Roma hip-hop group takes message worldwide

Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:17am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Aleksandar Vasovic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Belgrade teenager Danijel Rasitovic has performed in Montreal and London, but the message of his dance group is rooted firmly at home in the prejudice and discrimination facing the Roma of the Balkans.

"We, the Roma, want to battle prejudices about being beggars and petty thieves and to demonstrate we can produce something meaningful, something that can have an impact," the 19-year-old said this week.

He spoke in an abandoned Communist-era printing house in the Serbian capital Belgrade, where the dance and music group GRUBB -- Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats -- is putting a contemporary spin on the rich musical heritage of the persecuted Roma, infusing traditional melodies with hip-hop beats.

The journey will take them to the United States this year, where they will perform at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.

"It sounds like a Disney American dream," said Canadian actor and director Serge Denoncourt.

It began three years ago, when GRUBB and the British charity RPoint convinced Denoncourt to help them out.

"When this began I didn't believe it, they didn't believe me and I didn't believe myself," Denoncourt said. "I fell in love with them, with the project, with their sense of dignity and pride and their culture."

Since 2009, GRUBB have performed at Belgrade's BITEF international theatre festival, at the Montreal Jazz Festival and London's 02. They return to Montreal this year, and make their U.S. debut.   Continued...