|This verse of Gelem, Gelem was inspired
by Roma in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. There are other
verses by different authors, so there exists several versions of this song.
The song Gelem, Gelem is also known by the names Djelem, Djelem,Opré
Roma, and Romale Shavale.
Listen to Gelem, Gelem
in RealAudio 3.0 format (gelem.ra, 555 Kb).
Listen to the introduction of
Jelem by the Rom group, the Kolpakov Trio, from Moscow (jelem.wav,
Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov in their study of the song, provide
the following history:
Milan Aivazov from Plodiv [Bulgaria], born in 1922, a self-taught cymbal
player and a long-time musician in the popular Aivazov Duet, says that
he can remember the popular melody of "Zhelim, Zhelim" from his grandfather
but he has forgotten the old words. He thinks that the song is extremely
melodious, but it used to be played in a triple time and it was actually
an old Rumanian song rewritten by Gypsy musicians in Serbia who changed
the tempo. (Continent newspaper, # 222, 9, 22, 95, p.6) There are
other explanations according to which this is a Gypsy melody originating
in Rumania and popular in variety shows in Paris in the 20's and 30's.
In any case, this was a very popular song among Serbian Gypsies in the
60's and there are various texts to the melody.
* "Black Legions" refers to the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel;
"Protective Echelon"), so called because of the black uniforms they wore.
The SS included the Gestapo secret police and the Death's Head Battalion
(Totenkopfverbande) concentration camp units.
The melody of this song became popular in Europe in the end of the 60's
from Alexander Petrovic's film Skupljaci perja(The
Buyer of Feathers) known under the name I Have Met Some Happy Gypsies.
There was a meeting of Comité International Tsigane in April 8-12,
1971 in London, attended by Gypsies from different countries, which became
th First World Roma Congress. The Congress decided to form a new international
Gypsy organisation. Later on, at the Second Congress in 1978 in Geneva,
this organisation took the name Romani Ekhipe or Romani Union. As Donald
Kenrick remembers, Jarko Jovanovic and Dr. Jan Cibula prepared a new text
for the popular melody during the Congress. In its new variant the song
"Gelem, Gelem" was liked by everyone, it was unanimously accepted as the
Congress song and the Congress ended with it.
One of the decisions of the Congress was "to have an international competition
for the words and music of an international Romani anthem" and it was this
song that actually became the anthem. At the international meetings and
congresses which followed the "Romani Anthem" was already taken for granted
and was gradually accepted by the Gypsy organisations in the European countries
and by public opinion. Its universal acceptance was assisted by the fact
that the song "Djelem, Djelem" was included in the records of the popular
Yugoslavian singer Šaban Bairamovic in the 80's which inspired new folklore
variants. The song became popular as an "anthem" among Gypsies from various
countries (mainly in Eastern Europe), but it did not replace the numerous
folklore variants which were already in existence.**
** Excerpted from Studii Romani, Vol. II, p.21-22, published by the
Minority Studies Society, Sofia, Bulgaria
©1995 by Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov, Editors
Reprinted by the Patrin Web Journal with permission
of the authors.
Posted 5 January 1998.