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Spring Songs

California Herdeljezi Roma Fest celebrates ancient culture




As the sun rises to dry the rain-dampened earth, people find themselves opening weary, winter eyes to discover movement and energy. The North Bay and the Roma people dance to the coming of the warm season at the 14th annual Herdeljezi Roma Festival, April 30&–May 1.

The Roma are a celebrated people with a history of persecution and oppression matched only, perhaps, by European Jews. Descendants of the Northern India region, mainly the Punjab, the Roma immigrated hundreds of years ago to Southeastern Europe, bringing with them a new language, strong customs and a bright culture. Today, perhaps best known for their music and dance, the Roma have integrated into all societies, hanging on to traditions that celebrate the rebirth of seasons. Such traditions add a little rhythm to the North Bay this weekend.

The Herdeljezi festival kicks off with a mini film fest and features daytime and nighttime programs including performances by the internationally known dancer Nadia Hava-Robbins and Via Romen with Vadim Kolpakov, who toured with Madonna on the Sticky & Sweet tour in 2009 (he's above in the pink shirt; Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hutz is far right). Celebrating culture with the Brass Liberation Orchestra, Herdeljezi brings dancers and musicians from around the world together.

Hosted by Voice of Roma, a nonprofit advocacy organization devoted in part to helping the thousands of Roma still suffering from the last century's ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, nearly 1,200 attendees are expected at this year's event, and proceeds will give back to educational, cultural and humanitarian aid programs. A worldwide celebration, Herdeljezi in Sebastopol brings together a broad audience through the art of film, food, dance and music.

California Herdeljezi Roma Festival, Friday&–Saturday, April 30&–May 1. Veteran's Hall, 282 High St., Sebastopol. $10&–$22. 707.823.7941.

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