About the festival
Khamoro (Romani for "Sunshine") is the world's largest and best-known professional Romani festival, which has been organised in Prague since 1999 by Slovo 21, z.s. together with SP Saga. The festival, which regularly takes place in the last week of May, each year offers unique concerts by Roma bands from all over the world, exhibitions, film screenings, dance workshops as well as expert seminars and conferences. Around 10.000 people from Czech Republic and abroad visit Khamoro festival each year.
Romani music is the main focus of the festival, representing an important part of the world's cultural heritage. Since the beginning, more than 160 professional Roma bands from 40 countries around the world have performed in concerts.
An event that brings people together
Khamoro has established itself as a society-wide cultural event that Prague and the entire Czech Republic can take pride in. The festival is visited by many, not just Roma. Everybody can enjoy Romani culture regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. That is our mission.
Since it’s beginning in 1999, Khamoro has always been supported by many influential people – from respected politicians (such as Václav Havel, Daniel Herman, Adriana Krnacova) to popular starts (Tereza Maxová, Vladimír 518, Jana Cinu) and many others.
Khamoro was created by accident
The idea to create the largest and most critically acclaimed professional-level festival of Romani culture in the Czech capital city came completely spontaneously.
Jelena and Dzemil Silajdzic, the founders and authors of the Khamoro World Roma Festival concept, left their native Sarajevo after the war conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, to discover and encounter xenophobia in their new home – Prague.
When the former film producer and her husband, who was a music professor in his homeland, hosted a large cultural event in Prague, they also invited a Romani band named Khamoro to share the stage with Czech popular stars. Jelena and Dzemil didn´t think this could bring difficulties. All the participants took turns on the stage without any problems. When the time has come for the Romani band to show up on the stage, weird things started to take place. First, the acoustics stopped working alltogether, then the sound started to be heard again just to disappear moments after. Such disturbances didn´t stop the experienced musicians from playing that evening. They made their way towards the audience, played without sound and became a huge success among the listeners. If not the largest of any group this night. It was later discovered, that the performance of Romani band has been sabotaged by the main sound engineer.
Mr. and Mrs. Silajdžić were so stunned by the xenophobia they have encountered, that it was the same night that they decided to come up with something of highest cultural quality, exceptional and professional. And so Khamoro (Sunshine) World Roma Festival was created. Sunshine as a symbol of unity (because every one of us needs sunshine in their lives). Sunshine as a joyous symbol. Sunshine in the memory of that boycotted Romani band named Khamoro.
It started with music, but it didn't end there
Since it’s beginning, Khamoro festival was not only about traditional Romani music. It featured performers of contemporary Romani music and Gypsy jazz. However, the festival was never only about the music (because that would only confirm the stereotype that Romani could only be great musicians). The main idea was to represent Romani culture and everything it brings to the world. When the idea was presented at the Prague’s town hall in the late 90’s, Jan Kasl (mayor of Prague at the time) and Vladimír Drábek (cultural councillor at Prague’s town hall at that time) showed a lot of enthusiasm and support for the cause. The support of Czech ministry of Culture came along. The idea to create Khamoro festival was, of course, very welcomed by the Romani community. Emil Shchuka, one of the main leaders of the Roma community in post-revolutionary years, later president of the International Romani Union, supports Khamoro since it’s beginning until today.
The enourmous amount of people, who supported Khamoro and helped make it the most famous festival of it’s kind in the world today wouldn’t fit in the pages of this article.
One of these people was Václav Havel, whose mission, just like Khamoro’s, was to unite people. The first Czech president has been the only one so far to become a patron of Khamoro on several occasions. For the first time in Khamoro’s sophomore year in 2000, when, among other things, Mr. Havel noted that „As early as last year, Khamoro has already been a cultural event. This year i wish Khamoro 2000 to create a tradition of long-run „sunny“ (in Czech slang Sunny – sluníčkový, means to be „too“ open to minorities) festivals, that will connect the masses and Roma by creating pleasant experiences, that are sorely needed in our li “
Perhaps just for everyone, let us remember Václav Havel. The man who connected. Just as Khamoro has been trying to do all along. The first Czech president has so far been the last head of state to snub Khamoro on several occasions. First time as a sophomore in 2000. He noted at the time, among other things, "As early as last year, the Khamoro Festival was an event. I wish this year's edition of the Khamoro 2000 Roma Festival to herald a long tradition of "sunshine" festivals connecting us and the Roma with pleasant experiences that are sorely needed in our coexistance.