Cheesy ballad about a Gypsy fellow who owned a house (that’s songworthy already! – historically, as slaves to wealthy landowners and Orthodox monasteries, Gypsies lived in tents or crude hovels) and who didn’t think there was anything wrong with domestic violence. A standard of Wallachian folklore (more specifically, Teleorman and Oltenia regions), this song has been sung by such artists as Romica Puceanu and, more recently, the Taraf de Haïdouks.
But here’s the best known version, sung by Maria Tănase (known as Mary Atanasiu or “Romania’s Edith Piaf”), a famous Bucharest-born chanteuse of “polished” folklore who was active between the ‘30s and ‘60s.
|Un ţigan avea o casă, mama mea,
doi copilaşi şi-o nevastă –
ţiganca era frumoasă
de-i făcea lumină-n casă,
ţiganu’ cam urâcios,
urâcios şi mofturos…
Mai venea şi noaptea beat, mama mea,
Plânge Leana şi Tincuţa, of of of,
Trecând pe lângã o poartã, mama mea,
Ţiganca când i-a văzut, mama mea,
|A Gypsy once had a house, mama,
two little kids and a wife –
the Gypsy woman, she was beautiful,
she lit up his house,
he was rather peevish,
morose and fastidious (like my English? :) ).
At night he’d come home drunk, mama,
Leana and Tincuţa are crying, alas!,
As they passed by a gate, mama,
When the Gypsy woman saw’em, mama,
* Back in the days, a boyar was a nobleman in Moldova and Wallachia. You’re still called a boyar if you live a life of luxury, but this song is so damn old it refers to the original meaning.
Alright, here’s the version by the Taraf de Haïdouks. Note the instrumental (less orchestra, more taraf) and Romani-language interjections. Definitely more authentic. The lyrics are more colorful as well. Fun to hear the Gypsy addressing the wealthy gentleman: “If you speak Gypsy language, take her as she is / If you speak like a boyar, I’ll decapitate you like a fish”. Classy.