There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
The Embassy of the Czech Republic’s “Romano Drom”, a festival introducing the contemporary culture of the Romani-Gypsies (a nomadic people who initially migrated from India to Europe 800 years ago) of the Czech lands kicks off with performances by Romani group Vera “Kali” Bila & Kale (“Vera ‘Black’ White & the Blacks”). On its major-label debut, Rom-Pop, the group’s almost jazzy gypsy music is both vividly authentic and typically modern. Vera Bila & Kale’s sound is far from the Gipsy Kings’ schmaltz; it is Romani music recorded for Romani ears in Romani (an Indo-Aryan tongue related to Hindi). On Rom-Pop, Bila’s voice is surrounded by peppy, wandering violin, acoustic guitar, and bass. Unfortunately, the group sometimes descends into smooth jazz-pop in order to let one of its less distinguished male vocalists take the mike. Bila is a better bet, especially when things are really cooking and Kale’s playing is given less to plaintive picking and more to energetic strumming. Even when things are on fire, Bila’s voice reminds one or the hardship—and perseverance—of the Roma, who’ve had a tough time time of it over the last 500 years, victims of stereotyping, scapegoating, and state-sponsored pogroms. The Czech government, however, has recently adopted a policy that recognizes the Roma as an ethnic minority. While the Roma still have no nation to call their own, musical ambassadors Vera Bila & Kale offer the rest of the world a glimpse at their distinctive way of life. The group performs at 9 p.m. Monday, May 10, at Iota, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. $10. (703) 522-8340; and at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 11, at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, 3900 Spring of Freedom St. NW. Free. For reservations call (202) 274-9100. (John Dugan)