Rock legend Mircea Baniciu in Hard Rock Cafe

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

Mircea Baniciu is one of the most popular folk and rock singers in Romania, a former vocal for the legendary band Phoenix. Phoenix is the Romanian equivalent of Rolling Stones, with a four decades career, that started in the late 60’s. They were as popular and as influential to later rock music as the Beatles were for the English speaking world. Phoenix started in the heydays of the hippie period by covering hits of the foreign bands, which were forbidden in communist Romania. But very soon they found their own style in mixing genuine folklore, archaic customs and poetry with rock and roll. This brought them comparison with Jethro Tull, a band which did similar things with Celtic folklore.
But Phoenix were far from an experimental band, being by far the most popular band in the country during the 70’s, with concerts held on stadium and in overcrowded scenes. Mircea Baniciu replaced Florin Moni Bordeianu, who fled to the United States, and enhanced band’s personality with his voice and music composition. With poets like Serban Foarta and Andrei Ujica writing meaningful and symbolic lyrics, Phoenix reached a new artistic height. But the celebrity of the band lead by guitar player Nicu Covaci was starting to play against them. There were times when rock and roll fans received haircuts from the police when caught on the street, while an accusation of cosmopolitanism or liberalism could get you in court. The boys realized that their popular success among the young generation was about to trigger sanctions from the Communist Party, which already banned them on TV and in several concerts, accusing them of being decadent. So taking advantage of a permit to sing abroad, band leader Nicu Covaci had an audacious idea. He convinced his fellow musicians to hide in the boxes of large speakers and music instruments, and this was how they managed to leave the communist country that was more and more turning intro a prison. It was one of the most spectacular escapes from the communist countries and it became a legend among the young. Banned from all radio and TV stations and from music stores for over a decade, the members of Phoenix reunited after the revolution of 1989 with Mircea Baniciu, the only member who remained in the country. They were all surprised to see that hundreds of thousands of fans knew their songs by heart. Their music was smuggled and illegally copied by people in the country and was even sang by revolutionaries in Timisoara during the days they when they were fighting the repressive communist army. In Germany, where they lived for a while, and in other foreign countries, the band was presented as Transylvania Phoenix, to differentiate from other commercial brands with this name.

Mircea Baniciu had a solo career separate of Phoenix, with songs that became hits. In the 90s, he was to make once again sensation in a band called Colibri Bird (Pasarea Colibri), which united experienced musicians and a popular actor, with moments of poetry, rock ballads and folk songs.
The concert held in Hard Rock Cafe was held to promote the first Best of album of Mircea Baniciu entitled Esarfa (The Scarf), from one of his hit ballads.

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