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Světový romský festival Khamoro - Interview with the members of the band BENGAS – Milan Horváth (Migel) and Milan Demeter (Bingáč)

The Prague band BENGAS was formed in the autumn of 2001 and they had a very steep take-off. Already in 2004, they celebrated a big success: they performed as a warm-up band at the Gypsy Kings concert at the Prague T-mobile Aréna. They later performed at all the major music festivals not only in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also throughout Europe and USA. 

You can hear Csárdás, Balkan and eastern folk songs, songs of Romas from Russia and Hungary as well as the rhythms of Arabic countries and Spain. They have recorded two albums – „Dza“ (Go) and „Amen Phiras“ (We are going). But nothing compares to a live show. This year, BENGAS will perform at the Khamoro festival – not to be missed!

What do you consider to be the most important aspect of your career?

Milan Horváth: Probably that we are still playing together what we like and what is close to our hearts.

Milan Demeter: Certainly happiness.

Many consider sharing a stage with the famous band Gipsy Kings to be a dream come true. Was it your perception as well?
Milan Horváth: Yes, it really was a very young dream come true. We were so happy; it was enough to see them play live. A cherry on the cake was when they invited us to their dressing room. And we took a picture together, of course.

Milan Demeter: After the show, they shook our hands and hugged us. For us, it was a great honour and an amazing experience. After all, not every band enjoys something like that.

You had a successful tour around USA as well, did the audience there enjoy Romani music?
Milan Horváth: That was another big success for us, a band from Prague got to New York where we performed in famous clubs. Within the tour, we also performed at the Czech Street fest where the crowd was almost 4000 people. We were suprised how many Czechs live in New York! We also performed in Kennedy Center in Washington, where there was a numerous audience as well, there was not even enough space to sit. Local media wrote about our tour. We were the first Romani band to perform at Kennedy Center!
Milan Demeter: In sum – an amazing experience. Yes, I think they really enjoyed our shows.

With which outstanding musical personalities have you worked?
Milan Horváth: There were multiple, e.g. Hana Hegerová, Fero Fenič, Lucie Vondráčková, Lenka Dusilová, Sisa Sklovská and many others.

Milan Demeter: It was great every time, we did superb things together.

What is the message of your music, what do you want to say through it?
Milan Horváth: We are singing about our lives, about what we have lived through. Our music connects people, our shows are attended by Romas as well as by non-Romas and they are all having fun which is our goal.

Milan Demeter: We want to motivate other Romani bands to spread quality Romani music. We feel that there is fewer and fewer Romani bands that represent us in the world.

Do you compose your music yourselves?
Milan Demter: Yes, almost all the lyrics are ours. When somebody has an idea, he comes forward and we start composing around that idea. We gather inspiration in life first and foremost.

What is your personal view of the contemporary Romani music?
Milan Horváth: I was expecting a shift toward more modern rendition of the traditional music from the younger generation of our musicians. They have such possibilities – new technologies, computer programs, keybords, etc. – but they don’t use it, they mostly copy other musicians, which is a pity. There are of course exceptions that make me happy.

Milan Demeter: Unfortunately, lot of bands today just copy from someone else and they are not themselves. There are too few bands that could represent us abroad as well. Thank you, Khamoro, especially the organizers, for selecting great bands that are really professional. Many festivals should look up to you. That is what Romani music is about – quality. 

Are you preparing a special program for Khamoro?
Milan Demeter: For sure. But I don’t want to say anything specific, it will be a surprise. The audience really has something to look forward to :-)


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