In his Moeurs et Coutumes des Tziganes (1936), the French ethnologist Martin Block notices that
when a Hungarian or Romanian feels sad, or when, on the contrary, he wants to celebrate, he needs Gypsy music to exteriorize the state of his soul. (Block 1936, p. 136)
Block's conclusion that Gypsy musicians are in the business of articulating other people's ‘soul’ confronts us with an intriguing conundrum. Given the fact that in eastern Europe, group boundaries between Gypsies and non-Gypsies are strictly defined and zealously kept up, one wonders how Gypsies would be able to articulate musically an intimate knowledge about their non-Gypsy customers. And why would Hungarians, Romanians – and, as I will argue in this paper, Serbs as well – need Gypsy musicians to ‘exteriorize their state of soul’?