Kámoši Juniors Performing Arts Group (Kámoši means ‘friends’ in Slovak) supports the needs of children aged to 5 to 11 of Roma heritage mainly from Slovakia and Czech Republic, Romania and other EU countries. It was developed as an early intervention project in 2012 by Wigan Council’s Voice and Engagement Team and Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) to help combat issues faced by the children and young people from EU Roma communities living in Leigh. It offers positive choices through enjoyable activities working across community, home and school.
It has been a fantastic opportunity for the young people to work with a variety of professionals from CAN and Wigan EMAS Volunteers. The Project has helped the young people to integrate with the local community more and build lasting friendships. The young people have been able to share important aspects of their cultures with others through dance, drama and music. They have also gained new skills, grown in confidence and increased their self-esteem. Carol Darwen EMAS
The project successfully bring children together from all communities in Leigh, who are all able to benefit from the opportunities in a positive learning environment that promotes diversity and inclusion, skill development, creativity and enjoyment.
This project builds on the children’s natural music talent and incredible enthusiasm, evident from Previous CAN Programme in Liegh. It places music, central to Romani culture, at the heart of the cultural offer. It benefits the well-being; educational and musical development of the children through an integrated programme of quality music making spanning Eastern European folk traditions, Hip-Hop – another great love – and other music genres as well as dance and drama activities through a Saturday morning arts club.
20 children from the group are also learning to play an instrument at school with support from Wigan Music Service’s tutor Thomas Griffin.
‘I felt honoured to be working with such a mixed and talented group of children who were eager to learn music…. The performance for international Roma day blew me a way because the standard of performance musically was very high especially the solo performance on the keyboard and flute, considering the amount of time they had. I like being part of their musical journey.’ Thomas Griffin music tutor.
Guest artists also ran specialised workshops;
The music story-telling workshops by Michael Cretu increased awareness and knowledge of Roma-music and culture. Children were able to watch, listen and join in with their own musical contributions. They particularly enjoyed animating the stories through music, drama and dance.
The group were also very taken with Satellite State Disko, two Manchester DJs who play Balkan brass, Gypsy, Slavic music and vintage Bollywood. Both girls and boys fused electronic beats from traditional music with Hip Hop, mixing tracks, creating music and that was new and exciting.
Remi Adefeysian also worked with young musicians creating lyrics over beats, encouraging the up and coming young beat-boxers.
Principle Music leader, Ellie Sherwood was invited to present a paper on the Kámoši Children’s Performing Arts Group at an international conference titled the Romani/Gypsy Arts and Letters Symposium, on 23-24 April 2016, New York University, presented by the initiative for Romani Music at NYU. It was a major gathering of scholars of Romani culture who work as academics, activists and/or performers.
The title of the paper was ‘Using Music to Integrate Roma Children into Wider Society: An Interim Report’, and its main aim was to discuss how the project has enabled participants to explore and learn about Roma music and how this has developed musical confidence and understanding of Roma culture.
These reflection and observations of the project were then used in two ways: to highlight the potential of music workshops in mitigating the social and cultural challenges faced by Roma children. Also to explore how the same results can be achieved elsewhere to help to combat social isolation and to encourage cross-cultural integration between Roma and non-Roma communities.
The theme of Roma identity was prominent, as most papers discussed how and why Roma people are gradually ‘taking back’ the image and identity given to them by dominant culture, who have stereotyped and marginalised Roma for centuries.
Another important discussion throughout the conference was how educational and creative opportunities are breaking down barriers between Roma and non-Roma people.
People commented on the importance of music projects, such as CAN’ Kamosi Performing Arts Project, because they can empower Roma children and their families whilst also educating others about Roma history and contemporary Roma traditions. People at the conference were also impressed with the quality of musical opportunities, particularly in relationship to the diverse range of styles explored and the instrumental tuition provided throughout the project.