For this special episode of our Destinations series, we travel to Kosovo, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia to find out more about tallava, a music genre originating from the Roma and Ashkali communities. Tallava is becoming increasingly popular in Albania and Macedonia. It is identified as part of the wider pop-folk genre of the Southeastern Europe, which includes chalga from Bulgaria, skiladiko from Greece, manele from Romania and turbo-folk from Serbia.
We also have two very special guests for this episode: Cosmo, a multitalented Roma musician based in Bucharest, who's currently working on his PhD thesis on köçek, and Bram le Cock, a Belgium music collector and DJ, part of the Rebel Up record label (check out his tallava mixes here and here).
One of the most popular styles of music in Kosovo, tallava emerged from Balkan Roma and Ashkali communities during the 1980s and 1990s, and quickly became popular amongst Albanians. In a feature published on the website prishtinainsight.com called "The Sound of Tallava", the author Ardit Kika notes that the word tallava has taken on a colloquial, pejorative meaning in Albanian language that goes beyond describing a music style. For example, ‘tallava talk’ might be used to mean incoherent conversation, and a ‘tallava government’ is often used to describe messy politics; the phrase ‘big tallava’ is simply used to signify a ‘big mess’.
Kafu Kinolli, the head of the band Gypsy Groove, claims that this relationship arises from discrimination against Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian people by Albanians in Kosovo. “Bearing in mind that it was the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians who mostly cultivated tallava and that they are in a crisis in regard to presenting their culture… some people label it as a degradation, especially today when the word ‘tallava’ is a dirty, filthy, and degrading term for anything in Kosovo. It means that this music is made by magjups and is not ours,” said Kafu Kinolli to Prishtina Insight, mentioning the Albanian derogatory term referring to Roma, Egyptians, and Ashkalis.
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*This article is part of the project Music & Conversations in the Attic, co-financed by AFCN