The Other Hundred: Roma Musician in Turkey Turns Notes Into Cash
Kerem Alar, a 25-year-old clarinetist, is a member of the country’s Roma minority. He plays solo at weddings and other events, such as henna nights, where brides prepare for their weddings by decorating themselves with temporary tattoos.
On such occasions, he can earn around US$100 for a day’s work – good money for a member of the Roma community. The work is irregular, usually occurring only on weekends between May and September.
When he is not performing, Kerem works in a factory. For many Roma in Turkey jobs are hard to come by. Collecting recyclable materials or being a musician are two common ways of making a living.
Sometimes Kerem performs by himself. At other events a small group of friends accompanies him playing tambourines, darboukas, and other types of traditional drums. His goals are to make music his main source of income and earn enough to buy a house where he can live with his wife and children.
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