Gypsies or Romani

The Gypsies – an ethnic group of people with origins in India, which they left in about 10th century, today living all over the world, mostly in Europe. There are about 1.5 million of them and about 150,000 live in Serbia. The Gypsies who live among the Serbs, on the Balkans, speak the Roma language, then Serbian, Wallachian and Turkish; their religion is either Orthodox Christian or Muslim. In Serbia they live as permanently settled, often in large extended families, and there are those who travel and have no permanent place of residence. The travellers used to be organised in groups called “cherga” or caravans. The Gypsies have been and still often are instrument players, farriers, livestock merchants (jambas), blacksmiths, dancing bears handlers, and there are those who do the land. Fairs have always attracted the Gypsies as good occasions for them to sell their products and play music.

Gypsies are renown for their good ear for music. The famous ones are the trumpeters of Southern Serbia and the tambura players of Vojvodina.


The name Gypsy appears in many languages, originating from the Greek word for the Egyptians (as once it was assumed that the Gypsies come from ancient Egyptians), and the Romani is the Roma word, meaning people.


Gypsies have also been a subject of many world famous novels, operas and films. In this country the best known play with music is Koštana by Bora Stanković, films Skupljači perja aka „I even met happy Gypsies“ by Aleksandar Petrović, Dom za vešanje aka “Time of the Gypsies” and Crna mačka, beli mačor (Black Cat, White Cat) by Emir Kusturica.


Since the 19th century, the Gypsies settle on the Balkans and in Serbia, sharing with Serbs their history of hardships and suffering. In the Second World War, they were the Nazi victims, along with Serbs and Jews.


Šaban Bajramović, a famous Gypsy singer and a musician of Niš; Ljiljana Petrović, a singer; Esma Redžepova, a singer; Bakija Bakić, a trumpeter; Ekrem Mamutović.