Sal's flamenco soapbox

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The Gypsies

Gypsies played a major role in the development of flamenco. Historians generally agree that they originated in the area of Northern India and Pakistan and travelled a northern route towards the Balkans.

However, there are those who maintain that Gypsies reached Andalucia from Egypt after sailing along the coast of Africa.This is despite the lack of any real evidence. The Spanish Gypsies had no Arabic words in their vocabulary. The implication of this belief is that they may have accompanied the invading Muslims in 711AD. Regardless of which theory you believe in, gypsies traveled far and wide in their wanderings and made a home for themselves in many countries including the Middle East. Since there were no real records to prove or disprove their true origins, Egyptian Gypsies themselves came to believe they were descended from the Pharaohs. This is a legend to which many of their songs still refer - as a result of which they were called Egyptians, or "Gypcians" in English; while, in old Spanish, gitano was simply a way of saying "Egyptian". Ref

Unlike the Jews and Muslims, the Gypsies did not leave Spain after the Christian reconquest of 1492.

European origin
This is what Werner Cohn has to say in his book "The Gypsies" (1973), which you can download from his website
"....there would be little doubt that a very sizable portion of the Gypsies' ancestors came from among Europeans....Indeed the Gypsies are thouroughly European. Not only does a majority of their ancestors probably come from old European stock, but the group as a whole has also lived within the Euopean cultural area for many centuries." (Pg 65)

He is in no doubt that the first gypsies came from India. Linguistic evidence in all gypsy dialects shows Indic origin. However, the Rom language also shows traces of of Persian, Kurdish and Armenian and Greek. "Beyond this basic material in all the gypsy languages and dialects, The Rom speak a language that European scholars classify within the Vlax group of gypsy dialects, named after the Romanian province of Wallachia....We must conclude from this that the Rom are descendants of the people who lived in Romanian language areas for considerable periods of time."

Another interesting observation on the lack of Indian ancestory comes from the struggle for the control of identity - by Ian Hancock. "The idea that Rroma are really local people who have intentionally darkened their skin and who speak a deliberately concocted secret jargon is not a new one; it goes back at least to Renaissance times."

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