Rap of Life was a theatre and music piece debuted at Govanhill Baths. I spoke with Marcela Adamova from Friends of Romano Lav about the shows development and its message.
Who are the main organisations involved in helping to put together ‘Rap for Life’?
Ankur productions, WSREC’s (West of Scotland regional Equality Council) Embrace Project, and Friends of Romano Lav and it’s about young Roma migrants living in Glasgow. Ankur productions were approached by the well-known beat boxer and musician Bigg Taj as he was already helping to produce music for the ‘Young People Army’. Young People Army consists of four young women from a migrant background who sing to raise awareness of their experiences. How they came from Slovakia and how they find life living in Glasgow. At the moment the group is made up of four young people named, Lenka, Michaela, Barbara and Nikola.
When I read the proposal I felt there could be further involvement from the wider area and different migrant groups as there are many cultural projects already happening, so I thought lets involve musicians and dancers too.WSREC and Friends of Romano Lav decided that it would be great to involve Polish Roma dancers from Clydebank, who I was already working with.
So who are musicians and dancers?
They are Roma people from Poland that currently live in Clydebank; they were very committed and rehearsed regularly in Clydebank. They play traditional Polish Roma music. Slovakian and Polish Roma people are very close. For example we can understand each other better than Romanian Roma. But still there are some differences in dialect and the music. The Romanian Roma dialect is however completely different. The Polish and Slovak languages are far more similar to each other and the Roma dialects borrow from the host countries language.
Traditional Roma dancers.
So they speak Roma but there are little bits of Polish or Slovakian in their dialect. Meaning someone who doesn’t speak the Roma dialect will understand parts of it if they speak Polish or Slovakian?
Yes. And because Polish and Slovakian people can understand each other as their language has a similar base, we can have a fluent conversation, even in a Roma dialect.
I was quite excited by the original idea. We have quite a good capacity to do things like this in Govanhill, so I thought ‘Let’s do something bigger’. So we included or singers and dancers. And not all of the performers are Roma but they are migrants to Glasgow.
The show is made up of two performances. The first Half is ‘Rap of Life’ which documents the girl’s migration and assimilation through lyrical hip hop and theatre performance. The second is a traditional music and dance performance.
So the show is designed to show the girls experiences and how they have found their own identities as Glaswegians?
We went to speak to Lenka and Michaela before the second night of their performance and asked how they found the first run of the show on its opening night.
The cast for Rap of Life on stage on their opening night.
Who came up with the idea of Rap of Life and how did it develop?
Michaela; Taj asked us if we were interested in turning our music and lyrics we had written for Young People Army into a theatre performance.
Bigg Taj helped the young people construct the play and music
Did you guys have a part in writing some of the play as well as the music?
Lenka; Yes we helped develop the story and music and Bigg Taj helped to coordinate our efforts into a theatrical piece.
How did you find your opening night?
Lenka; It was amazing; everyone laughed at the right places and clapped at the end of scenes etc.
Who was the audience made up of? Was it just Roma or was it a mixed community audience?
Michaela; It was mixed Roma, Scottish, Scottish Asian.
So this is the second of two nights, are you hoping to do the show anywhere else?
Lenka; We hope so but it depends as always with theatre on funding.
Michaela; Yes we would really like to as we had a full house last night and tonight as you’ve seen.
Where did you do most of your rehearsals?
We done all of it in Govanhill Baths.
How was it to combine theatre with the musical aspect of what you do?
Michaela; I have done some before for Rachel Jury in the play ‘Music of Strangers’, so it wasn’t as nerve racking as the first time I done a show.
Lenka; This was the first time I’ve done theatre so I was more nervous than Michaela. I really liked it, I’ve learned something new. Tonight will be better as we have all done it now in front of an audience.
The play and the music it has to be said was fantastic. Hopefully the guys get the chance to show it in bigger theatre spaces in the town or in other community spaces. Rap of Life is a story which translates to any young person who is uprooted when their family moves. These upheavals become more intense when the move is to a different country, with a different language and / or way of life. It’s a story told many times in popular culture through song and dance that many of us love and identify with. Many people however forget this when reading stories in the news about migrants with a xenophobic agenda that creates a ‘them’ and ‘us’ narrative. Hopefully pieces like this from young migrants help us reconnect with the human element in these stories, which help ‘us’ and ‘them’ see a way to move forward and live together as citizens in the same country, with the same needs, goals and objectives.