Singer Monika Bagárová on Romani identity: Nothing to be ashamed of
On 2 January, Story magazine published an interview with 22-year-old Romani singer Monika Bagárová. The interview was conducted during the preparations for her performance during the opening of the Roma Spirit awards ceremony in the Czech Republic last month.
One topic of the interview was Bagárová's relationship to her Romani identity. "I think today it's modern to be Romani, it's nothing to be ashamed of. There are many of us, I'm not the only one. I certainly keep up with the times, I don't live a nomadic life - I don't get around on horses, I don't sing by a campfire and I don't read people's cards... To be a modern Romani woman means, for me, that my family and I are educated and we listen to modern music in addition to Romani music - which, naturally, is beautiful," Bagárová said.
The singer then went on to say that people in the Czech Republic usually imagine socially vulnerable families under the concept of "typical Roma". Families like hers, however, live "decent, modern" lives.
Bagárová told Story magazine that she considers one indicator of Romani identity to be hospitality, which she believes is an absolutely obvious aspect of any Romani household: "We do anything and everything for a visitor who comes to our home." She also said she has never had a problem with her Romani identity, not even at school: "I believe the basis of that is the kind of a person I am, the opinion that I have of myself. Basically, nobody has ever even asked me about my Romani identity. Maybe it's because I don't let myself be drawn into provocations, I never participate in any provocative discussions on that topic, it seems unnecessary to me to explain something to people who don't want to listen and who have already made their minds up."
The singer also explained the stand she takes on online discussions: "I don't want to get into a position where I have to defend myself. Racism and everything associated with it makes me tired if I have to address it with people who don't have their heads together."
Bagárová said she when she has commented on Romani issues, it has been for other reasons. She gave as an example raising awareness that Romani people, as a minority, should do their best to be unified, an effort she believes isn't working yet, especially in the world of the arts: "Why aren't the others glad when somebody who represents Romani people is successful? I'm not talking about myself, but about many other figures. I haven't made any statements about the issue since then."
When asked by the Story reporter whether she would get a "top grade" for her Romanes language skills, Bagárová answered: "I don't know if I would get a top grade, but I do understand Romanes, I just don't speak it, unfortunately, or I speak very little. In our family, on my father's side, everybody speaks Romanes fluently. That's super, and I think I have a big deficiency in that area and I should do something about it."
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