, I wore a necklace I bought at The Velvet Gypsy, a tiny cornucopia of global goodies on the Venice Beach boardwalk.

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Maybe this means I should max out my credit cards and book that coveted trip to Southern Spain to revel in Gypsy-rooted Spanish guitar and flamenco?  Or perhaps I should sell my furniture, donate my clothes and embark on a day-by-day odyssey, trading jewelry I fashion for food?  (Don’t worry, Mom.  I love sushi too much to leave myself in that magnitude of a lurch.)

Whatever the reason, I know that the Gypsy spirit dwells deep inside me — and that the forces fueling me to engage in this year-long experiment are well nourished by these undeniable synchronicities.

Now on to the fun part!

Just when I was starting to hone in on what the week’s activity might be, my answer came in the form of an email from my dear friend, David Ackerly — and daytime downtown denizen, as the Directing Attorney for the Inner City Law Center‘s Homeless Veterans Project.

(On a side note, the Inner City Law Center is an extraordinary legal services organization serving Los Angeles’ most impoverished citizens in housing and benefits-related matters.  If you’d like to assist ICLC in obtaining a $50,000 grant from Pepsi by merely clicking your mouse, you can do so right here.)

An avid music lover and intrepid cultural explorer, David informed me that Parno Graszt, or “White Horse” in Romani — a well-known collection of Roma (or Gypsy) musicians and performers from Paszab, Hungary — would be regaling downtown Los Angeles with a free Friday afternoon concert as part of the inimitable Grand Performances series.

That was an easy decision.

After fetching David at his office, we maneuvered through downtown’s one-way streets and managed to score a parking space on South Olive, just behind the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and California Plaza, in which the concerts are held.  (If you ever pull into one of these $3/hour spaces, place a nickel in the meter and laugh.  I think it may actually subtract time.)

Shuddering briefly as I glanced up at the Wells Fargo Tower office building in which I used to toil endlessly as a litigation associate, I took a seat next to David on the sunny amphitheater steps and turned my attention to the delectable wrap I had just purchased from Mendocino Farms — and the exuberant music of Parno Graszt.

The Full Ensemble

For more than twenty years, this crew has been belting out flavorful, traditional Gypsy sounds on an array of instruments, including the accordion, double bass, guitars, milk churns, water cans and more.  The ecstatic music seems to take on a life of its own; it bounces and flows and gleefully possesses all who are near.

Simon Broughton, a well known music journalist, has described Parno Graszt’s musical art as “The source of Gypsy music itself.”

But given how far into Asia and Europe the Roma people have spread since leaving behind their roots in northern India, Gypsy music may vary widely.  Stylistic differences between Roma musical groups, I learned, tend to reflect the instrumental traditions of the countries in which they live.  And Parno Graszt is said to embody the essence of Hungarian Gypsy music.

However their sonic and visual delights are characterized, one thing’s for certain: they sure make you want to dance.

No wonder I enjoyed them so much.

Me, Blissfully Dancing (photo by Eric Balaire at Lightning in a Bottle Festival)

To the Gypsy spirit in all of us…

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Filed under Art, Cultural, Life, Music, Performance