As part of the celebrations for this years Roma Day, organised by RomaTrial, I had the opportunity to perform with the renowned British Romani author Damian Le Bas in ‘Gypsy Reports And Songs From Brexitland’ at the Maxim Gorki’s Studio R. Piecing together the right music for this event was really important to me as I wanted to compliment Damian’s readings while contributing to the larger narrative of the evening with the music. A few weeks before Damian and I started to email back and forth passages of text and song choices, slowly forming an image that reflected our joint experience as British Romanichals.
Brexit has made me get in touch with my Britishness; before it was always something I negated because of being a Romani too, its like I had a get out clause to not have to subscribe to the British cultural norms or collective identity, while at the same time benefiting from and being a part of them. The problems of British identity were not my problems, because I had my own racial identity to battle for. A big part of that identity for me was always music and song; it was a cultural touchstone that where I came from was somewhere different. I remember in ‘Show and Tell’ at school performing Atch Along Mi Chavio in the British Romani creole Poggidi Jib. I was always proud to feel like we had something else.
As the British Romani musical tradition is largely an oral one, Damian and I both knew Atch Along’s melody but going by different names and with different lyrics. Damian supposed the two halves had been separated somewhere throughout history, and when I started to put them together sure enough a narrative emerged. That’s how we ended up playing the so called Atch Along/ Kushti Romanes Mash Upand as a last minute addition- first rehearsed in the soundcheck- Damian accompanied with the spoons.