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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gica Petrescu - Casuta Noastra (Kanza Remix)

The History of Romanian Music

"Despite becoming a Roman colony after the defeat of the Dacian King Decebalus (AD 101-106) and numerous invasions by Goths, Tartars and Huns, Romania still maintained a separate musical identity. Influences from neighbouring Turks and Greeks can be detected however. As in Russia, Serbia and Bulgaria, the early Christian rites in Romania were influenced by the Eastern traditions of the Byzantine Empire with it's mixture of Roman, Greek and Persian cultures.
From Bishop Niceta of the fourth century onwards, the repertory of liturgical music of the Romanian Orthodox Church continued to expand and develop. The provinces of Moldavia and Wallachia remained faithful to old peasant traditions, however Transylvania came into direct contact with Western harmonic developments, partly due to Romanian musicians travelling to Italian and French courts during the sixteenth centuries.
In 1833, the Philharmonic Society was established in Bucharest and a Philharmonic School (later to become a state conservatory) was founded in Ia?i, the Moldavian capital. In 1877, the Romanian opera was established in Bucharest.
Romanian Folk Music
Romanian folk music is ancient, spanning over two thousand years and includes incantations, laments, ritual dances and songs. Folk music was tapped by Bart?k in the early twentieth century who published over one thousand folk tunes. His main source area was Hunedoara. Kod?ly also used folk music in his compositions.
Much folk music can still be found in Transylvania which is home to a mix of Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons and gypsies and the music has successfully survived all attempts of change. The folk music here is closer to the Hungarian style than to Romanian music outside Transylvania and the Hungarian music of Transylvania sounds more Romanian than the music of Hungary. The Romanian dances often have a more irregular rhythm than the Hungarian.
 The traditional Transylvanian ensemble is a string trio consisting of a violin, viola and a double bass with the addition of a cimbalom in certain parts. The prim?s or the first violinist plays the melody and leads the musicians from one dance into another while the viola and bass only act as an accompaniment and rhythm section. The viola and bass provide the characteristic Transylvanian sound. The ensembles may be expanded to include a second violin or a viola to provide more volume at a noisy wedding for example.
Much of the music in Transylvania provides a social function such as at weddings, funerals, parties, and so on. In some areas there are still weekly dances. Wedding parties can last up to a couple of days and the musicians normally initiate the celebrations either at the bride or groom's house. The "cantecul miresei" is the bride's farewell song. Music accompanies the procession to the church and while the wedding ceremony is taking place, music entertains the guests outside and during the procession to the party afterwards. There can be particular pieces of music for certain courses of the banquet. The bride's dance is known as "jocul miresei", where the guests dance with and offer money to the bride. A trend for larger weddings has resulted in more instruments being added to the wedding ensembles such as the piano accordion, the taragot and the clarinet. There is a movement towards playing traditional melodies on modern instruments such as the guitar, drums and electric keyboards.

A large percentage of Romanian folk musicians in Transylvania are Gypsies who tend to congregate together and live down one or two streets known as Strada Muzicantilor meaning musicians' street. Music is passed down from parents to children. The best Gypsy bands can command large amounts of money and are well respected in the villages. The Gypsy music of Wallachia is different to that of Transylvania and the groups are known as Taraf. The music is more oriental in feeling and songs are often preceded by an instrumental improvisation called taksin. Instruments include the fiddle, the tsambal (cimbalom) and the double bass. The common dances are the hora, s?rba and br?u, all of which are danced in a circle.
Other areas rich in folk music include Kalotaszeg where the Western style has influenced the region to a large extent with the introduction of a minor key accompaniment. The region is also famous for the men's dance "the leganyes" and the slow "hajnali" songs which are performed in the early mornings at a wedding feast. Another area is the Campia Transilvaniei (Romanian term) or Mezosag (Hungarian term) which is the area North and East of Cluj and Szekelyfald which is home to an eccentric form of dance music.
Moldavia is home to a pipe and drum style of music which sounds wild and other-wordly. The fiddle playing in this area is highly ornamented with complex and irregular rhythms. The regions of Maramures and Oas are very traditional in the sense that costumes are worn for everyday life and the music includes magic songs and spells of incantation against sickness and the evil eye. Maramures is home to an instrumental ensemble of violin, guitar known as a zongor? and drum. The sound produced is very primitive and lacking in harmonies. The guitar produces the drone.
The musicians in the South of Romania have a large repertoire of songs and ballads which include legends such as "Sarpele" and "Ciocirlia". Wallachian villages famous for their Gypsy bands include Mirsa, Dobrotesti, Sutesti and Braila. In Moldavia and Bucovina, the village bands have survived less due to their musicians not being Gypsies.
Many Romanian ritual customs have their origins in pre-Christian rites. Carol singing is popular as singers visit houses with good luck songs known as colinde. These are different to carols sang in the West. Midwinter pagan songs also exist in Western Romania, characterised by strong and irregular rhythms. New Year is traditionally celebrated with masked dances and the capra or goat ritual. The goat is both a costume and a musical instrument by articulating the wooden muzzle so that the jaws can clack together to produce the sound. The ritual is based on old ancient fertility rites and the noise of bells and clappers are also supposed to frighten away evil spirits. Goat dances are prevelant in Moldavia where the rite has become almost carnival like. The Calusari dance is performed during Whitsun week and is another fertility ritual. It was originally performed by an odd number of men with a wooden sword and sticks.
The Romanian Doina
This is a free-form, semi-improvised and old song tradition which is comparable to the philosophy behind the blues. Feelings such as grief, bitterness, separation and longing are explored in this music which has a private essence to it. Professional singers sing these songs today. Traditional doinas can be found in the area of Oltenia, South of Romania.
Hungarian Music in Romania
Transylvania is home to a well established community of Hungarians whose music has made a great impact outside the region. Certain traditions have continued in this area, even after they have disappeared in Hungary. As a minority group, the Hungarians have attempted to keep their identity by wearing traditional costumes and maintaining their traditional folk songs intact.
Traditional Romanian Instruments
Traditional instruments include the bucium, caval and naiu.
The contra or Kontra is a viola having only three strings and a flat bridge so that it can only play chords.
The gardon is shaped like a cello but is played by hitting the strings with a stick.
The cobza is a lute which still remains in use today.
The fluier is a shepherd's flute.
Music and Politics in Romania
In the nineteenth century, Romania became involved in the growing wave of nationalist feeling which spread across Eastern Europe. A socialist political system also emerged after World War II and this resulted in a massive restructuring of Romania's music. Former President Nicolae Ceausescu's twenty five years of dictatorship still has a bad effect on Romania and some of the country's folk music.
During his dictatorship, folk music was manipulated to glorify Ceausescu and displays were carried out known as Cantarea Romaniei, meaning Singing Romania. This involved peasants being pressurised into dressing up in traditional costumes and bussed out to picturesque hillsides to perform songs and dances. The lyrics were altered to suit and the charade was filmed, edited and shown on television. The real traditional folk music was continued on the quiet in the villages by the peasants, despite Ceausescu. Forced resettlement of villages has perhaps been the only factor in affecting traditional culture in some areas." 

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