Reorienting traditional Gypsy occupations

Cultivating traditional skills of the Gypsies
Reviving Romany traditional skills
Traditionally, Gypsies have pursued occupations that allowed them to safeguard their independence, maintaining an itinerant life on the perimeters of the settled society, without any prolonged contact with the gadje. The men were livestock traders, animal trainers and exhibitors, tinkers (smiths and utensil repairmen), and musicians; the women told fortunes, sold potions, begged, and worked as entertainers. Before the advent of veterinary medicine, many farmers looked to Gypsy livestock dealers for advice on herd health and husbandry. The Gypsy tinker saved damaged pots, pans and metal utensils for repair. Many of the names of the different Romany tribes are based on traditional occupations they used to practice, but they are no longer a reliable guide to the activities of particular families. For a collective economic effort, Roma may form a purely functional association, whose members do not necessarily belong to the same clan or even the same dialect group.

Gypsies are also noted as entertainers, especially as musicians and dancers. The instruments traditionally preferred by Roma musicians have been guitar, lute, percussion instruments such as cymbal and drums, cello, and violin. Though their orchestras have included clarinet, the use of other brass and wind instruments has increased in recent times. Documents show that they were favoured as court musicians in Hungary in the fifteenth century, and throughout Europe for several centuries since then. In Russia, troops of Romany singers attained popularity under the Czarist regimes for their improvisations of Russian songs and music. In Hungary and Romania, Gypsy orchestras, with their virtuoso violinists and cymbal players, developed a style that has come to be taken as the hallmark of Romany music. Much of what outsiders get to hear is in fact European music with a Romany interpretation. Hungarian Gypsy music and Spanish Gypsy music is not pure Gypsy music as such. Both are brilliant and inventive adaptations of the local music. Flamenco, one of the most famous examples, is the music and dance of the Andalusian Gypsies, or Flamencos. Its roots are in Gypsy, Andalusian, Arabic, and possibly Spanish Jewish folk song and, according to some scholars, in Byzantine and Indian religious chant. It developed from the 14th century onward as Gypsies, Arabs, Jews and socially outcast Christians mingled on the fringes of society. The essence of flamenco is cante, or song, often accompanied by guitar music and improvised dance. In flamenco dance, the men's steps are intricate, with toe and heel clicking (zapateados); women's dancing traditionally relies on the grace of hands and body, rather than on footwork.

Gypsy men generally work on short-term jobs that do not require them to stay in one place for any length of time. Because of this, agriculture, which would have necessitated permanent residence, had never interested them until recent times, when Roma began to take on occasional summer jobs as itinerant farm workers. They have been able to find such jobs since they will accept work that many gadje will not do. Modern Gypsy life reflects the progress of the gadje world. They travel in cars, trucks and trailers, and livestock trading has given way to the sale of used cars and trailers. Their love for horses has been transferred to a love for cars, and they are often skilled at engine and body repair. Although mass production of stainless steel pots and pans has rendered the tinker obsolete, some urban Gypsies have found employment as car mechanics and auto body repairmen. Some of them are still working in travelling circuses and amusement parks, as animal trainers and handlers, concession operators, or performing music, metalworking and dealing in scrap metal. Individually, many Roma are peddlers, especially in Europe. Because the movements and travels are often uncertain for the nomadic Roma, it is difficult to build up a steady clientele in any one place. For this reason, they are forced to try to sell their wares to passersbies, or by going from house to house. Some sell goods they have bought cheaply, others sell what they make themselves, although in the 20th century a number of Romany crafts have suffered from a devastating competition with mass-produced articles. The articles they sell are generally of minor value, such as baskets, brooms, rakes and cooking utensils. In gaining a livelihood, the women play their full part. It is them who often sell their wares from door to door and who do the fortune telling (in the USA widely known as "reading and advising").
If someone is so hungry that he can hear his stomach contractions, in Slovak language it is still usual to say that Gypsies are playing music in his belly, or that Gypsies are forging nails in his belly. These used to be the two most widespread traditional Gypsy occupations in this area.
Counter Claim:
Because of the 40 years long communist assimilation policy, the pace of industrialisation and no understanding for different culture and its spiritual heritage, all of the traditional Gypsy skills degraded and virtually disappeared in some of the countries of the Eastern Europe. It is impossible to revive something that is dead.
Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth