As a musician and teacher, I have long attempted to work out what we might consider as the European musical identity.
As I gained experience, I came to realize that many roots originated from “elsewhere” and that the history of the European continent had been forged from time immemorial through mixing, interbreeding, dialogue and blending of cultures, with hard artistic and musical confrontations at times, still managing to produce rich inspiration and creativity.
As a convinced European, music helps me believe in Europe, a beautiful alchemical vessel which has “always” produced such a great variety of music works that will remain in human history and mankind’s memory as great creations and beautiful achievements.
If ever there was a people which has influenced the future of European music more than others and brought in new blood and a fine creative force, it was the Romani people!
This was such an obvious fact to me, but many of my colleagues and/or pupils did not share it and this was why many years ago – alone to start with – I set out on a mission to spread and reveal these facts to others and their consequences on establishing a European kinship of spirit.
I was convinced that a great injustice was done to the Romani people.
Marianne Poncelet, IYMF Executive Vice-President, was the first to follow me, beyond my wildest hopes. Within the Music4Rom project supported by the EU, I was thus able to arrange the first meeting between Romani and non-Romani musicians in 2014 about European classical music and the Romani music that influenced it to such an extent.
Thanks to the broad assistance of teachers David Benko, Carlo Dumont and Aurea Mustatea as well as Romani musicians Paco Suarez, Roberto de Brasov and Ludovit Kovac, sixteen musicians from Spain, Italy, Romania and Slovakia (8 Romani and 8 non-Romani musicians) were invited to Paris and brought together for a week under my leadership at the Spanish College of the International University Campus of Paris.
Together we worked and reflected on the deep, age-old, intense connection between Romani music and classical European music as well as flamenco, jazz and folk music.
During a week marked by work and musical fraternity, young musicians with already strong international careers joined us for two days as pupils: soprano singer Léa Sarfati, pianists Etsuko Hirosé and Antoine de Grolée, the chamber choir Temperamens Variations and Thibault Lam-Quang, to name but a few.
Their recognized professionalism was beneficial to the young pupils invited during the week and these meetings gave rise to fertile exchanges between all these young artists from different countries.
The huge success of this week’s work surpassed our wildest expectations. (There was also a significant impact for several weeks on social networks where it was relayed on live).
Such intense work was amply rewarded by the large audience that was present throughout the week.
The hall was packed and many had to listen standing or sitting on the floor. People even spilled out into the Spanish College’s courtyard of honour, which was also packed as the public outside had the opportunity to listen through the French windows opening out on to the concert hall.
On the last day, during the closing concert, the whole audience was stirred in unison when listening to the music and the musicians (what a magnificent reward it was for us all) for nearly four hours – with no interval – until the audience sprang to their feet, as one, in a great outpouring of fraternity, to sing with us the Romani hymn “Djelem, djelem”.
After this great moment of emotion, communion and sharing, which followed a very intense week, a Romani spectator kissed me with tears in her eyes, saying: “Thank you, I am proud to be a Romani woman” (this lady had just rediscovered her inner treasure).
This was when I knew that the dream I had carried in my heart for so long had been fulfilled and that I had been right to want to contribute through Romani music to Romani people rediscovering their pride.
The mission of wanting to inform the public about the significant contribution of Romani music to music in the world is therefore a fair mission and this week of MUSICAL COMMUNION which our Master Yehudi Menuhin would have loved is therefore a fair project.
As Joseph Kessel used to say: “You can always achieve more than you think you can”.
With Art Activ, the European Roma Information Office, ETP Slovensko, The Mosaic Art and Sound Ldt, Mus-eNapoli, Sons-croisés, Union Romani under the direction of the Yehudi Menuhin Foundation with EU support, we shall do our utmost to continue to work along these lines in order to give vital momentum to European fraternity in our own modest field, MUSIC.
We believe that to be daring enough we have to expect too much.
The mission that we have set ourselves is quite humble, but it is always the small trails that bring you to the heights…
I hope I was able to share with you what is in our hearts in order to connect people together and, in what concerns us today, through this connection to be established in people’s minds between Romani music and other types of music, particularly European music.
Great projects will also come to light in 2015 as a continuation of what we undertook last year. We shall continue to keep you regularly updated about our small furrows which will one day become a path.