Gypsy punk is a hybrid musical genre that crosses traditional Romani music with punk rock. One of the first rock groups to incorporate elements of punk and Gypsy music was Motherhead Bug, which was active mostly in the early 1990s. A broader audience became aware of the genre after the band Gogol Bordello released the album Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike, with front man Eugene Hütz describing their performance as a "Gypsy Punk Cabaret". The term "Gypsy punk" then came to describe the genre and then came under criticism as it was considered exploitative of Roma culture. Gogol Bordello have since insisted it was just the name of their album, which was then taken and used by the music press as a term to define the genre of their music and similar artists — not an offshoot term for authentic Gypsy music.
Gypsy punk bands usually combine rock beats and instrumentation with more traditional Gypsy instrumentation such as drums, tambourine, accordion, fiddle, trumpet and saxophone. In addition, due to the varied ethnic makeup of the Gypsy culture, many bands sing in several different languages, often switching language many times within a single song.
The origin of the term Gypsy Punk may be disputable, but it is agreed that the Romani culture is how the style of it began. The Romani people, who are spread out throughout the world, have affected the music industry in the west as seen through bands such as Gogol Bordello. Eastern European and traditional instrumentation and multilingual lyrics are both common characteristics of Romani music. In the case of Gogol Bordello, the upbeat tempo and “punk scream-singing” along with these common “gypsy” characteristics create a concrete example of what is known as gypsy punk. “The word “gypsy” coupled with the term “punk” has interesting implications in that punk encapsulates a particular mode of rebellion, anarchy, and resistance in a Western context” which is good to note since at the time Gogol Bordello and other bands were introducing this genre, “the punk movement became identified in mass culture as the definitive statement of the annihilation of musical and societal norms, collectively rejecting the rules of the past because of the bleak and hypocritical present and future they provided”. This is to say that the Roma that have settled down in the west have taken elements from “Romani music in a style that is indebted to Western punk” Because gypsy punk is a mixture of traditional music and popular music to the western culture, the Romani are colonizing and seemingly settling into a loose identity of their own. The music itself “is considered to be a post-colonial movement”.
Since their migrations from their original homeland in India, the Romani have been so spread out that they “lack a homeland”. Gypsy punk is not just full of Romani culture, but also the lack thereof. For the Romani, music has been identified as a “primary form of cultural expression” The Romani, through their ties with the western punk influence, have created music that allows those who play to express themselves and forge an identity.
Gypsy punk is not only utilized and performed by people of the Romani, or “gypsy”, culture. Punk encapsulates “rebellion, anarchy, and resistance”. These thoughts are transferred then to the hybrid genre of “Gypsy Punk”. This insinuates that gypsy performances and the music itself promotes a freedom for those who participate in the genre. It’s a romanticized version of the lives of an actual “gypsy”. Instead of being “Russian”, “Jewish”, “Eastern European”, etc. they can “articulate their identities, while joining in the performance of being a wild and wandering gypsy”. By making the actual gypsy culture seem like something it is not, “it does not consider the authenticity of Roma representation but rather replicates an idealized and dreamed-up version of what being a gypsy means.
^Hajdu, David. “TRIUMPH OF THE GYPSIES.” New Republic 241, no. 7 (May 13, 2010): 27–30.
^ abJablonsky, Rebecca. “Russian Jews and ‘Gypsy Punks’: The Performance of Real and Imagined Cultural Identities Within a Transnational Migrant Group.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 24, no. 1 (2012): 3–24.