The Amala school opened it doors in 2001 at the family home of Dusan and Dragan Ristic, founding members of Kal, a Romani music band from central Serbia. The school was designed to connect local Roma musicians from neighborhoods around Valjevo, Serbia with foreigners from around the world who were interested in learning the music of the Romani people. Visitors would be hosted by Dusan and his mother Branka, take classes throughout the day, have meals together, and, in the evenings, gather under a canopy to play and listen to music. Visiting the local neighborhoods, attending celebrations, and weddings were all a part of activities that made the Amala school both a musical and a cultural experience.
Over the years teachers for the Amala school have expanded to include not only the local Romani talent but distinguished musicians from different regions, depending on the learning needs of the students. They give one-on-one lessons and small group sessions, building up the player's understanding of distinctly Roma musical concepts. Many relationships have taken root in this musical setting, seeding friendships, collaborations and projects that continue to this day. While some students attend one summer, others find ways to return year after year.
The students of the Amala school come from Western Europe, the Americas, Australia (among other places) and spend one to two weeks with the family. They are often members of bands who have a deeply rooted interest in the Romani people and their culture. The Amala school provides a unique opportunity to break down the barriers of stereotypes and racism that so often segregate the Romani people within Europe. It is also a place where the Romani culture is taught with depth, understanding, and pride. And students gain a greater appreciation for the creativity, skill and determination with which Romani people have continued to promote their music, worldview and culture.
In it’s latest manifestation the Amala school continues to host students in the summer and treating them to two weeks of intensive study of music, language and culture. It has evolved into a hub of music for locals and visitors, attracting young Romani and non-Romani alike. In particular, the people of the Romani diaspora, spread far and wide, are finding a place at the Amala school for reconnecting with the vibrant culture they recognize as an important part of who they are in the world.