Taraf de Haidouks from Clejani, one of the most famous Gypsy music bands

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

The band of fiddlers from Clejani (an impoverished village near Bucharest) came home for a little concert after touring the entire world. The legendary “taraf”, meaning a fiddlers band, exists fro decades, with members being replaced by their sons, sometimes. Their authentic Gypsy music was appreciated even by violonist Yehudi Menuhin and actor Johnny Depp, who invited to his mansion in California for private concerts.
Clejani is a place where music is played for 500 years, the village itself being established to house Gypsy serfs who entertained boyars or played at weddings and even funerals.

Traditionally, they were accompanied by cimbalom (a string instrument resembling a pianno witout the keyboard, at which the chords are struck with little hammers, artfully maneuvred by the player), by violins, a big base and later accordion. Sometimes with the cimbalom tied to the neck, these singers had a vast repertoire of hundreds of ballads about love or the adventures of “haiudci”. These were the local version of Robin Hood, highwaymen who took to the forest because of the heavy burden of taxation and abuse from landlords or foreign invaders, robbing the rich to spread the booty with the poor.
The singers were capable of singing for more than a day at weddings with little repetition, mixing consecrated passages and improvising along a melodic rhythm.

Among the former members of the band are Gheorghe Motoi, famous for the number of ballads he knew, violonist Florea Cioacă, counter-bass player Petre Manole, violonist Nicolae Neacșu (Culaie). But the most famous fiddler remains Dumitru Baicu, nicknamed Cacurică. Whith Culaie and Cacurică, the band lived its glory days, becoming famous in Romania and on other continents.

In the 70s, a renowned singer and instrument player, Ion Albeșteanu made a selection, gathering 50 musicians from Clejani for a grandious ensemble. The like of which was never possible to reunite again, the band playing in tours with just 10-12 members. Ion Albeșteanu was a menthor and trainer for the group, tormenting them with excruciating long hours of repetitions, that chiseled their way of singing and their native talent.

In 1986, at the initiative of ethno-musicologist Speranța Rădulescu and Laurent Aubert, the Taraf of Cacurică recorded for the first time an album, that was edited in France, two years later. Another enthusiast, Stephane Karo, comes in 1989 to Ceaușescu’s Romania to meet the sensational musicians heard on the French album. It was an epic romantic journey through muddy streets, to a village without a train station, searching for a band that was almost unknown to Romanians at the time. He gave them the name Taraf de Haidouks from Clejani and sets himself to bring them over to the West, across the iron curtin.

The Haidouks of Clejani became such an established brand in the West, that in 2007, at the death of Cacurică, British newspaper The Guardian dedicates him a large article, though the sad event had passed almost unobserved in Romanian press. In a similar anonymity, just years before had passed away also the greatest voice of Gypsy traditional music, Romica Puceanu, which an American anthropologist compared with Portuguese Cesaria Evora.

The music of Taraf de Haidouks was an inspiration for Goran Bregovic, but also for Moldovan rock band Zdob și Zdub, who launched a rock version of „Sârba lui Cacurică”.
After the Revolution of 1989, and even some years before, Gypsy singers created a new revamped version of fiddlers music. The new style, called „manele” (or turbo folk in Serbia) mixed traditional folklore with oriental sounds, tunes from allover Balkans and pop and disco tunes. New electronic instruments were added to bands performing in restaurants or at weddings or producing underground recordings, such as synthesizers, electric guitars, clarinet, drums or even Arab style of drums. The new style made sensation in the suburbs with loud speakers and direct catchy lyrics about money, women and street rivals, instead of the old more poetic verses about the melancholy of love or happiness.

The members of Taraf were for a while tempted to try the new successful style, but their manager immediately convinced them it would be a pity and a dead end for their career. Without making any compromise to commercial music, the current Taraf of Haidouks from Clejani continues to take further the tradition with the following membership: Ilie Iorga (voice and violin), Gheorghe Fălcaru (flute and voice), Gheorghe Robert (violin), Ion Tănase (cimbalom), Gheorghe Anghel (violin), Costică Lăutaru (violin), Manole Marin (acordion), Viorel Vlad (counter-bass). The membership is variable, with new players showing up from younger generations.

The concert marked the International Day of the Gypsyes, 8th of April, established in 1971. The day commemorates the victims of the Holocaust, Gypsies being the second larges contingent of victims, after Jews, targeted for extermination by the Nazy regime. A million Gypsies is thought to have died during the Holocaust. Though Gypsies constitute only a small portion of Romanian population – just 2%, according to the last census, unofficially probably over 5% – Romania is the country that houses the most Gypsies of the entire 10 million worldwide population.

In recent years, the more politically correct term „Roma” is used to designate the Gypsies, instead of traditional term, „țigan”, that is still the common term used by most of the people, including Gypsies, in day to day conversations. The new politically correct name of this ethnic group causes a lot of confusion, many Westerners being convinced that ”Romania is the country of Roma people”, which is both demographically and historically untrue.

The names given to this group follow its winding route that goes from India, through Persian Empire and the Byzantine Empire. Accused of practicing witchcraft, Gypsies got the name „athinganoy” (the untouchable). In Wallachia of the Middle Ages, the term designated rather a social class at the periphery of society or even in serfdom, which is the cause of some Gypsies not looking too Indian but sometimes blonde. In England, they arrived during a persecution of Christians in Middle East, and asked for refuge as Egyptians, which is the source of the common name given to them in the English language. Gypsies were expelled from many countries of Europe and were even subject to massacres, so although the history was troublesome, the very existence of this extra-European community in places like Romania, Slovakia, Russia, Bulgaria, Spain, marks the level of tolerance of those countries towards non-Europeans.

Mai multe despre: Events
Other pages