Ghetto Flowers: Transform Through Hip Hop

In 2017, Victor Gabriel Almy Laying the foundation for Breakingconcrete vibratorsHis idea was to revitalize Cluj-Napoca’s break scene and bring together all fans of dance, hip-hop, and urban culture in general. “I wanted to put the elements of hip-hop — graffiti, breakout, jukebox, DJ — under the same roof, again. Let’s not talk about individuals who do something great, but about a community of creators, where everyone comes up with their own skills and together we do something great,” explains Victor.

He soon realized that hip-hop could be a growth tool for others. When hip-hop helped him grow, Victor imagined he could share his knowledge and the vitality of this culture with others. Who is better than young people to move mountains with unlimited creativity and imagination? Victor shared his vision, then set up “Concrete Rockers” and from now on he worked on creating “Ghetto Flowers” ​​and “One May Jam” event dedicated to hip-hop culture and growing people through it.

We caught up with Victor and found out more about how he was able to turn his idea into reality and what it means for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to be part, for seven months, of a community that lives and breathes hip-hop.

Graffiti workshop with Reborn Studio

© Marian Goya

In 2017, I set out to create a community in Cluj around hip-hop culture, around the four elements that define it: graffiti, breakout, MC-ing, and DJ-ing. What was your vision then?

Our long-term goal is to create a cultural center in Cluj-Napoca, based on hip-hop music. In 2018, I realized how much impact we can have on society, to be open to people, and to learn. Also in 2018, he joined the band Simena Poinar, a national champion of breaking in 2021. She stayed in Bucharest for a few years and developed a dance project, “Breaking Class”, which is now in about six cities in the country. It deals with this part of learning, with the vision of the concept of a national cycle that will revitalize the community through dance and create new generations. Because, unfortunately, we let more people dance than they did.

Also in 2018, we celebrated the band’s first anniversary and did so in collaboration with Beard Brothers, a Cluj charity. We had a corner at the event and found it cool how so many people got together for a cause without realizing, “Oh, if I did this thing, what would I get?” Everyone was volunteering and I thought it would be great if even the people in the organization would pay for the participation ticket, as an example of good practice. Then we asked ourselves, “How can we get hip-hop music to help people?”

Simina Hoinar knows how to calm class spirits just by looking.

Breaking the Cypher exchange in the Ghetto Flowers team building

© Paul Inwan

In 2019 we had the first edition of One May Jam that we 100% organized. We had 35 children with difficult situations in Cluj, and they participated in the workshops we set up. They’ve stayed with graffiti artists, learned to paint, and spray, stayed with DJs while they played music, let them scratch, and mingle. With cutouts too, they learned the steps, to stay in the head and all sorts of other items. After that edition, we were very sorry that we didn’t have the opportunity to continue working with these kids because we didn’t have funding yet. In 2020 we stood idly by due to the pandemic, but in 2021 we started the “Ghetto Flowers” project. We realized that there is a possibility to get funding and do everything through the book: with the salaries provided to the people involved, with the necessary technical equipment, and other things that are needed. So we got down to business and organized the first edition of “Ghetto Flowers”.

Why do you think hip hop can help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds understand that all is not lost?

Hip-hop can be both educational and positive. In order for hip-hop music to exist, it does not need anything special. The elements that make up hip hop music is an art within everyone’s reach. Well, maybe the DJ-ing part requires some equipment, but basically, if you want to learn music or learn rhythm, you can simply learn by studying online for free. We did the same thing in the beginning.

For example, in 2009, when I started breaking up, there were some older guys I was training with, but then this mindset was, “I’m not showing you because I also learned on my own and I don’t want you to learn a scheme that I struggled for so long to get on him “. Then we had to learn from the internet and from other people at the competitions, and spontaneously this continual desire to grow and not wait for someone to show you, “Look, that’s what you have to do, that’s how you have to eat, that’s how you get dressed and dance.” Everyone has had the opportunity to learn what they want and how they want it, and automatically, it seems to me that this freedom helps children a lot when it comes to creativity. It’s all about getting the consistency needed to go on on your own, not waiting to get information in your mouth in order to keep up with what you like, what interests you.

Victor Gabriel Almay, aka Vicu The Cutter, in action, on stage with BMC

Victor Gabriel Almay, aka Vicu The Cutter, in action, on stage with BMC

© Marian Goya

What I’ve seen in the children I’ve taught so far is what McCanachie said in a play “It’s just a children’s gameEven though we already have 10, 15, 20 years of experience, the game remains the same, it helps us to stay young, always have an open mind, is oriented towards learning, accepts different opinions, understands the fact that we are different and that’s it Alright, that’s it.

How was this experience for the young people who spent seven months with you on the “Ghetto Flowers” project?

I’ll give you an example of Severus, the troubled boy at first, who didn’t really blend in, he was always in scandal, quarrels, oath, of those. He always had a negative and hesitant attitude towards other children. But in October 2021 we shared experiences with the gang from Reborn Studio in Bistrita, they were our project partners, and we spent a whole weekend with activities from the hip-hop culture. After that weekend, all the dynamics changed. Severus became the best, corrected the other children, was the most attentive, did his homework, did more than was required, came to us with heaps of drawings, and went to all the activities. At an auction I held, his drawing was sold for the largest amount of 700 lei. We were all shocked by his development. Being a trouble kid, you’d think there was the slightest chance of getting caught. He has earned more!

His name is Surdu because he doesn't hear anything around him when he puts his hand on the turntables and headphones on his ears.

Surdu heated cypheres and 7 toDrink from One May Jam 4

© Marian Goya

Why do you think his behavior has changed so drastically?

Felt like someone cared! He felt that someone cared what he wanted! We’re not there as adults coming in and telling you that you have to do it, whether you like it or not. We tried to arouse their desire and curiosity to do certain things because they wanted to.

What inspired the name of the project “Ghetto Flowers”?

The name came from a friend of ours. We thought of young men who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, from poor neighborhoods, and then from the rare Zahrat al-Zawiya. The analogy was that these ghetto children are rare corner flowers, which can grow and become special under the right guidance!

Will you follow the second edition of the project?

At the beginning of July, we will find out if our project has been shortlisted for new funding. If this happens, a presentation will be made to the committee, which will make the final decision. If we go further, we will start preparing the project itself in the fall, and other smaller related events.

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