Musicians in Kosovo fight anti-Roma prejudice stirred up by war – Reuters

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gipsy groove balkan mania videoMusicians in Kosovo fight anti-Roma prejudice stirred up by war

PRISTINA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As a child, Kafu had no idea he was Roma. Growing up in Gjakova, western Kosovo, he was called “gypsy” everywhere he went.

Kafu only discovered what the word Roma meant when he was in his 20s. Now 30, he is part of a growing movement that is using music to challenge negative perceptions of the Roma community in Kosovo.

As the front man of the band Gipsy Groove, Kafu has shaken off his own experiences of discrimination to focus on healing the divides between Roma, Albanian and Serb communities in the Balkans.

The band has six members, a mixture of Albanian, Turkish and Roma musicians. Together they blend traditional Roma music with jazz, punk and reggae.

“As a band, we’re not just doing music because we love it, but as a political statement. We want to bring the people together,” Kafu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during an interview in a bar in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital.

Although the Roma community suffers discrimination throughout Europe, in Kosovo – where Roma make up 1.5 per cent of the population – there is another dimension to prejudice, a legacy of the country’s 1998-99 war for independence.

During the conflict, Roma were torn between the two sides, the Albanians and the Serbs. Kafu lost family members to both. But after the war, the idea spread that Roma communities had sided with the minority Serbs.

For years after the war, Roma in Kosovo faced intimidation and attacks by members of the country’s ethnic Albanian majority.

“They (Albanians) would come into our home to check we hadn’t stolen anything,” says Kafu. “My father was paralyzed in one of these attacks. But still I cannot hate people.”

It took years for the anti-Roma violence to subside. Today, distrust lingers and the Roma in Kosovo still suffer chronic poverty, widespread discrimination and an unemployment rate of over 90 percent.

In its 2016 world report in January, Human Rights Watch criticized Kosovo’s treatment of minorities, blaming “a lack of political will, funds and cooperation between central and municipal authorities” for their marginalization….

Read full text: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kosovo-roma-music-idUSKCN0WA025

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