Part two of our interview with Speranţa Rădulescu, Doctor of
Musicology, manager of the Ethnophonie music label, and currently Head
Researcher in the Ethnomusicology department of the Romanian Peasant's
Radulescu (SR) The
best musicians is one thing; the best music is another, very different.
think there are official folk festivals bringing together good musicians,
but I strongly doubt that these festivals present good and true Romanian
music. They present folkloric music, appreciated (perhaps) by stupid
foreign tourists and for the national-communist Romanians.
can listen to good music only in the villages or on the outskirts of the
towns. There, the music is free, spontaneous, largely improvised, and
impressive. I don’t want to insist but I do not appreciate the official
folkloric music, even if it is promoted by all Romanian media and other
cultural institutions. I think it is a 'mensonge' (fabrication), an
artificial construct, only good for people unable to feel the difference
between the true and the false.
Are there any up and coming young folk musicians or bands you can tell us
there are. My favourite young musicians and dancers are those grouped into
the band 'Taraful din Carei'. Most of them are around 26 years old. They
are playing and dancing as angels, I can’t tell you how beautiful they
are, how splendid are their traditional dresses and high hats, what a
sound they have, what a presence. Some months ago they played in Geneva
(Switzerland) and Annecy (France) and they met with a tremendous success.
Of course usually they are performing for wedding parties, but lately I
helped them to tour Europe, because I am convinced they have a brilliant
future as stage artists.
The brass band 'Speranta'
from Zece Prajini village (Moldavia) are also young, around 34. The Gherla
musicians too are also quite young all around 40, their musical style
elegant, their music magnificent. In Venezia, Paris, Hanover and other
cities they were celebrated as stars - the Director of the famous 'La
Fenice' theatre in Venice had to appear on stage to calm down an
enthusiastic, explosive audience!
Do not imagine
that the traditional musical style is performed only by old musicians!
The option of a musician for an older or newer style is determined
by a lot of factors, the age being only one of them and not necessarily
the decisive one.
was yous position at Electrecord? Have you worked in folk music elsewhere?
worked for Electrecord as a collaborator, as a professional artistic and
scientific counselor, for 8 years. (At that time I directed the ethno-musicological
department of the Institute for Ethnography and Folklore in Bucharest.)
Together with other specialists, I chose the music to be played by
soloists together with with orchestras and afterwards put them on records. It was very frustrating for me, because I hated the orchestras,
their conductors, the official stars and the manner they deliberately
distorted the traditional music in order to turn it into 'co-modified' (i.e.
the music produced conforming to the official media) socialist music. The specialists
were selecting the good music, but Electrecord was transforming it into a
common, 'regular', stupid folkloric production.
Don’t speak about the musicians chosen directly by the officials
of the communist party! It was, really, very frustrating. But on the other
hand at Electrecord I had the opportunity to meet some very interesting
and good musicians, for instance Ioan Pop from Maramures county, Dumitru
Iederan from northern Transylvania, Alexandru Ciurcui from
Transylvanian Plain, Viorica Sandu from Wallachia…
After 1990 I proposed to them that we work together, on my terms.
They accepted and we made recordings and toured in different countries.
Even if these musicians were (or are) excellent and they met a lot of
success abroad, in Romania they are rarely considered 'stars', because
their music is too savage, too rough i.e. too improvised, unpredictable,
simple, in contradiction with the official aesthetic requirements. For a
long time in a similar situation were the famous ensemble 'Haidouk' from
Clejani village, but that is another story.
was your roll in the Document series of LPs released by Electrecord?
and my best friend of that time, Carmen Betea (now established in the
States), initiated the DOCUMENT series and we produced six of its eight
LPs. The music we chose is magnificent, rough and refined at the same
time, peasant, sincere and 'natural'. And played by real traditional
musicians (most of them Gypsies) from the period 1930-1960. We believed
that through the records we would be able to create an alternative to the
official 'folklore' of that time. Wrong! The communist regime hated the
cultural alternatives, as it hated all kind of alternatives. Nevertheless,
the six records appeared and they met with significant success among the
intellectuals. I am proud of this music, collected mostly by Constantin
Brailoiu at the beginning of the 20th century.
I am proud that we succeeded in producing it in that period. It
wasn’t easy, but we succeeded.
is your opinion of such artists as Toni Iordache, Radu Simion, Dumitru
Farcas, Maria Tanase, and now the star Gheorghe Zamfir?
(SR) Do you
want me to get nervous the people reading my words? Anyway, I'll answer
I do not like
them. I hate particularly Gheorghe Zamfir, who was – and still is – a
vulgar 'cabotin'. But I admit that most of these artists have/had
important and impressive qualities – for instance they are virtuous,
they know what to do in order to captivate the common public etc.
I admit also that
every person has the right to
like the music fitted to him - so their music must exist, must be
produced, must be available in the music stores. For others, not for me,
not for my friends.
the demise of the Ceausescu regime has folk music changed?
course it has. First of all because folk music does not stop changing. The
change is its mode of existence. Nevertheless, Ceausescu's demise
determined more dramatic changes:
- at the level of 'wedding music'. This type continues incorporating
different balkan elements and becoming 'musique de metissage pan-balkanique'
('balkan world music'). (Lots of Romanian people, especially
intellectuals, are stupidly afraid of this kind of change, because
it de-naturalises the 'national specificity of the Romanian popular
- at the level of of the 'co-modified' music – i.e. the music produced
by the official media. This type is no more obliged to glorify
Ceausescu’s regime, but it keeps being rigid, false, glorious,
predictable, etc. – i.e. it retains the properties of a
Meanwhile the old
musical genres and styles of the old tradition keep fading and
disappearing. It’s life. The Romanians must assume that it is dying, as
everywhere in the world, and there is (almost) nothing to do in order to
prevent its death.
is the archives of Electrecord would you like to see re-issued that has
not already become available?
like to see on sale all recordings made with Maria Lataretu. She was a
huge artist. I am sure the public would appreciate her music.
have seen the popularity of the Taraf De Haidouks in the west, are they
still relatively unknown in Romania?
quite. At the beginning, the common people in Romania ignored their music
and their astonishing international career. Nevertheless the intellectuals
had the opportunity to listen to them at the Peasant Museum, in 1991, and
they where charmed.
professional popular musicians, in their turn, could not believe that the
Haidouks musicians met with success everywhere. They could not believe it
because the Haidouks played mainly traditional music, not the 'folkloric'
music of the communist regime which is learnt by all Romanians. The regime
teaching that the valuable music must always be 'arranged',
'domesticated', and 'folkloric'.
In Romania, after
the initial success of the Haidouks, there were rumours about the huge
success of the musicians from Clejani village. The common people began to
realize that the success was a real and deep one.
In December 2000,
I think, they played in Bucharest the first time after 9 years to an
audience made up especially of foreigners and media people. They were
magnificent. Nevertheless, the Romanian press did not reflect their success
in an appropriate manner.
In the spring of
2002 they played again, in the biggest hall in Bucharest (Sala Mare
a Palatului). Around 2000 people waited for their performance. This time,
they played together with a quite strange world music brass band. A part
of the public was confused –me too. It was not the music I loved 12
years ago, when I traveled with them abroad. Nevertheless, 'my' old-style
musicians are still extraordinary, I cried a bit listening to them, I was
I am concerned
about the music the Haidouks are playing now. It is clear for me that the
ensemble is looking for renewed musical solutions, but it is not clear if
it will succeed in finding a valuable solution. The future will tell us.
Anyway, I adore
the musicians of Clejani village. They are the most imaginative and vivid
I ever met in my life – and I met a lot of popular musicians!! I am glad
that, at the very beginning, I had my small contribution to their rise.
Laurent Aubert from Switzerland and myself produced their first CD, which
remains probably the best, the noblest of their career. This record was a
successful one. Stephane Karo, their present manager, listened to this CD
– 'Musique des Tsiganes de Valachie' Les lautari de Clejani (Ocora 1988)
- and, in 1990, went in Clejani, made up a band and began touring with it.
That’s how ther Taraf de Haidouks appeared.
Haidouk musicians must be the best Gypsy band in the world. I am
not an expert in show-biz, but I know that they are not an ordinary band,
on the contrary!!!
I hope they will
remain the best as long as possible.
Sincere thanks are due to Speranţa Rădulescu for taking the time to answer these questions and for all her work in the field of folk music and ethnomusicology. Thanks are also due to Costin Moisil for the photographs.
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