Celebrating Roma culture in Scotland on International Roma Day

By Louise Thornton

On 8 April, the Roma gypsy community in Scotland celebrate a day dedicated to their culture and way of life. Music and song is part of every day Roma life, with children learning to play a variety of instruments from as early as three years old.

Young Roma people from Govanhill in Glasgow travel to Castlemilk Youth Complex every week to play traditional Roma songs and to create rap music in their native Slovakian language. Amazingly, all the musicians are self-taught and don't restrict themselves to one instrument, moving from drums, to guitar, to keyboard.

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Roma music performed by young people from Govanhill

George Akba from the Govanhill Youth Project and young Roma people give us an insight into how music is part of their culture from an early age.

Learn more about the music of the Roma.


map of Roma migration from India through Europe
Roma migration from India

Roma people, also known as Romani and often termed 'gypsies', are Europe's largest minority population. They are believed to have originated in Central India and have migrated to various parts of the world over the last 1000 years, with significant numbers settling in Spain, France and other parts of Eastern Europe. Many have come to Scotland to seek a better way of life, bringing their families with them.

Roma flag
Roma flag. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

International Roma Day

International Roma Day was declared in 1990 to commemorate the first major meeting of Roma representatives in London in 1971. At this meeting, the Roma flag was created and the national anthem 'Gelem Gelem' was adopted.

Celebrations in Govanhill

The community in Govanhill celebrated Roma Day in 2010 with a party, part organised by Govanhill Youth Project (GYP). Jamie Tracey, Project Co-ordinator for GYP says: "We booked a hall and they played music, dj-ed, and cooked all the food. We try to do something like that every year. They're pretty good at showing us that regardless of how hard life is, you can still enjoy it."

Roma boys from Govanhill
Roma boys playing music in Govanhill in 2010. Credit: Govanhill Youth Project
Roma girls dancing
Roma girls dancing in Govanhill in 2010. Credit: Govanhill Youth Project

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