EXCLUSIVE: Riah Knight talks ‘I Will Roam’ for International Romani Day

Celebrating International Romani Day 2019, Riah Knight releases celebratory track, ‘I Will Roam’. 

“Come closer, tell me what you see. Rebel fighters […] ‘till my dying day”, Knight opens on the clicking ‘I Will Roam’. Produced by London-based OJ & Fridel, it’s a track with a whole lot of spirit. 

As heard during Berlin’s Gorki Theatre’s ‘Roma Armee’ production, in which Riah Knight stars, ‘I Will Roam’ is a track that has been evolving since it’s first performance in September 2017, as Knight explains to CelebMix: 

“It’s actually a song I wrote when I was 14-years-old and then reworked with OJ & Fridel to become part of the production. Originally the song was about how I saw myself growing up as a mixed heritage Romani in England, but then it became shaped around the show’s themes of empowerment and unity – the lyrics are really about the other artists in the production who were so inspiring to work with.” 

For Knight, it’s hard “to pindown a specific ‘Roma’ influence” on the track – “as we are a transnational people, Roma music is really varied”. She goes on to explain about the creole Romani language she grew up with, some of which features in ‘I Will Roam’. Driven with claps and brass instrumentals, the track comes with a point to make. 

With release day coinciding with International Romani Day, we asked the performer how she’d explain the movement to those who aren’t so familiar with it. 

“There are Romani people living all over the world and International Roma Day is a celebration of our culture and history. Each year it is marked by lots of different festivals and events; for example, this year I will be in Berlin where there will be a parade and different concerts and performances. At the Gorki we will play Roma Armee on the 8th and the night before I will be accompanying a reading from British Romani writer Damian Le Bas with some music and reflections on being a Romani from Brexitland.” 

Celebrating her heritage is something that comes naturally to Knight, whose parents were activists who fought against the oppression of the Romani people. 

“It made a big impact on me growing up while my mum was the National Coordinator of the first Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month in the UK – because it meant I spent a lot of time at events that were celebrating our people.”

“Actually one of my first opportunities to perform came from the History Month’s launch in the Houses of Parliament where I sang ‘Summertime’ – I was 11 and I think I sang the wrong words because my dad used to sing the song to me as a lullaby and make up his own verses…” 

The next stop in a journey that has seen Knight perform at the London Roundhouse and Notre Dame, as well as London Parliament, ‘I Will Roam’ comes ahead of a Berlin music residency, ‘Romnja Jazz’, before summer theatre tours and more new music. 

Have you listened to Riah Knight’s new track? Let us know @CelebMix on Twitter!

Written by Toby Bryant

Student journalist: music, sport, culture and just about anything in-between… Have worked for The Courier, NME, Daily Mirror, FourFourTwo & British Rowing, amongst others.
@toby_bryant_ on Twitter