WHEN THE ROAD BENDS is an uplifting and moving documentary which
explores the music, lives and heritage of five distinct Gypsy bands from around
the world as they unite for the GYPSY CARAVAN, a six-week musical tour
around North America that brings audiences to their feet.
Their musical styles range from flamenco to brass band, Romanian violin, Balkan
pop, Indian folk, raga and jazz. With fire in their bellies and soul in their
voices, they present the best in Gypsy music and the diversity of the Romani
people in an explosion of music and dance.
The film follows the amazing performances and behind-the-scenes action of the concert tour arranged by World Music Institute, inviting us to travel with the musicians as they laugh, cry, argue, play and learn about
each others' past hardships and future dreams. This moving progression of
their relationships, reflected in their shared stories and jam sessions, is the
backbone to the film and the tour.
As they befriend each other, they celebrate the majesty and glory of music
while overcoming the prejudice of their shared ancestry. We explore the real
lives of these musicians as we travel to their homes, meet their families and
see what music brings to their lives a link to an ancient culture, a common
language, a traditional career all of which is a stark and often painful
contrast to life on the road. The personal drama and stories of these characters
are interwoven with their performances, reflecting the imagery and emotion of their
music, as we get to know them and their bands intimately.
From Romania we meet electrifying Taraf de Haïdouks, a band with many vocal fans
all over the world, including the likes of Johnny Depp. The ages of the band
members range from 22-80 and their albums and tours support much of their village.
It is at home with them that we meet Nicolae, the 78-year-old patriarch who almost
single-handedly supports, educates and feeds his extended family with his musical earnings.
Esma Redzepova from Macedonia, hailed as the Queen of Gypsies, has a voice full of joy,
power and sadness. An institution in her own country for over 40 years, she has not only
broken down many prejudicial barriers but also adopted and educated 47 children with her late husband.
Antonio El Pipa flamenco ensemble, a family troupe from Spain, is a sight to be seen -
blending the power of Antonio's flamenco with the haunting sound of his aunt Juana la del
Pipa's voice. We see them at their Flamenco school and discover the hardships that Juana suffered
from her poor beginnings to the distress caused by her son's and husband?s drug addiction.
Originating from India, the homeland of the Romani people, Maharaja is made up of
poets, singers, musicians and a very unique dancer, all from varied castes. Harish
turned to dance to feed his family when his parents died, and he is one of only a
few artists in the world to perform the spectacular Rajasthani knee dance.
Fanfare Ciocarlia uniquely blends brass band arrangements with traditional Romanian
Gypsy music, Turkish, and Arabic influences. The speed of their playing and thrill
of their sound is legendary with DJ's playing their tunes on dance floors from New
York to Berlin to Tokyo. The sales of the first album enabled them to bring electricity
to their hometown. Such is the power of their music.
As a grand finale, the diverse yet related musical groups come together for a last
song, bringing audiences to their feet. In contrast, the death and funeral of
Nicolae, as he leaves his family and fellow musicians to fend for themselves,
shows that the legacy will never die.
A culture interminably misunderstood, oppressed and stigmatized, Romani history is
one of suffering and misery, but it is also one of the victories of human spirit over
the blows of fate. Perhaps nowhere is this spirit better personified than by the
musicians featured in Jasmine Dellal's feature length documentary,
WHEN THE ROAD BENDS...TALES OF A GYPSY CARAVAN.