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Ando Glaso Collective "The audience have the opportunity to experience Roma culture in its most authentic form"

Scotland’s Ando Glaso Collective mark their Sheffield debut next month with a night of music, dance and discussion.

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Members of the Ando Glaso Collective.

Ando Glaso.

"All our groups are made up of members of the various different local Roma communities. Most of our participants have no previous experience working on the professional creative scene, however they possess a wealth of knowledge and skills of our own Roma cultural heritage."

Janos Lang, the creative director of Scotland’s Roma arts organisation Ando Glaso, is explaining what makes their gigs special.

Lang says that, as a result of the group’s diversity, "the audience have the opportunity to experience Roma intangible cultural heritage in its purest, most authentic format." The Glasgow-based organisation have several ongoing projects, but on 8 March they’re bringing their biggest band, the Ando Glaso Collective, to Sheffield for a special gig at the University’s Firth Hall.

The show will be hosted under the banner of TalkingGigs, a unique series of events that blend musical performance with onstage interviews. Organiser Alasdair Dempster told Now Then that when he first heard the collective’s music, he immediately thought it would "resonate in Sheffield."

"When I like the sound of a band I always ask myself: what is there to discover? Will it be interesting and educational for the interview part of the gig, where we explore the culture, history and roots of the music? Will the audience leave with a different understanding, even a broader perspective after discovering more, and perhaps dispelling myths along the way? Ando Glaso ticked all the boxes."

For Lang, who is also a violinist in the group, the strength of the music comes from the eclectic range of influences brought together in one band. He says that the group "brings together some of the best players from the various Romanian, Polish, Czech, Slovak and Hungarian Roma communities," and that playing together allows the musicians to explore their shared cultural heritage.

Formed in 2019, the collective draw their repertoire from traditional Gypsy music, but each player also brings their own distinct musical heritage to the table. The resulting melting pot of ideas speaks to the fact that Scotland’s Roma are a surprisingly young community.

"The Roma from eastern Europe started coming to Scotland about 20 years ago, mainly settling in Glasgow but also spread around the country," Lang tells me. "Despite some challenges, they're doing pretty well thanks to good support – they're adding to Scotland's cultural mix, and there's a strong push from various groups to help them thrive and feel more at home."

The wider Ando Glaso organisation ("In tune" in Romani), set up in 2017, say they aim to unite fragmented communities that are often isolated both from each other and from wider society, and have won funding from Creative Scotland to nurture and build the collective.

Ando Glaso.

"We at Ando Glaso developed a unique way of working and empowering Roma people by building initiatives based on our own Roma intangible cultural heritage," says Lang.

Ahead of the Firth Hall show, TalkingGigs are hosting what they call a "social forum", a free celebration of Roma culture with food, music, discussion and dance. Tickets for this part of the evening are free but must be reserved in advance.

For Dempster, who has put on dozens of gigs in Sheffield showcasing music from around the world, the show in partnership with University of Sheffield Concerts represents an unmissable opportunity to spotlight an underappreciated musical tradition. "There is clearly a lot Roma communities have to offer, given the opportunity, and here was a great opportunity for Ando Glaso’s story to be heard and perhaps emulated in Sheffield."

TalkingGigs was originally started in 2014 by Charles Ritchie. Alasdair Dempster took over the promotion in 2018.

Learn more

Ando Glaso Collective play Firth Hall on 8 March. The Social Forum part of the evening is free, but you must reserve tickets.

Firth Hall features a lift and ramp for wheelchair users. It describes itself as "DDA compliant".

by Sam Gregory (he/him)
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