Romano Drom: Give Me Wine

November 20, 2019


Listening Post 228. Millennials, baby boomers, GenX and Z—today’s vocabulary suggests that each generation is a world unto itself, with distinct attitudes and values. Romano Drom’s Give Me Wine is all about generations, but in the classic sense of culture transmitted from parents to children, from antiquity to the twenty-first century. The Budapest-based band was founded in 1999 by the late Antal Kovács and his namesake son, who leads the five-member group (three from the Kovács family) to this day. Their seventh album seamlessly connects traditional Roma music with its vocal acrobatics—long ago accompanied by hand clapping and wooden spoons—to their modern urban variety featuring a string quartet as well as Arabic, Balkan, Catalan and flamenco touches. And though the album’s 11 festive and melancholy songs, all sung in Romani, cover ample dancing, drinking and misfortune, a recurring theme is parents and children helping one another. The tender harmonies of But Te Trajisz (May You Live Long) honor a graying matriarch surrounded by her caring offspring (video 1). Kanak Kheles (When You Dance) is a thumping, pants-splitting romp that sounds just like the scene on the album cover (video 2). There’s a revolving mood to Gelem Le Shavesa (I Set Out With My Son), the tale of a man who travels to arrange his son’s marriage and, rebuffed, drowns his sorrows in red wine (video 3). The more fortunate, and perhaps wiser, son of Kamavla Me (I Love Her) enlists his mother’s help with his matrimonial campaign (video 4). Romano Drom means “Gypsy Road” and the Kovács family is emblematic of a people’s long journey. From great-grandparents in Transylvania who were itinerant merchants emerged a band that is a beacon, in their own community and to the world, of Roma music, culture, language and continuity—from generation to generation. (Riverboat Records)

Romano Drom: Give Me Wine
József Balogh: Vocals, guitar accompaniment
János Egri: Bass, contrabass
Antal Kovács: Vocals, guitar accompaniment, solo guitar, bandleader
Máté Kovács: Drums, percussion
Krisztián Kovács: Percussion

Guest musicians
Beran Quartet: Strings
Bence Gazda: Violin
Gábor Rinkó Zsandár: Cello
Róbert Farkas: Violin


But Te Trajisz / May You Live Long
Lyrics & Music: Antal Kovács

(from the Romani lyrics)
When you were young, there were none more beautiful than you
Now your hair has turned grey, you are getting on in years nicely
You have raised your children

Children are adults now, may find your joy in them!
May they take care of you and may you live long beside them
In great tranquility


Kanak Kheles / When You Dance
Lyrics & Music: Antal Kovács

When I slap my knees/My trousers split
I stretch my back/I raise my head

When you dance for the Gypsies/Slap your leg manfully
Let their faces fall/Let the girls adore you


Gelem Le Shavesa/ I Set Out With My Son
Lyrics: Antal Kovács/Music: Traditional

Wake up, father, wake up, father! my son says to me
I saw a fair girl, come with me, to have her proposed
My heart jumps when I see her on the street

I set out to the Gypsies with my son to have her proposed
They say they won’t give her to a poor man
What can I do? We don’t have money, I cannot do anything

The boy, that boy is ours/Such a dance this determined boy foots on the floor
When I see this, I drink all the red wine/I leave all my money in the pub

I went to the fair/I drank red wine with the Gypsies
I neither bought nor sold a thing/I drank away all my money at the fair


Kamavla Me / I Love Her
Lyrics: Antal Kovács/Music: Traditional

Give, my Mother, five hundred forints so I can marry that girl
I give it to you, my son, if you love her
I love her, I’ll marry her, my good mother-in-law
God blesses you for raising such a beautiful girl for me.

I went over to the Gypsies to have the girl proposed
Here is the five hundred, give me the girl
I love her, I’ll marry her, my good mother-in-law
God blesses you for raising such a beautiful girl for me

Lovers who cannot be one another’s/Take the rope and hang themselves
I love her and I’ll marry her indeed/I won’t leave her at her mother’s



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