Tuesday, November 30, 2010


On 29 November 1864, over 150 Cherokee were murdered by the United States Cavalry.
The cavalry under the direction  of US Army Colonel John Chivington, incidentally a Methodist preacher, was ordered to attack a camp of peaceful Cherokee (mostly women, children and old men) who had an American flag flying and had hung a white sign of peace and surrender before the attack.

The 800 men slaughtered the Cherokee in what seemed to be a frenzy, raping, scalping and dismembering their victims.

The movie Soldier Blue, made in 1970 and starring Candace Bergman and Peter Strauss was based on the Sand Creek massacre.  Of course the protagonists in the movie are the benevolent white folk, but at least the story was told.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Home /A&E /Theater/Arts

Flamenco showcase presents ageless passion

PHOTO Flamenco dancers Angelita Vargas and Jairo Barrull with their quintet Friday night at Berklee. (Sebastien Zambon)

By Karen Campbell

Globe Correspondent / November 22, 2010

 At its most elemental, flamenco is an intimate, improvised conversation based on a shared tradition. The excitement is in the interchange, the sense of spontaneity unfolding in the moment. “Gitaneria,’’ which opened the World Music/CRASHarts Fall Flamenco Festival 2010: Gypsy Roots of Flamenco, celebrates the legacy of the “gypsy essence’’ passed down through the generations. It highlights two very different flamenco dance styles, contrasting male vs. female, explosive vs. lyrical, young vs. veteran. The connecting thread is the lively quintet of two guitarists and three singers. Responsive to the dancers’ imaginative episodic turns, playing off the rhythmic energy and mood, the musicians also provide accomplished interludes with an engaging groove. Guitarists Eugenio and Paco Iglesias imbue their tunes with jazzy percussive flair and a swinging, contemporary edge.

Gypsy Roots of Flamenco

Jairo Barrull is the show’s take-no-prisoners young firebrand. He prowls the stage, periodically invoking the spirits with raised arms, then explodes into brief staccato outbursts, light reflecting on his shiny black shoes with every flurry of blistering triplets and high, angled kicks. He jumps and squats, his knees and ankles swiveling side to side with machine-like speed and precision, as if on ball bearings. Occasionally he throws his jacket partly off his right shoulder, a macho fighter threatening to engage.

Angelita Vargas, a star of Broadway’s “Flamenco Puro’’ in the 1980s, is a stocky, sensuous earth mother of a dancer. At 61, she’s more soulfully dramatic than flamboyant, and she dances more introspectively, as if channeling the muse and conveying a story with each tilt of the head and cast of the eyes. Loose hips roll atop solid footwork. Hands both beckon and banish with curling expressive fingers. At her most urgent, she hikes up her skirts, unleashing a furious volley of stomps, the singers gathering around to feed the flame with their palmas (hand-clapping) and throaty keening.

But Vargas also knows how to have fun. By the end of the “Solea,’’ she saucily plays for a moment to the audience and musicians, then sashays offstage with a flourish of red polka dot ruffles.

Karen Campbell can be reached at karencampbell4@rcn.com.




18/11/2010 -

Last night’s friendly match between Italy and Romania was marred by racist incidents directed at Mario Balotelli. These incidents were reported widely by international media from Europe to North America and across the Southern Hemisphere.

The abuse in the form of monkey noises and booing was disappointing and truly shocking as all such incidents are.

However, the media reports, including from usually reliable sources such as the BBC, missed an important step forward in the fight against racism inside stadiums: the game opened with players of both teams together holding a huge banner which read Love football, no violence, no racism.

The initiative involved both the Italian and Romanian football federations working together with my Bucharest-based organization.

Three days earlier, the same banner was displayed at a football tournament for children in Bucharest, Romania.

Some 250 children, aged 9 – 11, in 23 teams, many from disadvantaged families and of Roma origin, played in an event This was the 9th tournament against violence and discrimination organised in Romania, and was part of the “REACT! Make Europe an equal place for Roma ” campaign.

Against the highly visible background of the incidents in Klagenfurt these actions might seem piecemeal and insignificant but as any activist in this field will know we can only develop initiatives and actions, ultimately our work is long term and will often be overtaken by the social environment being created around us.

As Daniel Prodan the Director of International Relations for the Romanian FA told me earlier, “This unfortunate incident during a friendly match between Italy and Romania demonstrates once again that constant efforts are needed to combat racism and violence in the stadiums.

“The Romanian Football Federation is taking both racism and violence on stadiums very seriously and we will continue to invest all our efforts to curb this phenomenon.”

My view is that some football governing bodies are on the right path and taking a leading role when it comes to sanctioning and tackling racism. We should give those that take the right steps some acknowledgment.

Sports, and football in particular, is an excellent tool to promote social dialogue and inclusion, but we need much stronger involvement of the political class before we will see a major change.

If governments would follow what UEFA and some national football federations are doing to sanction these phenomena, such a change will come much faster than most of us expect.

Valeriu Nicolae is the Director of the Policy Center for Roma and Minorities and a member of the FARE



The City of Helsinki is repatriating scores of Roma camping at the city's fish harbour to their homes in eastern Europe. They will be given ferry tickets and a lump cash sum.

On Friday, some 40 Roma will each receive 300 euros for fuel as well as 25 euros to cover the cost of the ferry trip.

Jarmo Räihä, a senior official with the city's social services department, said the cold weather has created life threatening risks for the group. He added that the exit was negotiated with members of the local Roma community.

Räihä said the only way to help eastern Europe’s Roma was for them to receive concrete aid in their countries of origin. He headed a delegation from the City of Helsinki on a recent visit to Romania and Bulgaria. The group also included representatives from the Helsinki Police.

“We visited a Roma village, met with local officials as well as with Roma and state officials. Their problems can only be solved at home where their culture and families are,” Räihä says.

It was critical to see how work and education can be provided as well as improvements to living conditions, he noted.

Räihä admitted that the Roma--and the related panhandling problem--will reappear in the future. He hoped that changes in the countries of origin would address the problem.


Friday, November 26, 2010


                                                                                   Europe's chance to stand with its Roma


After much hypocrisy and inaction, it might still be possible for Europe to restore its commitment to equality for all its citizens

James A Goldston
 The Guardian,
 Saturday 20 November 2010

This could have been the shining moment when the European Union finally stood foursquare beside its Roma citizens. It could have been the moment that the European commission, the Council of Europe, and the alphabet soup of Euro-agencies stood up and said it is time to behave according to the fundamental European values everyone in Brussels and Strasbourg loves to talk about and to take the steps necessary to bring the Roma into European society.

The opportunity passed.

This autumn, the EU executive's justice and fundamental rights commissioner, Viviane Reding, described the government of France's expulsion of Roma in the starkest of terms. Reding said she was appalled by the treatment France meted out to the Roma. She said Europe had not witnessed this kind of behaviour since the second world war. "Enough is enough," Reding declared. "Fundamental values and European laws are at stake." On 29 September, the European commission formally announced its intention to launch infringement proceedings against France before the European court of justice.

The secretary general of the Council of Europe proposed a "high-level meeting on Roma and Travellers" in Strasbourg to discuss a range of ambitious aims, including the establishment of a European Observatory on Roma, the appointment of a high-level representative on Roma, and an action plan committing states to specific measures in education, health and employment. The date of the meeting was chosen to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the European convention on human rights.

Just as leaders were convening in Strasbourg, however, Reding announced in Brussels that the justice and fundamental rights commission would not, for the time being, pursue infringement procedures against France. Paris, she said, had "provided documents" indicating it would modify domestic laws on freedom of movement to conform with EU requirements.

The Strasbourg meeting accomplished next to nothing. France has done nothing to address the anti-Roma discrimination that sparked this controversy. The commission now seems unlikely to follow through with a case against France. Though technically investigations are under way, the commission has already stated: "Measures taken by the French authorities since this summer did not have the objective or the effect of targeting a specific ethnic minority." This is disingenuous. The reality is that, in government statements and written circulars, the government of France specifically targeted the Roma for heightened scrutiny.

Even after so much hypocrisy and inaction, it might be possible for a European body to restore Europe's commitment to equality for all.

On 30 November, the Council of Europe's governing body, the committee of ministers, has a chance to do so. It will take up discussion of a pernicious practice commonplace in several European countries: segregation of Roma children into separate, inferior schools and classrooms. The European court of human rights has condemned this practice in three landmark judgments against Croatia, the Czech Republic and Greece. To date, these rulings have been ignored.

The committee of ministers has the power to call publicly upon EU member-states to comply with the judgments of the European court of human rights. The right thing to do is obvious, but there are easily discernible reasons why the committee of ministers might refrain from doing what it should. Every government reasonably fears that, should it endorse criticism of a neighbour today, it might come under scrutiny tomorrow. So the committee of ministers prefers to operate in secret, and to move at a glacial pace, if at all.

Failing to do the right thing in this case would be short-sighted. It would further undermine the credibility of the EU and of the Council of Europe. It will help governments consign more generations of Roma children to an inferior education.

Shunting thousands of Roma children into second-class schools and classrooms each year perpetuates the social segregation of the Roma, which drives the westward migration that France, Italy and many of the more prosperous European countries recoil against. By failing to enforce these court's judgments, the committee of ministers is not only making itself a party to this discrimination against the Roma, it is helping to lay the groundwork for future crises.

The committee of ministers should do the right thing – for thousands of Roma children. And for a Europe that will be better off in the long run if it stands behind its declared values.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


 This is an excellent video produced by Al Jazeera

The right to Roma

The Rageh Omaar Report

20/11/2010 - Unwanted, marginalised, defiant - the Roma people have become the target of governments across Europe.

In France and Italy they have been thrown out in their thousands - accused of illegally overstaying their welcome and blamed for increases in crime.

They say that in their countries of origin they are victims of discrimination - a minority with few opportunities.

They are now taking advantage of European Union laws that allow freedom of travel to all European citizens - looking West to find a better life, yet reluctant to adapt to Western ways.

The Roma issue has now been forced on EU policy makers - they have to find a balance between the growing hostility and the rights of the Roma.

This episode of The Rageh Omaar Report aired from Wednesday, November 16, 2010.

Video 46 minites.


Thursday, November 18, 2010



Is there a 'Roma question' in Russia?


This online supplement is produced and published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia)

PHOTO:A group of Roma women in Russia
BY  Tatiana Kotova/FocusPictures
Caught between nostalgia and misery, held back by criminality and discrimination, Roma (Gypsy) communities in the Moscow area struggle to adapt to modern life

"I'm going to say it: The problem with the Roma is that there aren't two of them who work," said a young Russian police officer on a visit to the Roma village of Possiolok Gorodishy, about 150 km from Moscow. With his leather jacket and uniform, close-cropped blond hair and light-coloured eyes, he looks amused as he gives a piece of his mind to Georgiy Shekin, a.k.a. Yalush in Romani, who works for the interregional Russian Roma rights network, and to Gendar, the village elder.

Gendar stands up for his community, whistling between his missing teeth while the police officer carries on: "Roma don't have any education, they don't find ways of working nowadays."

Gendar is the baro the village "elder." This camp in the Vladimir region is home to Roma from the Koldiary ethnic group, one of the groups that has best preserved its customs; they were all nomadic until 1956 when the Soviet Union forcibly settled the Roma. The Koldiary, who came from Eastern Europe, were traditionally horse traders or metal workers. After the fall of communism, some adapted by opening successful central heating businesses. But here in this village, no one has had any success to speak of. "We don't do anything during the day. We stand around and wait for it to end." A dozen young men wearing leather jackets and dark clothing stand with their hands in their pockets. The railroad tracks lie behind them. The tracks run through the camp, whose houses stand in a typically Russian row along the main street.

"Those with a car occasionally go and bring back what's needed to feed the family," Gendar said. "But how does someone with no car do it? Bah, he steals; it's simple, for the children."

We go into Gendar's house. "Everything nice here comes from communism. Back then, there were no poor and no wealthy," he said regretfully. "When we didn't have work, we would go on unemployment benefits." The walls are hung with the splendours of the Soviet era, pink and yellow curtains and shawls with bursts of flowers that cover the chairs. The mother, half-lying on the sofa in a blue outfit, smokes with a thin smile on her face. "You want to see my niece's wedding film?" she asked.

A pretty 15-year-old girl with a bouncing orange skirt and copper medals that jingle stays in the periphery even as she brings in tea, butter and marinated mushrooms. "Ah no, that's right, we don't have any more electricity."

The inactivity and lack of work for the Roma is due largely to their non-integration in the urban and competitive modern economy, along with the fact that in Russia, they are no longer a nomadic population. In communist times, certain groups of Roma, especially the "Russka Roma," those who sang for the nobility under the tsar and who are the most integrated even today, specialized in a niche market: contraband. There wasn't much in the way of merchandise at the time. It was an illegal activity, but not criminal. "But after perestroika, all the groups in Russia started going into trade and the Roma, often illiterate, couldn't keep up," said Marianna Seslavinskaya, one of the directors of Roma Union, the Russian interregional Roma rights union.

Seslavinskaya and her husband, Georgiy Tsvetkov, make Roma education an absolute priority, provided that it involves Roma culture. Both work in a research laboratory at the Federal Institute of Educational Development in Moscow, but their work is underfunded: Seslavinskaya and Tsvetkov provide services to the entire country and there are an estimated 180,000-400,000 Roma across the Russian Federation.

"We don't have an allocated region, contrary to most Russian minorities. As a result, no one funds the passing down of the culture. The Roma children who go to school at age six learn Russian, whereas they speak Romani." In 1927, authorities set up a learning program for the Roma, but Stalin abolished it in 1938.

"What is needed," Seslavinskaya said, "is a program that would start to teach the Roma their language and, afterwards, Russian culture. Because a Roma who loses his culture doesn't necessarily become Russian. He is marginalized. Educating Roma by saving their identity is the only solution that will allow them to adapt to the contemporary world. In order to be able to find work without getting bogged down in identity issues, or falling into poverty and crime."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I apologize for lack of entries this week.  I injured my back which has left me VERY slow moving and distracted.
Things are returning to normal.

My friend, Casimire sent this video to cheer me up.  And it really did.

The group is called Fanfare Ciocarlia and they are from a small villiage in Romania.  Reminds me of Latcho Drom.

I am also posting this video in the effort to consolidate the review blog with this one.





EU official calls Roma's situation in Europe 'scandalous'



LAUSANNE, Switzerland - European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who clashed with France over its treatment of Roma, described their situation in Europe on Friday as a "scandalous matter".

"Above all, this is a scandalous matter for all Europeans," Reding said at a press conference in Lausanne.

"We have in Europe the largest minority -- 10 million people -- who live in absolute poverty, who don't have access to housing, who often don't have access to health care," she said.

She described as particularly scandalous the fact that some Roma children cannot go to school.

Reding, who is also vice-president of the European Commission, the European Union's executive branch, sparked a row with Paris in September over her vocal criticism of the French government's treatment of Roma in which she drew parallels with World War II.

She referred to the issue Friday, saying she hoped the "excitement served...to show clearly that we live in a state of law and citizens, no matter who they are, have rights".

"We have the obligation to resolve the extreme poverty and lack of schooling of Roma children," she said.

France drew a chorus of international criticism in recent months for rounding up thousands of Roma from illegal camps and sending them back to Romania and Bulgaria.

In October, the European Commission dropped a threat of legal action against France over the expulsions after Paris vowed to change its freedom of movement laws.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010




Dear Colleagues & Supporters

We are writing to alert you that we intend to finalise our petition to President Obama and submit it to him at the end of this week.

Before we do so, could you please make a last concerted effort over the next few days to achieve a few more signatures?

The current situation is that although 50 of the families have been rehoused and Cesmin Lug camp closed, none of the affected children who were resettled in the south have so far been tested for their lead levels, or received any medical treatment, nutritional support, or mental stimulation as advised by the World Health Organisation who, like KMEG and KRRF are calling for an immediate evacuation. Furthermore, Cesmin Lug site was left unfenced permitting access for children to extract over 100m of electrical cable to sell for food.

Approximately 79 families are still living in Osterode Camp, the second toxic site and one where the UK government-funded Fluvio team from Aberystwyth University discovered lead dust deposits an order of magnitude greater than those at Cesmin Lug.

A number of these Osterode families are categorised as high-risk families who cannot return to the south for security reasons. Even so, when offered land in the north last week, they were confronted by an Albanian who said they would not be allowed to build and that their photographs were being recorded on mobile phones. They became frightened and turned down the offer. As a result, these families will have to remain in Osterode camp for the forseable future unless an evacuation is arranged.

The salaries of the Albanian government-funded Osterode Camp administrators from Kosovo Agency for Advocacy and Development (KAAD) have not been paid for several months, so the camp is now un-managed.

The condition of Ergin Salihi, the featured nine year old who was among those resettled in Roma mahalla last month has deteriorated somewhat. His face is noticeably bloated and his supplementary diet consisting of fruit, vegeables milk etc has been stopped.

Thanks for your support

Bernard Sullivan & Paul Polansky
on behalf of
Kosovo Medical Emergency Group and Kosovo Roma Refugee Foundation


Please Sign This Petition


Sunday, November 7, 2010



Sunday 07th of November 2010

Cher Lloyd was bullied over gypsy roots

Posted on: November 6th, 2010 by Robert Bergerson

The family of X Factor star Cher Lloyd revealed this week that the young star was bulled in her youth due to her gypsy heritage.

The news came from the 17 year-old’s uncle Jessy, who expressed pride in is niece for her accomplishments despite having come from hardships in her youth.

Lloyd grew up as a gypsy child. Her parents lived on the road, moving into a second-hand caravan when she was just four years old.

The caravan was towed behind an old Ford pickup truck between lay-bys in Wales as Cher grew up. Her mother sold scrap metal and father Darren worked in gardening.

Later, the family finally settled into an immobile home with her grandmother and finally moved into their own flat in Malvern.

However even though Cher’s life on the road seemed to be over, the family was still visited often by Romany family and friends, which led to bullying in school.

Her family says classmates referred to her as a “pikey” and a “gypo” whilst Cher’s parents said that they were constantly worried about having a stone thrown through the window by unwelcoming neighbours.

The Lloyd family reiterated that they’re rooting for young Cher. Her uncle Jesse said that she’d likely buy her mum and dad a new home in the even that she wins.

Friday, November 5, 2010



Bringing Out the Gypsy in Me


Published: November 2, 2010

My classmates at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where I am a Fulbright fellow, are talking more about Gypsy/Roma issues than last year.

I wish I could claim credit for this, but it resulted from the recent expulsion of Gypsies from France. The Sarkozy government initiated a program to clear the camps inhabited by the Gypsies and to deport them back to Romania and Bulgaria.

I don’t even need to watch TV or read the papers to hear about this; I just have to open my e-mail to find a multitude of articles forwarded by friends worldwide. That’s because four years ago, I came out of the closet as a Gypsy.

I grew up in a small city in southern Romania knowing that I am Roma but not speaking the Romani language and living pretty much a normal Romanian life. I heard that Gypsies were dirty, ignorant and dishonest and I vowed that I would be the opposite: trustworthy, educated and accepted.

But years later, in the United States, a friend told me he was missing some money, and I immediately felt accused, even though he was just stating a fact to me. Even after he found the money, I couldn’t rest until I explained the reason for my reaction: I was not only Romanian, I admitted, I was also a Gypsy.

For years, my Roma/Gypsy identity had always been in the back of my mind, but I avoided thinking about it or revealing it to my friends. My dream as a child came true, and I succeeded at not being perceived as “one of them.” It took a “stealing incident” to compel me to acknowledge my Gypsy identity.

The recent actions in France showed me again that I had reason as a child to conceal my roots. Being labeled a Gypsy means that you can’t be trusted, that you have no education, and that your family is probably involved in some kind of illegal activities. It means fearing that you can be accused of stealing at any moment, regardless of who you are.

Gypsies have lived in Europe for centuries. They have been generally ignored, though there have been periodic calls to get rid of them because they were “not like us.” They have been killed, tortured, humiliated and forced to assimilate and deny their culture. Like the Jews, Gypsies were singled out by the Nazis for racial persecution and annihilation, and perhaps 250,000 were killed.

Even in a modern Europe and a globalized world, stigmatization and discrimination are not rare phenomena but a daily reality. Oppression of the Gypsies continues across Europe — in Italy, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria and elsewhere. Gypsy settlements have been burned, Gypsy children excluded from mainstream schools or isolated in segregated ones, adults denied employment.

Perhaps we, Europeans, needed the “French expulsion incident” to bring to light the fact that the European Union has a Gypsy side, and that we must explore this side of our new identity. With some 12 million Gypsies scattered across Europe, influencing and influenced by their various locales, the Gypsies form the largest ethnic minority on the Continent.

If there were a Gypsy state, it would be the 9th largest in the European Union. You cannot get rid of the Gypsies without destroying the foundation of the E.U.’s values and principles. The crisis in France is akin to an acute medical incident, where ignoring the ailment is not an option. The problem in France threatens the health of the entire Union; it is a medical emergency that has been neglected too long and now demands treatment.

It is hard to accept a part of oneself that one doesn’t know much about. And who wants to accept a stigmatized side that creates so many problems?

But exclusion, denial, expulsion and deportation are damaging for a very simple reason: This part of ourselves will not disappear only because we don’t like it. It will remain in ghettos and less developed communities, and it will create problems until we, as Europeans, stop playing ping-pong with Gypsies (a sport known as migration, often forced — or, for those fascinated by Gypsies, “the culture of traveling”) and assume full responsibility for our common challenge.

Let’s not pretend that the E.U.’s issues with the Gypsies are new; let’s just accept that our interest is new. We should not be over-dramatic about “the France expulsion incident,” but we should take it as a painful wake-up call, drawing into the light what has so far been confined to a dark closet. It is time to open ourselves to exploring and seeing the situation and looking beyond labels and stereotypes.

Since I accepted my ethnic identity, I have gone from seeing Gypsies as strangers and convincing myself that “I have nothing in common with those people” to affirming that I am “one of them.” This has been more empowering than I could have ever imagined.

I likewise envision, aided perhaps by my “fortune-telling genes,” the transformation of European identity from a configuration of borders and regulations to a wholehearted acceptance of its essence and strength — the meeting of its many peoples on common ground.

Cristiana Grigore is a Fulbright fellow at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010



Writer Grass calls Germany's Roma deportations "a scandal"

Nov 2, 2010, 16:29 GMT

Berlin - Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass accused Germany Tuesday of an 'appalling breach of human rights,' saying its repatriations of the Kosovo Roma were a greater 'scandal' than French deportations of gypsy people.

The leftist writer made the charge in an open letter to Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

He was protesting at Germany sending back 8,500 Roma who arrived as refugees from Kosovo in the 1990s now that their permits have expired.

Berlin has denied that it plans mass deportations, but says it will continue, as in the past, to send them home gradually.

Grass in turn accuses the government of planning deportations that would put French expulsions of Roma to Romania 'in the shade.'

'While the whole of Europe stares and France and is enraged at the treatment of the Roma expellees and refugees from poverty from Romania, a deportation operation on a huge scale from Germany into Kosovo is under way,' he wrote in the letter.

Grass, 83, called the repatriations 'a scandal for Germany and a blot on European peace.' He added that Germany was sending into poverty abroad children born on its soil who had lived in the country for 15 years.

'No housing, no food, no social contacts, no schools, no work: that's the reality for people kicked out into Kosovo,' he said.

'It is high time to act. This injustice grows from day to day,' he said. 'In the name of the foundation, I appeal to the German federal and state governments to alter this decision.'

Grass and his wife Ute helped set up the Foundation for the Roma People in 1997. Grass, author of The Tin Drum, won the Nobel for literature in 1999.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy sparked a major political row in September when he justified roundups at Roma encampments by saying Germany was planning similar deportations. Roma in Germany generally live in public housing estates rather than squatter encampments.


The other day I did a post on Buika, whom I have only recently discovered.  Coincidentally, NPR broadcast the following program yesterday.
There are several good videos of Buika on YouTube.  Check them out.


November 2, 2010 To be born with a good singing voice is an accident of good genes. But what makes a good voice become a great one? For some singers, the answer is years of training. For others, it's life in a church choir. But this is the story of a singer who says that what you hear in her voice is freedom.

The singer is Buika, born and raised on the Spanish island of Mallorca, as the child of African immigrants. It's a little surprising to meet Buika for the first time. She's beautiful, with high cheekbones, almond eyes and a Lauren Hutton gap between her teeth. But her body seems far too petite to contain such a gigantic voice, and not statuesque enough to have once been a Tina Turner impersonator in Vegas. She says she remembers the audition well.

“Beautiful and amazing girls with long legs and, you know, high shoes, like this, at 11 o'clock in the morning," Buika says. "I found myself a little bit lost."

But Buika was a struggling single mom, and she really needed the job. So she simply conjured Tina Turner, her savior when she was growing up in Spain. As the only black kid in town, she says there was no one else to show her how to do her hair, how to dress or how to be in the world. At the audition in Las Vegas, Buika got the job.

"I’m brave like her," Buika says. "That was what happened, that I was brave. I was like, eh, this job is for me. Sure, I know that I cannot speak in proper English. I know that I can't sing in proper English. I don't care. This job is for me. Because Tina is gonna help me tonight. But I don't need her voice anymore. I got my voice."

The story Buika tells of how she got that voice begins before her birth in Equatorial Guinea, a tiny country on the west coast of Africa. Forty years ago, after the country won independence from Spain, Buika's father joined the elected government. But the president became one of the world's most murderous dictators, and Buika's parents fled, settling in Mallorca. They lived in a Roma Gypsy neighborhood where they figured they'd never be found. A couple of years later, Concha Buika was born. Most of the Gypsy kids had never seen a black person before, but they accepted the little girl and taught her flamenco. Buika says that if she'd been born in Africa, her voice would have been entirely different.

"If I were born there, I think that my voice will sound as a prisoner's voice. Like in jail," she says. "Because when you grow in those types of countries, you don't recognize freedom."

And freedom, according to Buika, has become the key to her voice. The political freedom she inherited from her parents, certainly, but also emotional freedom, psychological freedom, even sexual freedom. She is openly bisexual, and once married a man and a woman at the same time.

Taking Freedom

One of the first freedoms Buika won for herself, growing up in Mallorca, was from those who would try to hold her back. The Gypsy children may have embraced her, but others did not.

"They kicked me out of the church when I'm a little girl because they said I'm singing like a dog," she says. "They didn't want me to sing there anymore. Because you hear my voice, obviously it's not very clean. But watch out what happened with me then later."

What happened was that she paid the priests no mind, and as a teenager, started singing in jazz clubs, eventually working with one of Spain's biggest producers. He once called her "the most liberated woman on earth," and the freedoms keep coming. Just last year, Buika worked with the legendary, gun-toting, 91-year-old singer Chavela Vargas. Vargas, she says, unlocked the prison door of loneliness for her — by explaining that women need loneliness to create, without interference.

"So, to me, [it] was like a boom. Like a big boom in my head," Buika says. "Because I was so scared of loneliness. So scared of loneliness. Because when you are alone, you hear yourself. And I didn't want to hear myself."

Buika's voice has an intensity and a power that's hard to define. And it's there whether she's singing flamenco or soul or electronica or the blues. Today, she says she finally feels free to sing whatever she wants.

"We singing from the same places," she says. "We talking about the same needs. And we're talking about the same hopes. And what I feel like when I'm singing, we don't need the hope anymore. Hope is for people who wait. And I don't want to wait no more. I'm not scared anymore. I'm not scared of myself. Of my things. Of my fear. Of absolutely nothing. And that's music."

Buika is currently on her first major tour of the U.S.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010



In the early morning hours of last Thursday, a group of armed and masked assailants attacked a Roma camp in the Parisian suburb of Triel-sur-Seine. Police are said to be conducting an intensive search for the attackers. The men got into the camp by driving a car with a flashing light on the roof and forced their way into one of the caravans, where they fired shots into the air and threatened the residents. They left the scene of the crime after about a half an hour.

French media report that witnesses said the attackers arrived around 2 AM in a car with a siren and were dressed as police officers. Carrying nightsticks and pistols, they broke down the doors to several caravans and started harassing their Roma occupants. One woman was forced to strip entirely. The perpetrators allegedly also robbed the Roma present of their personal documents.

"The families will never forget this. The worst part is they have no documents now," an aid worker to the Roma told the French media.

About 30 Roma families have lived in the suburb for years and are being threatened with eviction from the privately owned land where they are camped. They have been in the process of requesting another appropriate campsite with access to running water from the local authorities for some time.

Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert


Monday, November 1, 2010



Paris: Fake Cops “raid” Gypsy Camp

Posted: 31 Oct 2010 09:53 AM PDT

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

France, October 30, 2010:

Unknown perpetrators in the night from Friday 10/29/2010 to Saturday 10/30/2010 attacked a Roma camp in the small Parisian suburb of Triel-sur-Seine.

The masked attackers, armed with firearms and batons, entered the camp with a car fitted with a blue light.

The unknown perpetrators who, according to residents of the camp, were “dressed just like police officers” forced entry to the caravans of the Roma who originate from Romania. One woman claimed that she was forced to undress and many residents of the camp claim that those fake cops took their identity documents from them.

The perpetrators said to have discharged several rounds from their guns into the air and after about half an hour finally left the scene.

According to agency reports around thirty Roma families are living on a private piece of land for a number of years already under constant threat of forced removal on the plain of Triel-Chanteloup, an otherwise rather posh suburb of Paris, and have already for a long time requested from the authorities that they be given access to municipal water or alternative accommodation.

This story obviously has two rather sinister connotations. One is that probably right-wingers pretending to be police officers have attacked this camp or, two, that the attackers were, in fact, police officers and not fake cops at all.

Either way, this is a rather worrying state of affairs for any of us, whatever minority or race we may happen to be, other that white, and, probably, not just in France.

Acts such as those could happen anywhere and the reason that I am saying that there could be the possibility that those attackers were, in fact, real cops is that incidents like that have happened in Britain, in a particular South-Eastern county, at a more or less regular basis. On incident that I am aware of was perpetrated by officers on their way home from an exercise. Something that was vehemently denied by the chief of the county's police despite of evidence to the contrary.

Methinks that the Romani People in Europe have to be very much on their guard again, especially those of us that still travel, regardless from where in Europe we may come and where we may be.