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16th Annual California Herdeljezi Roma Festival
Sebastopol Veterans Memorial Hall, Ives Park
Sebastopol, CA
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Online ticket sales have ended, but you may still pay at the gate. See you at the Roma Festival!


16th Annual California Herdeljezi Roma Festival
16th Annual California Herdeljezi Roma Festival
A benefit for Voice of Roma Cultural and Educational Programs, and Humanitarian Aid for the Roma of Kosovo
Friday, May 4, and Saturday, May 5, 2012, in Sebastopol California

Voice of Roma presents the 16th Annual Herdeljezi Roma Festival, a traditional Romani (Gypsy) neighborhood celebration announcing the end of the cold indoor season and the beginning of the warmer season.  "Herdeljezi is a celebration of what Mother Earth gives us", said VOR founder and Kosovo Rom, Sani Rifati. Romani musicians and dancers from around the world will take part in the cultural arts festival in Sebastopol, California on Friday, May 4th and Saturday, May 5th, 2012.  The festival features a stellar line-up of performers including: Ruzsa Nikolic-Lakatos & the Gypsy Family from Vienna, Sazet Band featuring Balkan Roma from New York, Russian guitarist Vadim Kolpakov performing with Via Romen, Romani dancer Reyhan Tuzsuz and violinist Husnu Tuzsuz of Istanbul, and local talent including Inspector Gadje, "Jacks & Aces," and Sani and Benji Rifati, as well as scholarly presentations and music and dance workshops.  The Roma Festival benefits the cultural and educational programs, and humanitarian aid mission of Voice of Roma.  

The festival brings the intimate culture of Herdeljezi to a broader audience. The festival will feature Sazet Band, an eight-piece Balkan Romani community band from New York, in their first appearance on the west coast. Voice of Roma is pleased to present the "ambassadress of the Roma," Ruzsa Nikolic-Lakatos & the Gypsy Family from Vienna, through sponsorship of the Austrian government.  Turkish Romani dancer Reyhan Tuzsuz of Istanbul will perform with her husband, violinist Husnu Tuzsuz. Returning artists include George & Paul Stevens of the Stevens Family "Gypsy Boys" band, with special guest Danny Fender, and Vadim Kolpakov, one of the foremost Russian Romani guitarists in the world, who will be performing with Via Romen.   "Jacks & Aces," the Sonoma Academy Brass Band and the Bay area's Inspector Gadje will perform brass music of the Balkans. Sani Rifiati will sing and play percussion with his son, Benji Rifati on trumpet.  

The festival begins on Friday evening with a presentation by Romanichel activist Mario Williams of Austin TX, founder of the new website  Topics include issues of Romani unity, diversity, identities, civil rights, education, and plans for a Romani-centered online school and a Romani civil rights/education non-profit organization. Carol Silverman, Professor at the University of Oregon, will moderate the discussion. A Romani music jam session with festival performers follows the presentation.  Participants will have an opportunity to learn more about Romani music at a series of Saturday morning workshops with Romani master musicians who sing and play clarinet, doumbek, and violin.

On Saturday, participants will learn Turkish Romani solo dancing at a workshop with Reyhan Tuzsuz, a well-known and beloved artist who is the hub of an international web of performers. Many famous Middle Eastern dancers and teachers flock to her home in Istanbul, to learn her exquisite and subtle style of Turkish neighborhood solo dance. The festival is her first California appearance; she will then tour the west coast.

Authentic Balkan/Romani food will be prepared by the extraordinary chef Julia Pecak, a Hungarian-born Romni who was owner of the former San Francisco restaurant "Bistro E Europe with Roma (Gypsy) Flavor". Julia's cooking style is based on seasonal, natural, and fresh ingredients, combining traditional Roma flavors with spices and aromas from around the world.

The Herdeljezi Roma Festival is produced by Voice of Roma, an educational and charitable non-profit organization established in 1996 to promote and present Romani cultural arts and traditions, and is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, the James Irvine Foundation, the Trust For Mutual Understanding, and local business and community sponsors.

Advance tickets are $15/$18 at the gate, children under 12 are free. Information and advance tickets are available on the VOR website:  Contact Sani Rifati (707)823-7941 if you have questions.

* Note: Roma (Gypsies), Rom (Gypsy), Romni (female Gypsy), Romani (adjective)

Schedule of events:
May 4th Presentation and Romani Jam Session, suggested Donation $12-15
Veteran's Memorial Hall 282 High Street, Sebastopol
7:30 pm  Presentation by Romanichel activist Mario Williams of, moderated by Carol Silverman.
9:00 pm  Romani Jam Session with festival performers

May 5: Workshops ($20 per person) Veteran's Memorial Hall 282 High Street, Sebastopol
11am  12:30pmViolin Workshop with Husnu Tuzsuz  
11am  12:30pmBalkan Romani  Singing Workshop with Beni Kurtis and Ferdi Demir  
11am  12:30pmBalkan Romani Drumming  Workshop with Amdi Seyfedinov
11am  12:30pmTurkish  Romani Dance Workshop with Reyhan Tuzsuz
11am  12:30pm Balkan Romani Clarinet Workshop with Sal Mamudoski  

12:30-  9:00pmFestival Daytime Program at Ives Park, 7400 Willow in Sebastopol
$15 Advance; $18 at the gate; Children under 12 free
12:30pm  1:30pmBalkan Romani Dance Workshop with Stefka Kamburova (included in admission price)

Performers Biographies:

Sazet Band is an eight-piece Balkan wedding band from New York comprised of Roma from Macedonia and Turkey. Clarinetist Sal Mamudoski is the protégé if Yuri Yunakov; Romeo Kurtali- sax/clarinet, and Kurte Kurtali- drums, are sons of the famous clarinetist Ramiz Kurtali; the other members are Caner Tokgozol- solo keybords; Remzi Demo- bass keyboards; Amdi Seyfedinov- doumbek; Beni Kurtis- vocals; and Ferdi Demir- vocals. The band plays traditional folk and Romani music from the Balkans (Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Greece, and Turkey), incorporating influences from classical, jazz, funk, techno, and fusion styles of western music. Many of the performers learned to play from family members. The group is in demand in for weddings at other events for various Balkan communities and will release an album soon.

Ruzsa Nikolic-Lakatos & the Gypsy Family: Ruzsa Nikolić-Lakatos was born in Hungary in 1945 and grew up in a traditional Lovara family, learning traditional Roma songs from her father. She has lived in Vienna since 1956 and has been recognized by the Austrian government with numerous awards. Her songs tell stories of the life of the Roma. Ruzsa sees herself as an "ambassadress of the Roma" and she hopes that her songs will help enhance awareness of her people. She is accompanied by family members and other talented Austrian Roma, with whom she also writes new songs.

Gypsy Boys with special guest Danny Fender: The Gypsy Boys are Paul Stevens, accordionist, guitarist, lead and backup vocals and coordinator, composer & manager, and George Stevens, Lead Guitarist, Bouzouki and Mandolin, lyricist & performer.  They are the third generation of the Stevens Family Band, performing   Romani music that includes Django Reinhardt's Jazz, plus Serbian, Greek, Hungarian and Russian influences. The band formed in the 80's when several grandchildren began playing with grandfather Vine, a renowned mandolinist and important leader of the Los Angeles Romani community. They perform frequently at Romani gatherings and celebrations in Southern California, New York, and Florida, and have also performed at New York's Skirball Museum with the famous guitarist Les Paul and with renowned bouzouki player Yanis Yamakis Sporos in Greece.

Internationally acclaimed Turkish Romani dancer Reynan Tuzsuz teaches and performs in numerous workshops and concerts in Istanbul, and participated in the World Music Folklife Center's Washington DC Herdeljezi Festival. Reyhan learned her improvisational dance style informally through oral tradition at weddings and special events in her community. Students and teachers of Middle Eastern dance from Brazil, Japan, England, Australia and the US have flocked to her classes. Reyhan's husband, violinist Husnu Tuzsuz comes from a large family of musicians in the lineage of the great violinist Haydar Tatliyay. He teaches, performs in many Istanbul venues, and is making his American debut.

Vadim Kolpakov, Russian seven-string guitarist, vocalist, actor and dancer, is one of the foremost Russian Romani guitarists in the world and was a leading artist at Moscow's Romen Theatre. Born in Saratov, Russia, he has toured with The Kolpakov Trio and Gelem, playing for heads of state, Romani festivals, the World Music Institute's Gypsy Caravan and at Carnegie Hall; in 2009 he toured internationally with Madonna. Founder of the band VIA Romen, Kolpakov has been Artist-in-Residence at Harvard, Boston University, Oberlin, Grinnell, and the University of Iowa, and is now Artist-in-Residence at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.. His group VIA Romen includes: Arkadiy Gips (violin), Alex Gorodezky (guitar), Petra Gelbart (vocal, accordion), and Helena Safarova (vocal) -

Sani Rifati, President and co-founder of Voice of Roma and of the California Herdeljezi Festival, is an exuberant and exhilarating dance instructor. He has taught at Kolo Festival in SF, the Chicago Spring Dance Festival, Mainewoods Camp (Portland ME), Balkanalia (Portland OR) Folkball (Madison WI) and at many  Balkan music and dance camps in the U.S. and internationally, as well as at schools and folk dance events throughout the Bay Area. His son, Benjamin Rifati will perform on trumpet; Benji is trained in both Western classical (notated) and Romani (oral) approaches. He is a student of Tom Hyde, and has worked with such Balkan Romani masters as Boban Markovic, Zahir Ramadanov, Novica Ristic, and Rumen Shopov.

Inspector Gadje brings a big sound to the brass band music of the Balkans. Formed by students of Romani master Rumen "Sali" Shopov, the band draws on talented members of bands such as the Brass Liberation Orchestra, Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment, the Lloyd Family Players, Cradle Duende and the Gomorran Social Aid & Pleasure Club.

Sonoma Academy Balkan Brass Band aka: "Jacks N' Aces"

Mario Williams is a young Romanichel activist who lives in Austin TX. He founded the website, an online resource for Romani people in the United States, and is involved in projects about Romani youth, education, business, and culture.

Carol Silverman, VOR Board member and Professor of Folklore and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oregon, has been involved with Romani culture for over twenty-five years as a researcher, teacher, performer, and educational activist. An award-winning professor of cultural anthropology and folklore at the University of Oregon, she teaches and writes about Balkan folklore, ethnography and human rights issues among Roma. Her book, Romani Routes: Cultural Politics and Balkan Music in Diaspora was published by Oxford University Press this year.


Sebastopol Veterans Memorial Hall, Ives Park (View)
282 S High Street, 7400 Willow
Sebastopol, CA 95472
United States


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