Edinburgh Festivals Magazine

The Cuban Gypsy

You only have to listen to Cher’s 1971 song ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’ to know that Gypsy culture hasn’t always been held in high regard. But a new show, created by an award-winning musicianturned- politician, is set to demonstrate the rich artistry the Gypsy people have given the world.

The Cuban Gypsy is a coming together of two connected worlds, Roma and Cuban, both known for their passion, rhythm and cultural heritage.

It’s the brainchild of Damian Draghici, a member of the European Parliament and an internationally renowned jazz musician who has played with the likes of James Brown, Joe Cocker and Cyndi Lauper.

For Draghici, The Cuban Gypsy isn’t just about creating an entertaining music-and-dance show – although that’s most certainly one of his aims. It’s about eradicating prejudice. “I believe music unites people and their cultures,” he says. “And after more than 2,000 years of nomadic life, the Gypsies are ready to be presented to the world as the beautiful and talented souls they are. We’ve been seen, heard and read in everything from Picasso to Bizet, from Cher to Britney Spears.

“The Edinburgh Fringe is a place where all cultures come together, so our music has its place there. We want audiences to feel and hear thousands of years of passion, struggle, fire and the joy of life.”

Created in Havana, the show features music by artists inspired by Gypsy culture – Shakira, Lady Gaga, Santana, Jennifer Lopez and others – all given a new twist courtesy of Draghici’s group of Gypsy and Cuban musicians. The show itself is inspired by the lives, loves and travels of the millions of people with Gypsy heritage, with particular emphasis on the Caribbean. Gypsies first arrived in Cuba during the Second World War, contributing greatly to the creative life of the island.

Today, they are part of the country’s rich melting pot of music and dance – with fast-paced tap for men, and flamenco and belly-dancing for women just some of the styles rooted in the Gypsy tradition. All of which makes Australian Aaron Cash – an original member of Tap Dogs and co-creator of worldwide hit Ballet Revolution – the perfect choice.

The show’s eponymous heroine, meanwhile, is played by one of Cuba’s finest dancers, Lia Rodriguez, whose own heritage lies in the Gypsy culture. “I’ve always felt the Gitano spirit,” she says, “and as a dancer, I’m lucky enough to travel the world and explore all kinds of cultures. I love the freedom of never being tied down to one place or one style, and this show allows me to do just that – to move from flamenco to contemporary to jazz to rumba. I love the transformation and that Gypsy spirit.”

Words: Kelly Apter

The Cuban Gypsy Assembly Roxy, 3–28 August (not 15, 22), 10pm