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Head to Festival Romani and rock your Gypsy soul

First-ever ethnic event at Oaks Park draws global artists


by: COURTESY OF FESTIVAL ROMANI - Portland band Djangophiles, inspired by jazz -swing guitarist Django Reinhardt , highlights the Festival Romani, an all-day affair Aug. 17 at Sellwood Riverfront Park.Portland’s Romani (Gypsies) will come together for the first Festival Romani here on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Sellwood Riverfront Park, on Southeast Oak Parks Way.

The colorful event is expected to draw at least 500 people and will feature some of the best music and dance you’ll see this side of Europe, where the Romani have been both celebrated and persecuted for centuries (the term “Gypsy” itself is considered derogatory by many Romani, although others embrace it as a moniker of ethnic pride).

Admission is a suggested donation of $10 to $20. An after-party will take place at Bossanova Ballroom, 722 E. Burnside St., from 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., and admission is $20 to the 21-and-older event.

The after-party will feature The Underscore Orkestra, Chervona and DJ GlobalRuckus. You can purchase a $25 pass online to both the festival and after-party at festivalromani.com

The daytime event also will feature world-class dance workshops, says Amanda Gerace, festival producer, who adds there will be plenty of children’s activities as well.

Here’s a look at the lineup in Sellwood:

10 a.m. Djangophiles

This Portland group plays in the style of Gypsy jazz-swing guitarist Django Reinhardt (djangophiles.com). David Stassens plays lead guitar, Eddie Parente plays violin, Patrick Harry plays upright bass and Mike Burdette plays guitar.

“When asked why we play Django Reinhardt’s music the response we usually give is, ‘Have you heard him?!’ ” Stassens says. “It usually only takes someone to listen to a song or two to get the idea why we love playing this music. It has a

certain swing and drive to it that’s captivating.”

11:20 a.m. El Cuadro Gallo

The group plays traditional flamenco music.

12:40pm Ritim Egzotik

Led by David Reihs, this eight-piece Portland outfit plays Turkish, Greek and Bulgarian Gypsy dance music (ritimegzotik.com).

Reihs notes you could hear such rhythmically complex music if you went to a wedding, party or dinner in Istanbul.

“The rhythms are completely foreign and new even for seasoned players,” he says.

2 p.m. Colleena Shakti

This performer will present the improvisational dance of the Kalbelia Gypsy snake charmers from the deserts of Rajasthan, India (colleenashakti.com).

3:20 p.m. Kef with guest singer Carol Silverman

This Balkan dance band focuses on music from Bulgaria and Macedonia (balkanmusic.org).

4:40 p.m. Galbeno Band

This group was founded by Romani musicians in San Francisco.

6 p.m. Via Romen

This internationally famous Russian-Romani group, founded in Boston, plays a vast repertoire of traditional and contemporary Romani music.

Two of the band members, Vadim Kolpakov and Arkadiy Gips, were part of Madonna’s “Sticky & Sweet” 2008-09 tour (viaromen.com). Kolpakov, a Russian immigrant, says the group is excited for its first visit to Portland, and notes Romani music has steadily grown in popularity in the past several decades.

“It’s getting more and more modernized,” he says.

And what was it like to work with Madonna?

“She was very easy to work with, very professional,” adding he enjoyed how she blended her own pop music with that of his trio. “It was actually nice to blend the two opposite styles.”