In Serbia, a Roma singing group uses music to spread the message of empowering women in their community. The all-female group aims to urge people to resist centuries-old traditions, including male-only leadership.
The band was formed in 2014 and is called Pretty Loud. They sing about Women chained Abuse that continues for many generations. The group sings about teenage girls whose fathers force them to marry. The songs urge women to seek love, to defend themselves and to stand up for their right to equality with men.
Pretty Loud has gained popularity and international attention. The band performed at the Women of the Year festival in the UK capital of London last year. The group recently spoke to the Associated Press about their music and mission.
“We want to stop early marriages … we want the girls themselves, and not their parents, to decide whether to marry or not,” said 24-year-old member Silvia Sinani.
“We want every woman to have the right to be heard, to have her dreams and to be able to fulfill to be like them, âshe added.
Sinani said the idea of ââstarting a girls band came from education and art classes that were given to Roma or Gypsies by a private organization called Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats, or GRUBB for short. First, she said, the women in the boys band from GRUBB danced and then decided on their own.
“They called us ‘Pretty Loud’ because they knew that women in the Roma tradition are not really loud,” she said.
The band’s music is a mix of rap music and traditional Roma music. It is aimed at a younger generation of girls who have not yet made their life decisions. The band has two 14-year-old sisters.
Her songs address the position of women in the Roma community. Pretty Loud hopes the musical messages will help grow Self-confidence among Roma women. That could be critical in a community where early marriage is widespread. A UNICEF study published last year showed that over a third of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in Roma communities in Serbia are already married. And 16 percent of this group were married before the age of 15.
Serb officials have formed a government group to work to end the practice of early marriage.
Pretty Loud member Zlata Ristic said she was an example of an early marriage. She is 27 years old and gave birth to a baby boy when she was 16 years old. She said, “Nobody made me do it, but I realized I shouldn’t have done it.”
Their marriage ended. But Ristic said she wants other women in similar situations to know that their life is not over when they have children. You can still work on your dreams.
“My biggest reward is when 14-year-old girls write to me saying that they want to become one of us, that thanks to us they are going to school, that they have improved their grades, âshe said.
The Roma are among the most underserved ethnic communities in Serbia and Europe. Roma tend to settle down together and form communities that are separate from the society around them. People face poverty, unemployment and discrimination.
Activists have warned that the COVID-19 crisis has increased the social environment isolation of minority groups and made them poorer. COVID-related school restrictions have made it even harder for Roma children to stay in the education system.
The GRUBB center is located in the Zemun district of Belgrade. Pretty Loud members teach music and dance at the center.
Diana Ferhatovic joined GRUBB four years ago. First she sought help with school lessons. But then she joined the music program and found her way to Pretty Loud.
She was in London with the band last March, just as COVID was spreading widely.
Ferhatovic said all group members were nervous before standing up in front of the crowd to perform. But then she said, âWe blew them off their feet. “
The 18-year-old said the experience was unforgettable.
I am Anna Matteo.
Jovana Gec wrote this story for the Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in this story
mission -n. a task or job that someone is entrusted with
fulfill -v. put into effect
Self-confidence -n. Knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character
reward -n. something offered or given in exchange for good or bad, done or received, or offered or given in exchange for a service or achievement
isolation -n. the act of keeping your distance from others : the state of being separated from others
blew them off their feet – idiomatic sentence to completely impress or inspire someone. emotionally overwhelm someone. make a very positive impression