The war sent all the Tziganes back to the road: Yul went with the Chekhov Theatre Company to America, while Aliosha and his sister Valia went through South America. Twenty years later, they met again, only to discover how little had changed. New depths, new departures in the old songs, were the expressions of the long roads behind them. They found that each member of their quartet, comprising two men and two guitars, could still sing independently, yet still compose a whole. To ensure some discipline to their work, they finally agreed to record, an idea which was otherwise distanteful to the nature of their art.
Their songs are dialogues upon the theme presented in the lyrics and melody, each voice echoing the regret and the rejoicing of the other, each guitar answering the other with its own rythm and rhapsody. It is particularly the complexity of the rythmic structure that eliminates any primitive quality in the music; this is the result of six generations of stubbornity refusing to express themselves in clichés and persistently developing any facet of their songs which turned stale. It is this determination to use every extension of their talents to make a song their own expression which distinguishes the Rom. Nothing is their own unless they create it. They own their songs just as they own their language, misery, and delight; nothing else belongs to them. In the several cases where they have adopted a Russian song, they have so altered its sound and meaning that a Russian will cringe at the crude consonants and take affront at the adulteration of the melody, if it is heard at all. In Two Guitars, the melody appears only in the last verse, another way to tease the Gaje.
The lyrics are a mixture of narrative and proverb; they are all in the Imagine mode. The meaning of the songs, all of which are at least 100 years old, is in the music, the words create a vertical narrative about a theme, disparate fact and details are illogically fused to indicate only the shadow of the scene which the singer is recalling. The End of the Road exemplifies this free construction.
Here our roads end, my chest is weak,
At last my heart seeks peace,
My dreams have died, now you have left,
We no more share one road.
A simple end, misunderstood:
An icy glance of hatred,
That day’s passed like the blackest cloud:
Now we are forever strangers.
The days are short but the nights seem long,
My hairs have turned gray:
Why do they say the Gypsies have changed?
We do not understand.
Aliosha is the impetuous, tough little boss; so he is also the clown. His strings and sinew are steel, yet his energy lapses with each string he breaks. How can he break two strings each song? Look at the blood that flows from his hands. It is his guitar which fans the hiccup rythm, which stings like the mosquito. Yul is the energy and inspiration, the voice that demands an echo; but Aliosha trained that energy. Yul’s words are foreign to us, the pain and bursting joy are not. Trust, all the explosions and burning pain are his own: he sings them as if he has lived them.