Gypsy trio criticizes crowd for booing Madonna

BUCHAREST: A Russian trio performing Gypsy music with Madonna said Friday they were "pained" to see the pop star booed during her Bucharest concert for criticizing widespread discrimination against Gypsies.

Thousands of people applauded the trio's performance with Madonna in Bucharest on Wednesday night during her worldwide "Sticky and Sweet" tour. But minutes later they booed and jeered the pop star when she said discrimination should end against eastern Europe's Gypsies, also known as Roma.

In a press conference Friday in Bucharest, Vadim Kolpakov, the youngest member of Kolpakov Trio, said the public reaction was unexpected.

"The audience was wonderful when we played," he said. But he called the booing and jeering "the worst" reaction the Roma group had received during the entire tour.

"Madonna was surprised (about the reaction) but I cannot comment for her," Vadim Kolpakov said, declining to say if Madonna had made a similar comment about Gypsies at other concerts in eastern Europe.

"We want ... to be recognized as equals," said trio founder Sasha Kolpakov, a Russian Roma.

"It pains me to see discrimination in the world, it pains me to see discrimination of Roma," Sasha Kolpakov said. "There are good Roma people that we are proud of. There are also Roma who live in poverty and who have nothing to do, who beg or do illegal deeds."

Roma are a nomadic ethnic group believed to have their roots in the Indian subcontinent. They live mostly in southern and eastern Europe, but hundreds of thousands have migrated west over the past few decades in search of jobs and better living conditions.

Romania has the largest number of Roma in the region. Some say the population could be as high as 2 million, although official data put it at 500,000.

The Kolpakovs said discrimination against Roma exists not only in eastern Europe but in the West too.

"We played in Italy and met Roma representatives in Milan. We heard there's a big problem (in Italy)," said Vadim Kolpakov, adding that he thought discrimination against Roma was increasing in Europe.

"I think it is going up," he said, mentioning the killing of six Roma in Hungary and the burning of Roma caravans in Naples, Italy.

Kolpakov Trio will travel with Madonna to Bulgaria and Israel — the last two destinations on her tour. The Kolpakovs are Roma, while the band's third member is a Russian Jew.