Only a few generations ago, many Roma lived a nomadic lifestyle. They moved in camps from one village to the next, repairing metal tools, training horses, doing odds and ends… and of course, entertaining the locals with their music. Today, very few Roma still travel this way – but that nomad spirit is still in their blood. When times get hard for their family, it’s not uncommon for Roma men to travel abroad to work for a few months for a “better life.”
Such work might provide months of support to the family, but it’s often physically-demanding on the body, and the separation is even harder on the spirit of close-knit Roma families. In the phrase kerava pro raja – “I’ll work for the gentlemen” or maybe more appropriately, “for the masters” – the singer recognizes that his white employers may not have his best interests at heart. Like migrant workers around the world, Roma often find that their employers mistreat them and take advantage of their situation.
Coffee is a symbol in Roma culture – to be able to drink coffee is a sign of sufficiency, and offer it to your guests is a sign of respect. That’s why some versions of this song speak of working hard “for just a thimble of coffee” – a lament that migrant workers must sometimes work so hard for so little.
Od kanastar avľom (From the Time I Arrived)
Original author unknown, this performance by Luna Kecerovce
Od kanastar avľom pro Čechy, phares buči me ča kerava.
Kerava pro raja,
phares buči me ča kerava.
From the time I came to Czechia, I’m only working hard.
I will work for the “gentlemen,”
It will be very hard work.
Vocals: Patrik Ferčak, Erik Vidlička
Guitars: Slavo Pecha Sr., Slavo Pecha Jr., Ondrej Pecha
Cajon: Adam Pecha
Special thanks to Julius Pecha for help with translation.