Petra Gelbart

Poetry in the Songs of Russian Roma

Russian Romani musicians

Russian Romani musicians are known for their influence on theater stages as well as for their violin and seven-string guitar playing. Legends of vocal music, such as Stepanida Soldatova (1787-1822), have been famous for their masterful interpretations of Russian songs.

A lesser-known treasure, however, lies within the lyrics of countless songs composed in Russian Romani dialects, with or without Russian-language snippets mixed in. Many of them are a testament to the fundamental roles played by family and community in Romani cultures.

Below are three translated examples of stanzas in Romani that have become part of the folk repertoire.

Dobryi den, Romale

Ту сан забайкальско, Ром сибирско,

Аль росийско романо чаво,

Рикирпэ при обществе достойно,

На мангав мэ больше ничего


Tu san zabaykalsko Rom sibirsko

Al rasiysko romano chavo

Rikirpe pri obshchestve dostoyno

Na mangav me bolshe nyichevo


Whether you’re Romani from the Zabaykalsky Region, or from Siberia

Or one of the Russian Roma

Just carry yourself with dignity in the community

I ask for no more than this

(From the song “Dobryi den, Romale” – Good Day to You, Roma)

Panch Chave

Паньч чавэ дадэстэ, паньч илэн дадэсте

Подыхтя про свэто ёв, о джиипэн пхаро

Бут о дром прасталас ёв, шеро ёв на ракья

Ваш э пэскри семьится, джиипэн ёв на дыкхя


Ой, даёри мири, ваш тукэ гилы мири

Ваш тукэ, трэ чавэ сарэ отдена джиипэн


Panch chave, dadeste, panch ilen, dadeste

Podyxtia pro sveto yov, o djiipen pxaro

But o drom prastalas yov, shero yov na rakia

Vash e peskri siemitsia djiipen yov na dikhya


Oy, dayori miri, vash tuke gili miri

Vash tuke tre chave sare otdena djiipen


Our father has five children, our father has five hearts

He has looked around the world, and his life has been difficult

Traveling down many roads, he did not find himself

He placed his family above his own life


Oh, my dear mother, for you I sing this song

All your children would give their lives for you

(From the song “Panch Chave” – Five Children)

Dikhav sune

О дад скомандовал: Нашен палэ пшалэстэ

Пхэнэнти лэскэ кэ пшал кхэрэ явя!

Два братца молодца, два братца облынэпэ

И зарундлэ яда родна дуй пшала


O dad skomandoval: Nashen pale pshaleste

Phenetyi leske ke pshal khere yavya

Dva bratsa maladtsa, dva bratsa oblinepe

I zarundle yada radna duy pshala


The father commanded: Run after your brother

Tell him that his brother has come home!

Two young men, the brothers embraced

And wept together, those two beloved brothers

(From the song “Dikhav sune” – I Dream)

Rights held by: Petra Gelbart | Licensed by: Petra Gelbart | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC 3.0 Germany | Provided by: RomArchive