Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Minorities 1 - the Roma

On Saturday night we went to Budapest's marvellous Godor Klub, where they were having the last night of a festival of world music. The main attraction for us was an appearance by the Roma singer Mitsoura, and she did not disappoint.
Mitsoura at the Godor Klub
Her music really does suit the label 'world', as her band included amongst other instruments a dulcimer player and a tabla drummer, resulting in a set that sounded like jazz, like folk, like drum and bass, like Indian and, well, like Roma music. It was a really great hour's worth of music.

I have really come to enjoy hearing Roma music here, and, like many people here in Budapest, appreciate the richness they add to the cultural scene. One young Hungarian standing next to me, having noticed that I was English, struck up a conversation where he told me how fantastic she was and that she was the greatest Roma singer. And he was clearly a person of some taste: he had lived in Leicester for a year and really missed English beer and stilton cheese.

And yet the Roma people can have a very difficult existence here. They face routine discrimination and often end up being blamed for the country's ills. Some illustrations.

A colleague of mine who was looking to adopt a child told me that there were very few babies available for adoption, "... except Roma babies, nobody wants to adopt Roma babies".

We saw a film called "Vespa" at the excellent Odeon Lloyd a few months ago whose story concerned a Roma boy who wins a scooter in a competition, but who faces all sorts of discrimination when he tries to collect his prize. The director said that she had received death threats for making such a film about Roma people.

And just a few weeks ago three people died in a stampede at the West Balkan nightclub, crushed by a panicking crowd trying to leave an overcrowded venue. As with all such events the initial reports are confused, but one story was that someone jokingly called out that there had been a stabbing, and this had led to the panic. However, the story metamorphosed into a Roma person being responsible for this. There seems to be no evidence at all that anyone was stabbed at all, but somehow Roma are blamed.

Every society seems to feel the need to identify and scapegoat certain minorities. Why do we do this?

1 comment:

  1. It appears to be our nature to always need a scapegoat. In society, in today's corporate environment . . .it is present. As you recently stated "Better mutual understanding has to be our way forward I think . . ." Agreed!I often ponder on the question of why our generation, who was going to "change the world", has failed to make any great strides towards that mutual understanding and a world of "peace and love"!

    Your blogs help to share insight on a part of the world I know little of and shall probably never see . . .and insight is that first step towards mutual understanding. So blog on!