Romany Diamonds

Ricardo Czureja, founder of the Romany Diamonds, arrived in the UK from Poland with his family in 1998. The Romany Diamonds have existed in everything other than name for a long time, but were finally christened and formalised in 2008. The Czureja family have always been musical; Ricardo’s son Benjamin explains that music is “what we live off; it’s our bread”. The male family members play violin – a tradition going back generations – but Benjamin has broken the rule and learnt the guitar. Heavily influenced by Django Reinhardt, Ben’s guitar playing adds a little gypsy jazz to their music. He was taught by his father – who had received a formal classical education, alongside his expertise in Roma music – from the age of 14. The other band members are also Roma (except Yugoslav double bassist Viktor Obsust who is of mixed origin), and have learnt Roma music orally since childhood. Ricardo plays violin and sings, in Polish, Roma, and occasionally English; but he also dances, recites poetry and is a storyteller. Benjamin’s grandfather also sometimes plays with the band; once one of the finest violinists in Poland, he is showing no signs of slowing down well into old age! Benjamin’s much younger sisters, Cindy and Miriam, also sing with the band from time to time.

Their music is an energetic whirlwind of violins played at breakneck speed, hurried along by the rhythm section of accordion, keyboards, double bass and guitar. Whilst their music is traditionally Roma in sound, flecks of other genres appear, such as folk music from Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, and Jewish music.

Ricardo explains that since moving to London, he has found the freedom to play with many other races and faiths, which has enriched their music. He has also formed a Roma Orchestra for children in East London.

From the Cultural Co-operatin website: www.culturalco-operation.org

Listen to the Romany Diamonds on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaW2fQGSB5k

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