The Rough Guide music series has a new title focuses on Gypsy music. The Rough Guide to the Music of Romanian Gypsies (RGNET1210) represents the music of Romania’s 2.5 million Roma (Gypsy) population. Romania has many of the world’s top Eastern European Gypsy musicians, including Taraf de Haidouks, Fanfare Ciocarlia, Mahala Raï Banda, Toni Iordachi and Gabi Lunca. From energetic brass bands and mesmerizing cimbalom players to legendary haunting fiddlers, The Rough Guide to the Music of Romanian Gypsies presents the internationally acclaimed performers together with renowned local artists that have, until now, not been heard outside of Eastern Europe.
The dozen-plus members of Taraf de Haidouks are essentially ‘The Roma All-Stars of Clejani’. Their critically acclaimed recording in 1991 led to international tours at the world’s top concert halls. Musically, the group is simply mesmerizing. Improvising old folk songs, four violinists, three accordionists, cimbalom, bass and vocalists challenge each other in musical duels.
Gypsy brass bands are found throughout Serbia, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, parts of Greece, and beyond. The members of Mahala Rai Banda hail from two groups: grandsons of the late Neacsu of Taraf de Haïdouks, and retired soldiers from Moldavia creating a spectacular blend of urban folk music with military brass. This massive ensemble includes violins, accordion, cimbalom and a driving brass section. Fanfare Ciocarlia is a remarkable brass band known for their dazzling wit and impromptu improvisations. In 2006, they won the BBC World Music Award and were featured in the soundtrack of the novelty film Borat.
DJ Vasile and Dreamdoktor had the idea to remix original Shukar’s folkloric Gypsy songs. The original Shukar ensemble performed usari music, which included vocals, percussion and a dancing bear. With electronic samples from the original Shukar, DJ Vasile and Dreamdoktor have created a vibrant new atmospheric usari sound of Shukar Collective.
Under Romania’s communist regime, there was only one way to get music recorded: the state record label. The path to a recording career normally involved formal training, passing an audition to become a professional musician, and getting the attention of ‘higher ups’ to gain the opportunity to record as a soloist. Florea Cioaca, one of Romania’s greatest Roma violinists followed this path. Following years of performing in state ensembles, he was finally given the opportunity to make this recording.
Despite the radio being state-controlled, Bucharest’s national radio station took requests from listeners, and during the 1970s the music of accordionist Marcel Budala received the greatest number of positive feedback. By the 1950s he was touring across the country along with Romania’s top folk musicians. A virtuoso accordionist with a remarkably agile touch, Budala was known for his double, triple and even quadruple staccatos. ‘The Billie Holliday of the East’ Romica Puceanu was in the 60s and 70s one of Romania’s greatest singers of the cintec de pahar, a form of urban Romanian Gypsy music that blends Turkish and Romanian elements.
One of Romania’s greatest vocalists, Gabi Lunca sang with Aurel and Victor Gore’s taraf and toured with her husband and Toni Iordache. Over the past two decades, Gabi Lunca has only performed at Bucharest Pentecostal churches. Toni Iordache was considered one of the greatest virtuosos of the cimbalom who packed concert halls across Europe, North America and Japan.
Aged 8 Ion Miu was performing in public at the Lenin Culture House under the direction of conductor Traian Tarcolea. That year, he began travelling throughout Europe, packing concert halls in France, Italy, Austria and Germany to see the ‘Amazing Cimbolom Wonder-Kid’. In the 1970s and 1980s, Miu performed with many of Romania’s top artists, and in the 1990s he moved to France, where he was cubbed ‘The Mozart of the Cymbal’.
Also featured in this compilation are Ion Petre Stoican, Cornelia Catanga, Andrei Mihalache, Dan Armeanca, Constantin Stanciu, Nicolae Gutsa and Dona Dumitru Siminica, Mielu Bibescu.
Buy the CD:
- In North America: The Rough Guide to the Music of Romanian Gypsies
- In Europe: The Rough Guide to the Music of Romanian Gypsies
Author: World Music Central News Department
World music news from the editors at World Music Central