Taraf de Haïdouks, whose name translates as “band of brigands,” are a village band of Gypsy lautari (traditional musicians), who come from a small Romanian town called Clejani. They are a dozen skilled instrumentalist and talented singers, aged 20 to 78 years old, that never had played outside their region, until Stefan Caro and Michel Winter (two Belgian musicians) fell in love with their music in a trip to Romania in 1990, and decided to transmit their passion for this music to the rest of the world.
The first album “Musique des Tsiganes de Roumanie “, introduced to westerners the rich world of the Gypsy music of Romania, that includes medieval ballads, the Turkish style of the Balkan dances, and the characteristic vocal style, reminiscent of the roots that come from India.
With their first record, the group reached immediately the top positions of the European World Music Charts, and Taraf de Haidouks started to play concerts throughout Europe. Their warmth, eccentricity and joy while they are playing, quickly captivates all kinds of audiences. They have prevailed in concert halls or Festivals (Montreux, Womad, Bourges, Roskilde, Barbican Center, etc.) as well as in unlimited parties in bars or in the streets…
In 1992 Taraf’s members were invited to play and to record in a television program with Yehudi Menhuin. Also they carried out an important part in the film “Latcho Drom,” by French Gypsy director Tony Gatlif, who earned several awards at the Cannes Film Festival.
The second album by Taraf de Haidouks, titled “Honourable Brigands, Magic Horses and Evil Eye “, was recorded in Romania in 1994. The reaction was so warm that the disc was chosen by the German critics as “best World Music album” in 1995. In addition French director, Guy Demoy produced a 52 minute documentary for the French-German TV network, Channel Art.
During the breaks from touring the West, the members of Taraf always return to their town, Clejani, and to their traditional style of life. They live music for music, and are present in all the events of the social life of the town: baptisms, weddings, etc. These musicians, when choosing their name, wanted to pay a tribute to the Haidouks, legendary Robin-Hood style bandits, who were heroes in the medieval ballads, (Taraf simply means Orchestra).
“Dumbala Dumba “, the third album, was recorded at a home in Clejani at the end of l997. The Taraf invited a series of very particular collaborators and the great interpretations of these guests next to Taraf de Haidouks make this album a fresh, intimate and poetic work.
In addition to their work as musicians, Taraf’s members have also participated as fashion models in Paris with the prestigious Japanese stylist Yohji Yamamoto, and the choreography of Pina Baush.
During these last years Taraf de Haidouks have performed in the Royal Festival Hall of London next to the legendary Kronos Quartet.
Taraf de Haidouks also appeared in a major Hollywood motion picture with Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Harry Dean Stanton and John Turturro in the film “The man who cried” by English director Sally Potter. Taraf wrote five songs for the sound track.
One of the group’s veteran players, violinist Neacsu Niculae, died September 3, 2002.
* Musique des Tziganes de Roumanie (Crammed World Craw 02)
* Honourable Brigands, Magic Horses and Evil Eye (Crammed World Craw 13, )
* Dumbala Dumba (Crammed World Craw 21, 1998)
* Taraf de Haïdouks, compilation (Nonesuch Records 79554, 1999)
* Band of Gypsies (Crammed World Craw 24, 2001)
* The Continuing Adventure of Taraf De Haidouks (Crammed Discs, 2006)
* Maškaradǎ (Crammed Discs, 2007)
* Band of Gypsies 2, with Kočani Orkestar (Crammed Discs, 2011)
* Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts (Crammed Discs, 2015)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.