Gypsy Exchange was a community arts project organised by the London Gypsy Orchestra in collaboration with the Czureja Gypsy family, and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. Running from January to April 2011, members of the Czureja family, together with Gundula Gruen, taught Gypsy music, dance and costume making to members of the London Gypsy Orchestra and the general public. Gypsy Exchange was funded by the Big Lottery Fund's Awards for All scheme.
About Gypsy Exchange: the project and participants
The London Gypsy Orchestra
The 45-piece London Gypsy Orchestra performs original arrangements of traditional music from Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Founded in 2005 by virtuoso violinist Gundula Gruen, who conducts as well as performs, it is the biggest ensemble of its kind in Western Europe. The LGO draws together musicians from a multitude of backgrounds and nationalities, who share an enthusiasm for Eastern European Gypsy and folk music, combining orchestral as well as folk instruments. See full details on the LGO's website: www.londongypsyorchestra.co.uk
The Czureja Gypsy Family
The Czureja's are a London-based traditional Gypsy family, originally from Poland. Ricardo is a violinist and dancer and his son Benjamin is a guitarist; both are members of the Romany Diamonds band. Ricardo, Benjamin and members of their family will be teaching the sessions on dancing, music and costume-making, skills which have been passed down to them from previous generations.
Gundula Gruen is the leader of the London Gypsy Orchestra, as well as Gypsy Balkan quintet Tatcho Drom, and has studied Gypsy music for more than 15 years.
See full details at her website: www.magicviolin.co.uk
Ricardo Marek Czureja
Ricardo is a Gypsy musician, dancer and writer. Born in a small village in the mountains bordering Slovakia and Poland, Ricardo Czureja grew up exposed to Polish and Slovakian cultures as well as the strong Roma culture of his own family and Gypsy community. He was constantly surrounded by people either playing or listening to music, and was taught to play by his father and grandfather, both violinists. He went on to win a scholarship to study at the Chopin Academy of Music, Nowy Targ, Poland.
From 1981 to 1998 he played as a solo artist and as part of a band called ‘Roma’ in Poland, Germany, Italy, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, and Russia. He has also performed with Hungarian musician Sandor Lakatos.
He has appeared in and composed for films, including singing in a Russian film Yaroslavna Queen of France directed by Igor Maslennikov in 1978; he composed and arranged the Gypsy music score for the film And the Violin Stopped Playing by Alexander Ramati in 1985, and in 1988 he composed the Gypsy music score, performed as a Roma musician and taught Roma singing and dancing to the actor James Edwards Olmos in the film Triumph of the Spirit by Robert M. Young.
Ricardo left Poland with his family in 1998, due to the discrimination they experienced, and came to Britain, seeking the chance for himself and his family to learn. He emphasises how much he enjoys the opportunity London provides for his children to learn alongside those from other cultural backgrounds, and advocates the importance of education and understanding through association. This belief is evident in his music, where his current ensemble brings together people from a diversity of cultures, solely for the purpose of playing, allowing him to place the interpretation of Gypsy music within a contemporary multicultural scene. He speaks of "the richness of Gypsy musical culture and their strong and beautiful heritage", particularly the Roma ability to interpret and embellish upon other musical traditions, such as the Polish or the Andalucian.
Since being in the UK he has performed as a solo artist and with ensembles and his band Romany Diamonds at festivals and events all over London and around the country. As well as performing, he teaches traditional instrumental Roma music, singing, and dance, to young people in schools and community centres, especially in East London, and is also a writer of poetry and stories.
Guitarist Benjamin is the son of Ricardo, and was originally taught the violin by his father and grandfather, as it was the tradition in his family for boys to play the violin. However his real passion was the guitar, which he secretly began to teach himself to play. He started by learning traditional Gypsy music, but was greatly influenced when he saw on the internet 13 year old virtuoso Bireli Lagrene, as well as Angelo Debarre and Jimmy Rosenberg, who inspired him to learn the style of the legendary Gypsy jazz musician Django Reinhardt.
Since then, Beniamin has had a chance to meet and play with some of the people he was inspired by, such as Bireli Lagrene, Angelo Debarre, Andreas Oberg, Lulu Reinhardt, Garry Potter, Richard Manetti and John Etheridge. He has also received a lot of help from people like Stuart Blagden and his uncle Ducato Piotrowski.
He plays in the band Romany Diamonds, and has performed all over London and the UK, at venues and festivals including Le Quecumbar, The Vortex, the International Gypsy Jazz Festival, Womad, and with Marius Manole from Taraf de Haidouks in Le Vagabond Boogaloo Club.