Tag Archives: Romanian music

Artist Profiles: Fanfare Zimbrul

Fanfare Zimbrul mMarching and playing on the streets of Barcelona

The group is from Moldavia (north-eastern region of Romania, not from the former Soviet state called Moldova). It consists in 10 to 15 Gypsy musicians playing brass instruments. The band leader and his brothers (playing the bass and drum) played with Bregovich in Italy and the whole band played with Emir Kusturica on stage at Odissey 2001 concert in Bucharest. They also represented Romania at highest level at Aichi Expo 2005 in Nagoya – Japan.

The artists are all related to one another. They do not use musical notes. The art is passed through generations by practice and lot of exercise. The origins of this kind of brass gipsy music are unknown. It is said Turkish and/or Russian military bands influenced them during 18th and 19th century wars between the two empires over Moldavian territory.

The band is known locally as Fanfara de la Chetris (former Fanfara din Cozmesti). They released an album in international distribution at ARC Music Int. Ltd. in 2000. Other two albums distributed only in Romania in 2003 and 2006 , produced by Softplus and Roton.

The music they play is traditional gypsy music, Romanian folklore, some new tracks from Kusturica’s movie “Black cat, white cat” were added after playing with his “No smoking” band on stage.

The band is suitable for stage show, street theatre, marching and playing, luring people from one stage to another etc.

The instruments used are all brass instruments except a middle size goat skin drum: 2 trumpets, 1 flugelhorn, 1 clarinet, 2 baritones, 2 euphoniums, 2 bass


Artist Profiles: Rom Bengalè

Rom Bengalè – Photo by Klaus Reimer

Rom Bengalè was a well-known group of Romanian Gypsy musicians. The musicians from Rom Bengali, who were between 16 to 26 years old, made an name for themselves in the moloch Bucharest with their unconditional cross over style binding traditional Lautari music with modem oriental pop music.

Music was their life just as it was their parents. They reached, however, for keyboards, electric guitars, electric bass, drums and percussion along side of the traditional music. Their interest lied not in imitating western pop music but rather in creating their own Lautari traditional, undeniably oriental influenced, electric-soul sound. The lyrics spoke about unhappy love affairs between gypsies and non gypsies, the hopelessness of the inner city, (prices rising out of control, ever growing poverty), anti-gypsy discrimination, love, jealousy, and dreams of wandering trough the world.

The group disbanded in 2001.


Artist Profiles: Fanfare Savale

Fanfare Savale

Fanfare Savale comes from a tiny Eastern Romanian village that has less than two hundred Gypsy inhabitants, where any male can play at least one brass instrument. The area probably has the largest number of bands in Europe. This is the place where the Savale brass band comes from. It would be difficult to follow back in time their vast musical heritage as they have been playing music ever since they can remember and the gift of music and the instruments are passed from one generation to the other.

From kids that are three years old to seventy year old grandparents, each person is a skilled and fully trained musician here.

These Romanian Gypsies earn their living by working their lands and playing music at various feasts, weddings and funeral services. Usually they gather and play music only to cheer themselves up. On the other opportunities, e.g. on the so called “Green Gypsy Thursday” hundred of brass players come together from different villages, to demonstrate their skills, compete and party ”in private”, without entertaining any audience.

These traditions have been preserved for centuries and the Savale are playing something peculiar in this Romanian regionGypsy music that combines the traditions of ancient Gypsy music at a breathtaking speed – up to 200 beats per minute – with those of the Balkan area, producing wonderfully rhythmic tunes played. These twelve musicians know extremely well the various music style and although, most of them are barely able to play music by notes, can play any tune after hearing it only once.

sThe Savale had a large number of performance in Romania, they were invited to music festivals, carnivals and various celebrations, have played several times in Hungary and recorded a few tunes for a German studio.

Line up: Ivancea Ciprian Catalin, Ivancea Craciun, Raducanu Dumitru, Burca Panagache, Margeanu Gheorghe, Dragoi Gheorghe, Ivancea Iosif, Cantea Georgel, Dusu Ion, Preda Costica, Conache Gheorghe.


Speed Brass Of The Gypsies (Sub Rosa, 2007)


Artist Profiles: Shukar Collective

Shukar Collective

The Shukar Collective was born in Romania out of the meeting of new generation musicians with the gypsy traditions of Shukar founders Napoleon, Tamango and Clasic. Shukar play ursari music (ursar means ‘bear tamer’ or ‘bear handler’) using spoons, wooden barrels or darbuka to create a powerful and urgent sound that is at once emotional and soulful. Urban Gypsy combines Shukar’s original ursari music with the new technology of the collective, resulting in their distinct sound.

Consisting of the three founding members of Shukar and six new generation musicians, the Shukar Collective blend traditional ancestral gypsy songs with modern technology. The original Shukar line-up – Napoleon Constantin, Tamango (Radu Vasile) and Clasic Petre – take their inspiration from many years ago, when the Tartars and Mongolians invaded Dacia (Romania’s ancestral name). Shukar’s original sound, called ursari music, was originally developed from men singing, shouting and playing percussive instruments while a bear ‘danced’ around them. Shukar are not involved with bear taming and are only concerned with the ursari sound experience and modernizing bear taming music.

Tamango, the leader of Shukar, infuses the band with folkloric music passed down to him by his forefathers. From Balarii village, Teleorman County in Romania, he is legendary on the local folk music scene and has been playing spoons since he was 16. He contributes vocals and spoons to the musical mix on Urban Gypsy.

Napoleon is the main vocalist living in the village of Gratia, Teleorman County, and he also plays wooden barrel percussion by hitting it with his foot and stones. He appeared as a special guest on Taraf De Haidouks’ album Dumbala Dumba.

Also from Gratia, Clasic performs voices and primitive percussions and despite being only 24 years old is already a living legend of ursari music.

Lucian Stan and Dan Handrabur came up with the idea to form the Shukar Collective when they heard some original Shukar tracks and saw them perform in a well-known Bucharest jazz club.

Lucian Stan is one of the founding fathers of the Romanian Underground scene and Cristian Stanciu won the Decouvertes Electroniques contest with his band NSK (Natural Soft Killers).

One of the best double bass players in Romania, Vlaicu Golcea performs in the largely unknown but excellent Romanian jazz scene. He is attracted by the possibilities electronics offer and skillfully blends the acoustic bass with computers.

The youngest of the Shukar Collective, Marius Matesan is an excellent composer and producer and Mitos Micleusana composes ambient and experimental music.


Taves Bahtalo! (Era Business, 2004)
Rromatek (Eastblok Music, 2007)
Urban Gypsy (Riverboat, 2005)


Artist Profiles: Orchestra Mihalache

Orchestra Mihalache

Orchestra Mihalache consists of the accordion player Andrei and his two sons George and Meltiade, playing the hammer-beaten stringed instrument Tambal and violin, respectively. They play with that certain drive that has made Gypsy musicians renowned worldwide and made Mihalache a famous and respected name in Rumania. Today, the name Mihalache has become synonymous with good music.

Musicians such as the Mihalaches are known as Lautari in Romania. A Lautar is a professional musician, who lives by playing at weddings and other festive occasions. Therefore, the repertoire is lively and intense. From fast dancing tunes, such as sirbas and horas, to sentimental love songs.

Since this is folk music, it is not learned from a score, but by ear from one musician to another. Traditionally, every time a Lautar plays a melody, he re-interprets it, which means that it sounds slightly different each time.

George and Meltiade have learned the tunes by playing with their father, who learned them from his father, Iancu Ciupitu, and so forth. The mother of the two brothers is from a family of Lautari too.

In the summer 2003 Orchestra Mihalache released their first CD: Tiganii Lautari. The album features age-old Gypsy tunes with fast melodies on violin and accordion on top of the crispy and shuffled rythmic beating of the tambal (a hammered dulcimer), the essential Gypsy instrument of Romania and Hungary. Two tracks feature the mature and highly emotional voice of Andrei Mihalache, a well known and sought after accordionist and singer in Romania. Tiganii Lautari was chosen as one of the five best world music releases in Denmark in 2003 at the Danish World Awards.

Settled in Denmark, George Mihalache has made the tambal well-known through his playing with accordion virtuoso Lelo Nika, who twice won the world championship in accordion playing, and reputable clarinet player Peter Bastian, not to mention numerous gigs with operetta singer Sofie Ottesen.

Orchestra Mihalache is:

George Mihalache: tambal
Meltiade Mihalache: Violin, viola
Andrei Mihalache: Accordeon and voice


Artist Profiles: Nicolae Voiculet

Nicolae Voiculet

Nicolae Voiculet has taken the panpipes and transformed them into a sophisticated solo instrument, capable of playing an enormous musical repertoire, from Baroque concertos, popular themes, to Nicolae Voiculet first own compositions written for the pipes and accompanied by the piano, organ, chamber, or full orchestra.

With his flutes, Nicolae Voiculet has crossed innumerable boundaries, both musical and geographical. Musically he has ventured into into classical, popular, ethnic, new age, jazz, world music, and sacred works; geographically he has thrilled audiences in concerts in numerous countries ranging from: Japan, Italy, the UK, China, Austria, Germany, France, Thailand, Spain, Scandinavia, South America, to as far as Australia.

Panpipes have been played for over 6000 years and are found in cultures both ancient and contemporary throughout Europe, Asia, South America, and Japan.


Nascut Din Lumina (2000)
De Dragoste (Cat Music, 2003)


Artist Profiles: Damian Draghici

Damian Draghici – Born in Bucharest, into one of the most distinguished musical families with a tradition in music for over seven generations, Damian first began to play the cymbalom (hand dulcimer), then the piano, bass, drums and accordion at an age when most us are first learning to speak. When he was still too young to play standard woodwind instruments, a small pan-flute was created especially for him.

Damian carried on the family tradition and became a master of the pan-flute. By the age of ten, he had won five times consecutively, the first prize of the National Festival of Romania. He was only twelve when he started to collaborate with famous musicians and bandleaders. By the age of fourteen, he had “broken the ice” being able to perform live on TV, the G major Concert for Flute by W. A. Mozart and Suite in B minor for Flute, by J. S. Bach.

He developed new techniques to expand the versatility of this very unique instrument, being able to perform and control different styles of music on this very ancient instrument such as: World Music, Classical, Jazz, Avant-garde, New Age and other styles.

Damian started recording as a sideman and a leader at the very young age of fifteen, being a member of the National Romanian Radio Broadcasting Orchestra, from which he started to perform and toured within the Romanian music industry. Soon he was nicknamed “Speed of Light” because of his virtuosity.

His talent led him to play with famous musicians and orchestra from around the world including: London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Festival Orchestra, Slovak Chamber Orchestra, Bucharest Symphony Orchestra and “Camerata” Chamber Orchestra. He also performed at more than a hundred World Music and Jazz Festivals in almost every country in Europe and played with musicians such as: Paul Winter, Howard Levy, Glen Velez, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Karen Briggs, George Garzone, Jamey Haddad, Sabri Brothers, Alan Dargin, Gary Thomas, Eugene Friesen, Randy Crafton and John Lockwood.

His artistic qualities are of a world premier class, musical themes and aspects of his performance represent a contemporary artist with genius inspirations. A virtuoso pan-flute player, his interpretative art is characterized with naturalness, sensibility, variety of nuance and the attention paid to balance the substance of musicality and virtuosity.

A full scholarship from Berklee College of Music brought Damian to the USA, giving him the opportunity to increase his knowledge and introduce the pan-flute to the world of jazz and having the honor of being the first pan-flute player in the history of music holding a Bachelor of Music degree on this instrument. A recording artist with European divisions of Sony and other record labels, he has already released fourteen CD’s.

In November 2001, Damian made a triumphant return to his homeland to perform to an audience of 72,000 at the Centru Civic in Bucharest. The moonlit, 7,000 room government palace (commissioned ten years earlier by Ceausescu) formed a dramatic backdrop for the concert he created to “give three hours of happiness to my people and show them you can succeed if you really want something badly enough.”


Damian Draghici & The London Philharmonic Orchestra Play The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Movieplay Music, 1997)
Damian (1997)
Romanian Gypsy Panflute Virtuoso (Lyrichord, 1999)
Damian’s Fire (EMI, 2004)
The American Dream (Century Jazz Records, 2016)


Artist profiles: Taraf de Haidouks

Taraf de Haidouks


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.


Taraf de Haidouks


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)


Artist Profiles: Mahala Rai Banda

Mahala Rai Banda

Mahala Rai Banda is an “all stars” Gypsy (Roma) band that includes players from the rural villages and Bucharest ghettos, and combines virtuoso violin playing, spectacular solos by master cymbalom players and powered by a funky rhythm section.

Mahala is the common name gypsies use to designate the areas where they form the majority of the population, and which sometimes develop into small towns. Some call them Gypsy ghettos.

Rai is a word of Arab origin borrowed by the Roma populations that traveled through Persia then Egypt and whose migration ended in Romania in the plain of Walachia. These generations of Gypsy musicians (lautari) are considered to be a sort of aristocracy among gypsies and the term rai designates someone whose authority or know-how is recognized by all. Mahala Rai Banda literally means Noble Band from the Ghetto.

The band has two foundations, a family core close to that of Taraf de Haidouks, and retired soldiers originally from Moldavia. The first are the sons of the generation that left the little village of Clejane to settle down in the ghettos on the outskirts of Bucharest, grandsons of the late Neacsu. They are between 20 and 25 years old, who have grown up playing music, and having avoided the pitfalls of drugs and gangs, make a living by playing at Romanians? weddings. Living on the outskirts of a city they have been doused in modern culture which gives their otherwise traditional repertoire a pop twist.

The second, Gypsy as well, but from Moldavia (near the Ukraine), have been in the army all their lives, enrolled at the age of 14, the only way their parents could guarantee them a decent education. Even though in Communist times technically everybody was a comrade, an equal, in reality things were quite different. A darker tone of skin, due most likely to a Gypsy heritage, was enough for a quick association to be made, sending these youngsters into the seemingly futureless musical ranks. There, they learned to play a codified folklore of songs and dances with in-depth classes of musical theory. At the height of Ceaucescu’s reign, there were 30,000 musicians in the Romanian army, playing at public functions and official governmental events. Now retired, and on a small pension, they were discovered playing in a German restaurant in Bucharest.

Banda designates an orchestra composed of various instruments (violin, trumpet, saxophone, cymbalom, percussion instruments, and accordions) that belongs to no particular genre. It is neither a fanfare nor a folk band, but can be either according to circumstance. Traditional music from the countryside meets the radically modernist style of Gypsy music from Bucharest, Middle-Eastern ornamentation, modern rhythms and the more complex rhythms from the Balkans, and harmonies from the Banat of Moldavia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania and Turkey.

Through its music, Mahala Rai Banda combines the oral culture of the Gypsy lautari musicians and the rigor of the military fanfares in which the older members of the group originally played.

2009 Line -up:

Ionita Aurel – violin / vocals
Ionita Florinel – accordion
Cantea Georgel – tuba
Bosnea Aurel – baritone horn
Trifan Andrei – tenor horn
Zahanagiu Marian – trombone
Cantea Cristinel – trumpet
Oprica Viorel – trumpet
Mihai Cristinel – saxophone
Dinu Marian – drums
Mihai Enache – darbuka


* Mahala Rai Banda (Crammed, 2004)
* Suburban Bucharest (Trikont, 2005)
* Ghetto Blasters (Asphalt Tango Records, 2009)