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History and Markets for Gypsy, Arabian and Russian Circus Music Styles

Updated on February 1, 2015
Statue tribute to the annual Gypsy Trumpet Festival in Guca, Serbia.
Statue tribute to the annual Gypsy Trumpet Festival in Guca, Serbia. | Source

A HubPages Question:

I'm looking for Gypsy music, Arabian music and Russian circus music.

— Asked by Constant Walker


Russian circuses are my favorite circuses. As a child, nothing impressed me more than to see two things on a television variety show: the Moscow Circus and the People Of the North when they took their turn to parade in the Russian Cultural Festival. in school, I was fortunate to be able to learn the Russian language and histories.

The Moscow Circus was elevated to the status of the Bolshoi Ballet and the most prestigious operas during the reign of Empress Catherine the Great (born 1729, ruled l762-1796), but in America, the circus was a band of drifters trying to make ends meet in the minds of many people. American circuses were caravans of arts and cultures, too, as Ray Bradbury describes in his many circus tales, but common gossip in the US holds them as cesspools of cheap entertainment and cheaper people. it is a pity.

It is probably the bizarre sideshows with their emphasis on human mutants and the rows of stalls behind the scenes that were once used for prostitution that infiltrated the gossip of America about circuses in the old and never left. Circus seats are expensive today, however; Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is charging $25 for the worst seats in the house in my city for Mother's Day Weekend. Good Seats? - $88 and higher.

The greatest circus in Russia today descended from a band of performers led by an Englishman. They enjoyed entertaining Catherine the Great and the company of people and animals stayed behind to form Moscow Circus, although their leader returned to England.

The Moscow Circus

The circus was promoted by the performance of an Englishman and his small circus for Catherine the Great. She loved it so much that she ordered two rings to be built for them and kept the troupe in St. Petersburg for an entire year. At the conclusion of the year, the performers opted to stay in Russia, while their boss, Charles Hughes, returned to England. The Moscow Circus of today descended from the band of people and animals.

What became the Old Moscow Circus was founded in 1880. After the October Revolution in 1917, the government used the circus as a way of tying together the people, because all classes recognized it as good entertainment as well as an example of fine artistic skills. So, it became a tradition and a notational treasure of the USSR.

Music for the Moscow Circus originally came from the group that performed for Catherine the Great. This Englishman's troupe included people of other nationalities, some being Eastern European, some being Gypsies. The music was eclectic, a mixture of styles and old cultural traditions. Under the USSR, however, music and all the arts were government controlled. Circus music became an item owned by the government.

The government's State Circus School was established in Moscow in 1927, others to follow in additional large cities. By the 1950s, the Russian Circus was as homogenized as McDonald's® products are across America, and the circus began traveling around the world to entertain and accept ovations. Eventually 50 Russian Circuses under the umbrella of the Moscow Circus were successful. This number declined after the fall of the Berlin Wall and communism, but the Moscow Circus is still a tradition as of 2012. Since 1998, the circus has been managed and produced and consistently toured through America by Sasha and Lena Vosk. Other circuses bill themselves as Moscow circuses, but are not over 120 years old.

The current circus show is based in cultural traditions of Russia, including the folk music and gypsy music that is centuries old.

A short symphonic work in four movements that captures the flavor of the music of the Moscow Circus and other Russian circuses is Anthony DiLorenzo's A Little Russian Circus:

  1. Tent of Terror 2:22
  2. Nikolai the Magnificent 3:28
  3. The Clown 4:15
  4. Rings of Fire 2:24

Music of the Moscow Circus

Music of the Moscow Circus
Music of the Moscow Circus
I have enjoyed these songs over and over through the years. The collection on this album is entertaining allows me to visualize the Moscow Circus acts.

Gypsy Migration, According to National Geographic

Rajahstan, India:
Rajasthan, India

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The Romany people's origin.


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Spain and Western Europe:
Western Europe

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Roma Fest Dance Theater - High Energy



In the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, when Columbus Ohio still had its huge farmer's market ranging across several blocks of outdoor stalls around the Downtown District east of the State House, there were Gypsies selling their wares in the booths beside the farmers and the fish markets.

These were Romany Gypsies, the original Gypsies, descendants from Asian Indian peoples of the 11th Century.

I remember only the Gypsy people, the smell of fresh grapes and cantaloupes, and a small elderly man who gave me a handful of juicy purple grapes.

Gypsy Music Migration

National Geographic has researched the music of the Gypsy people, just as its staff have researched Human Migration across the globe in the Human Genomic Project with the Smithsonian Institution.

Romany migration from India followed the path plotted on the map above and the culture became widespread, as it is today. The Romany picked up musical influences for all countries they visited and left behind their own influences. Their music is everywhere. Some recordings are listed below and other musical groups are discusses at the National Geographic link above.

Some famous musical Gypsies:

  • Adrian Gaspar
  • Esma Redžepova -- Queen of the Gypsies
  • Vera Bílá - incorporates Brazilian melodies and rhythms
  • Boban Markovic - in Serbia
  • Kocani Orkestar - in Macedonia

Roma Music

Romany Music, Gypsy: 57 Songs

I'm A Romany Rai: Songs by Southern English Gypsy Traditional Singers
I'm A Romany Rai: Songs by Southern English Gypsy Traditional Singers
This set of two discs holds a lot of music. Some of my favorite songs are The Sprig of Thyme, The Roaming Journeyman, and Game of Cards. All of the album features take the listener into Romany Traditions, particularly of the father building boats and houses, and of people enjoying the springtime.

The Arab World

Market Day Outside the Walls of Tangiers, Morocco in 1873.
Market Day Outside the Walls of Tangiers, Morocco in 1873. | Source

The Expanse of Arabic Music In the Perimeter

Atlas Mountains:
Atlas Mountains

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Sahara Desert:
Sahara Desert

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Persian Gulf:
Persian Gulf

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Artist: Najwa Karam

Artist: Ehab Tawfik

Arabic Music

Arabic culture and music resides roughly within the perimeter of countries noted on the map above. At one point, Arabic and Gypsy music met in Turkey and both benefited from the exchange.

Information Please Almanacs trace the beginnings of Arabic music to at least as far back as 622 AD, with influence from Turkmenistan strong in the 11th Century.

Well known genres within Arabic music:

  • Andalusian, Andalusian Classical (11th - 15th Centuries), and the derivative Malouf
  • Aissawa or Aissaoua
  • al-Jeel - a favorite with the younger generation since the mid 1970s.
  • Bedouin
  • Berber
  • Gharnati
  • Gnawa or Gnaoua
  • Griha
  • Malhun - a type of male urban poetry.
  • Ra'i - "Opinion"
  • Sa'idi - Folk music.
  • Sawt
  • Music of the Sephardic Jews
  • Modern: Rap, Heavy Metal; Chaabi or Shaabi - pop music

Andalusian Music


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      That is a good idea you have, Joan, to listen to different music to stimulate creativity and writing. I'll be trying that myself as well.

    • profile image

      Joan Whetzel 

      9 years ago

      I love different types of music. THis is right up my alley. I find that listening to music that I am unfamiliar with or that different that what I usually listen to jars me out of my writing and creative rut and stirs my juices. Have added this to my favorites. Going to check into the musci you suggested.


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