BiH musician Goran Bregovic's new foundation strives to improve the Roma community's future.
By Ana Lovaković and Bedrana Kaletović for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo and Tuzla -- 08/01/14
Roma musicians welcome Goran Bregovic (right) at the Roma settlement Gorica in Sarajevo. [avaz.ba]
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) composer and musician Goran Bregovic achieved international fame as one of the region's top modern musicians. Through his foundation Gorica, Bregovic is hoping to give Roma children the same chance he had by providing an opportunity for musical education.
Bregovic, 63, has composed songs for artists such as Iggy Pop and Cesaria Evora. His music carries regional themes and fuses pop music with traditional polyphonic music from the Balkans.
In December, Bregovic visited Sarajevo, his birthplace, to launch his foundation, which takes its name from the suburban neighbourhood in the capital that is populated by Roma communities.
"Only the educated man is a free man, and that is the Roma's biggest problem," Bregovic said during the December 9th presentation. "They do not have time for education because they are forced to earn a living. To our knowledge only a few Roma children are currently in music schools and academies in BiH."
Although the government and NGOs strive to assist the minority population, no group is involved in the field of music education. The Gorica Foundation will help Roma youths from Sarajevo through scholarships, which will open to competition this month.
"An integral part of their life is music, and we hope we see results from this unique educational project," Faruk Drina, Gorica's executive manager, told SETimes. "Knowing the reality of society in general, with the undisputed musical talent and application of new knowledge and education, we have a generation of young Roma music experts needed for our community. In parallel, the foundation will enable the Roma to realise themselves and their role in society, locate problems and find opportunities in their resolution."
At the beginning, the foundation will use the funds from Bregovic to pay for the scholarships. Eventually, funding will be generated through activities, sponsorships and donations.
About 80,000 to 100,000 Roma people live in BiH, making up the largest minority group in the country, according to local Romani activists.
A 2013 report on Roma in BiH by the Ombudsman Office for Human Rights recorded progress in addressing Roma issues.
"BiH has joined the programme Roma Decade, which is reflected in the improvement of living conditions for the Roma population," Ombudsman for Human Rights Jasminka Dzumhur told SETimes.
But NGOs said the country's support for the Roma community is still lacking.
"Relevant institutions should make an additional effort to reduce the number of Roma children on the streets and also increase number of those who are involved in the education system," Kakanj Mujo Fafulić, president of NGO Support Centre Roma Romale, told SETimes.
Muharem Tahirovic, president of the Roma Association of the Sarajevo Canton, said the establishment of the Gorica Foundation presents a unique opportunity for Roma children to change their reality.
"This is an exceptional opportunity for talented young Roma to acquire formal music education and find their way to a better future in music," Tahirovic told SETimes.
What programmes can be initiated in the region to help improve Roma rights? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.