Romanian music generally falls into two broad categories — Transylvanian music, from the Hungarian-dominated northwest, and, across the Carpathian mountains that run through Romania, the Balkan-oriented east. Music from Transylvania looks westward, toward Hungary and Western Europe; the Turks never conquered Transylvania, and it never developed their Eastern sound, as did Romania’s once-Turkish east.
The most gripping Romanian musical tradition is the doina, which blends slow, often-improvised melodies with much faster accompaniment, which, as National Geographic’s Romanian page writes, “gives the music an exciting rhythmic tension.” Most Romaninan ethnic groups use the doina, even across the Carpathian provide.
In Translyvania, though its people are a mix of Hungarians, Romanians and Roma, most musicians are Roma “lautari,” a class of professional musicians who play “gypsy” music in a Central-European style somewhat akin to klezmer. In East, tarafs (bands) like the internationally known Taraf de Haïdouks (“band of brigands”) play Roma music with more
Turkish and Arabic influences, or form brass bands like Fanfare Ciocărlia whose style is reminiscent of Turkish military ensembles.
In addition to this thriving village folk scene, Romania’s modern music is strong, especially in its cities like Bucharest, where you can dance all night to techno and Europop…if that’s really what you want.
National Geographic on Romanian music | Wikipedia on Romanian music, including information about the specific music of various Romanian provinces | The Rough Guide to the Music of the Romanian Gypsies
In class we’re going to listen to:
— “Red Bula” by Mahala Rai Banda
Mahala Rai Banda is a rollicking Romani ensemble from Bucharest that combines violins and accordions and a rousing rhythm section with an army brass band from the village Zece Prajin.
Wikipedia on Mahala Rai Banda | Mahala Rai Banda live on what seems like a sound stage | Mahala Rai Banda live in what seems like someone’s living room, but is actually a London Romanian restaurant
— “Que Dolor” by Fanfare Ciocărlia from “Best of Gypsy Brass”
Fanfare Ciocărlia is another Romani band from the exceptionally talent-rich Carpathian mountain village of Zece Prajin (population 400). Fanfare Ciocarlia is a high-energy “gypsy” brass band that plays music from Romani, Romanian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Serbian and Macedonian styles, and also incorporate music from Hollywood and Bollywood. The band started as a loose assortment of musicians who performed at weddings and baptisms. Since a German sound engineer encouraged them to come together in 1996 they’ve played over a thousand concerts in 50 countries.