Romani guitar duo to grace the stage in Ontario

Four Rivers Cultural Center. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons)

ONTARIO – This Veterans Day, Four Rivers Cultural Center invites the community to a musical celebration featuring Sasha Kolpakov and Nicolas Adams, two guitarists in the Romani tradition.

Kolpakov, a Roma native of Saratov, Russia, represents the third generation of players in his family following his uncle Vadim and grandfather Aleksandr, while Adams, an American Serbian Roma, is in the fifth generation of musicians in his family. 

Family tradition, according to Kolpakov, is important in Romani music because there is much about the style which is felt and cannot be conventionally taught. 

“Everything is from hand to hand,” Kolpakov said in an interview with the Enterprise. “I learned the Gypsy and Roma music from my uncle and grandfather. It’s a different explanation, I think, and method.”

Kolpakov was originally supposed to grace the stage of Four Rivers Cultural Center alongside his uncle Vadim, but Vadim got sick with Covid. Luckily, Adams was able to step in. 

The all-ages concert will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, at the Meyer McLean Performing Arts Theater at the Four Rivers Cultural Center. It is free to veterans and active-duty military and their families. Other adults pay $20, while students pay $10, and discounts are available with the purchase of a concert series season pass or punch card.

The Kolpakovs have what a recent press release referred to as an “artistic dynasty” on the Russian stage. Vadim and Aleksandr have performed with Madonna to sold-out stadiums and Sasha, who is classically trained, is internationally decorated on the competition circuit. 

According to Kolpakov, the flexibility to mix and match the best of multiple styles and traditions is one of his strengths and a historical strength of Romani music. 

“Roma had, a long time ago, camps and they’d travel from place to place,” he explained. “There, it was different songs and different energy…People (may not have had) an education but in music and culture it’s incredible, it’s so natural and so unique.”

In modern times, that mixing and matching has taken different forms. 

“Another thing that my grandfather and my uncle did was tour around the world and work with the best of the best musicians in different genres, mix a lot of music,” Kolpakov said. 

He cited several “virtuosic” players, including flamenco’s Paco de Lucía, as influences. Kolpakov said that Romani people had been instrumental in the creation of flamenco in Spain and “gypsy jazz” in France.

“The Roma don’t have a country of their own – they have a country, it’s the whole world,” Kolpakov said. “The Roma are trying to take the best thing (from each place) and trying to do something beautiful. It’s a unique nation.”

Kolpakov’s music is available on Youtube, and his first album with his uncle, “Under Cover,” is on streaming platforms as well. 

For more information about the show, contact [email protected] or Janet Komoto at 208 739-2777 with questions.

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577. 

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