In Belgrade, with music and a thirst for empowerment, six talented women are on a mission to change the gypsy world
They’ve been labelled the world’s first “Roma girl group”. They’re six charming, committed young women, and the messages they’re sending to their peers through their music (in Romani) are clear: fight abuse, stay in school, and don’t get married at 16. Empower yourselves. “Don’t force me, daddy – goes one of their songs – because I’ll never be happy that way”. Pretty Loud’s videos (“because ‘pretty loud’ – explains Silvia – is exactly how we want to be”) on YouTube have now amassed almost 200,000 views and the band has already sung for the United Nations, in front of the Obama Foundation and at the Women of the World Festival in London, even featuring on the front page of the New York Times. A story with
a happy ending? Not for the Roma population of Serbia (accounting for 1.5% of the total population), second-class citizens who – persecuted for centuries and massacred by the Nazis – suffer racism on a daily basis and continue to live segregated in the mahalla (neighbourhoods) of Zemun; the very neighbourhoods where the members of “pretty loud” and their families live. There are several NGOs working to change things in Serbia, one of which is the Grubb foundation which has been educating Roma children for years through art, dance and music. In 2014, six of them – now grown up and mixing Balkan sounds with rap – started the band that’s now trying to change the image of the gypsy world.