They steal horses, don’t they? (Căpitane de judeţ / To a county captain)

In Romanian, when someone gets a good beating, one can say they hit him like a horse thief. That’s what usually happened to horse thieves when they were caught. And in the rural regions of Wallachia and Moldova there were a lot of thieves and rustlers hiding out in the thickets. Sure, the forests aren’t […]

Lie, ciocârlie

Not unlike Mr. Shelley, Romanians have always admired the skylark, a small bird often found nesting in cornfields and famous for singing while in flight. This song is a great example of a doina, a weeping, monophonic tune which Wikipedia can tell you more about. Melancholy is brought to you by “the Gorj Nightingale”, Maria […]

Codin (În pădure la Daimac / In the forest at Daimac)

Here’s a ballad from Gorj, Oltenia. You guessed it, it’s about death. Oh! what a surprise. More specifically, the song is about a handsome young Rudar Gypsy who has a nasty logging accident because he didn’t heed his mother’s advice. Update: A little bird told me the author of this ballad is Oltenian folk singer […]

Lume, soro lume / World, sister world

Yet another dark, brooding folk standard about how life is so damned ephemeral. Mentioned as having been taught to famed virtuoso Grigoraş Dinicu (you can hear his Hora Staccato in music schools everywhere) by an old Gypsy called Zamfir around 1900. Here we have Bucharest-born Maria Tănase‘s clean, canonical recording (“authentic folklore” purists may sneer). […]

Deschide, gropare, mormântul / Gravedigger, open up the grave

One of the more abyssal songs of Romanian Gypsy lăutăresc repertoire. Best known version belongs to “Romanian Cesaria Evora” Romica Puceanu, however I chose the clean contemporary approach of Ionel Tudorache’s taraf. It’s not only the cynical lyrics! The droning, repetitive cimbalom in the background and the weeping accordion make for one hell of a […]