The Roma Bridging Sounds Orchestra (RBSO) is the first Roma Youth Orchestra in the UK. Created by Newham Music in 2015, the RBSO has just started its third season after receiving a year of a funding from Youth Music in 2016/17.
Roma people have rich traditions, deeply rooted in their distinct musical influences from across Eastern Europe and passed down through generations. Musicians in the RBSO have the opportunity to explore these styles and combine them with traditional Western music styles while working with music professionals from both backgrounds.
The RBSO is a unique initiative developed from the need to train young, talented, Roma musicians in a culturally diverse and inclusive environment. The RBSO builds bridges between Roma and non-Roma young musicians through the power of learning and playing music together which results in a brilliant fusion of Roma sounds.The London Borough of Newham has one of the largest Roma populations in the country, and we felt it imperative that we highlight the rich musical traditions of the often discriminated against people.
Newham Music worked in partnership with the Roma Support Group to reach out to the local Roma community for the best chance of feedback and engagement. After identifying and recruiting young people from the community, we worked to provide them with musical foundations that would ensure an easy transition into formal ensemble training. These measures included private lessons, free instrument hire, and basic music theory classes taught in native languages.
On the other hand, young musicians who had previous experience playing in ensembles or in private lessons required support in the methods of learning by ear and improvisation which are traditional in Roma music. The Birmingham Conservatoire led a day-long workshop focussed on practising improvisational skills for all members of the orchestra in May 2017.
Throughout the 2016-17 year when we received support from Youth Music for the RBSO, activities included weekly rehearsals, theory lessons and instrumental lessons, three Newham Music Academy concert performances, an invitation and performance at the Music for Youth Prom in November 2016, the Birmingham Conservatoire workshop, Roma singing workshops in June 2017, and the exciting opportunity to record an album at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in July 2017. Our music leaders were also able to create individual arrangements for almost every member of the orchestra, based on their individual abilities and instruments, for 15 pieces, totalling over 100 individually arranged parts. So many of these activities would not have been possible without the support of Youth Music.