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From 1864 and the abolition of slavery, many homeless gypsies settled on the outskirts of southern towns of Romania, these areas were called "mahalas" and it was where the songs "cantece de mahala" (songs of the suburbs) originated. People met in the local cafe or "carciuma" and a group of local musicians the "taraf" which usually consisted of violinist, double bass player, cobza, accordian and tambal and vocalist would entertain everyone else. This music was/is known as "Lautari".
Romica Punceanu was born in 1926 in Bucharest and started singing in cafes by the age of 14 but it wasn't until 1964 that she actually recorded an album, The Gore Brothers (famous Romanian musicians - Aurel and Victor) who also grew up in the same mahala and were in fact cousins to Puceanu helped her become famous by organising gigs for her.
She has a strange voice, sometimes incredibly high other times really low - quite similar to a black male blues artist. She was infact likened to female jazz/blues legend by being dubbed the "Billy Holiday of The East"
The arrival of Balkan pop in the 90's led to the downfall in popularity of Lautari and unfortunately she died in a car crash in Bucharest in 1996.
Whilst this album misses some songs like my personal fave Saraiman or others like La Mai da o damigeana, Inimoara, Inimoara and Mai Spiritule, it does cover raw early songs that generally can only be found in poor condition, the re-mastered versions on this album are sublime and the recording quality is great.
You can feel both the energy and pain in these tracks as Puceanu sings simple songs of suffering and desire of simple peasant folk as well as be witness to wonderfully talented backing musicians who don't try to cram too much in and give Puceanu plenty of room for her massive vocal range to be displayed.
This album is one of the few great examples of early old taraf music. I definitely recommend buying this as well as a later album which includes the legendary track Saraiman.
Romica Puceanu - vocals
Aurel Gore - violin
Victor Gore - accordion and vocals (6 & 11)
Marin Marangros - cymbalom
Grigore Ciuciu - double bass
Maslina Vetoi - cobzy
Costel Vasilescu - trumpet
unknown - violin
1. In gradina cu tufani 04 :24 / 2. Balanus 02 :43 / 3. Hora lui Baila 01 :11 / 4. Sa te ajunga dorul meu 04:19 / 5. Vintule, bataia ta 07:15 / 6. Pleaca-o nevestica-n lume 04:38 / 7. Maneaua florareselor 02:20 / 8. Inima suparacioasa 03:28 / 9. Doi tovarasi am la drum 04:07 / 10. Hora dinspre ziua 02:15 / 11. Adu calu' sa ma duc 04:19 / 12. Unde o fi puiul de aseara 03:53 / 13. Hora lui Gore Ionescu 02:13
*some of this review was originally posted by me on my blog (www.jungleofjohns.blogspot.com) on Feb 29 2008.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 In Gradina Cu Tufani
3 Hora Lui Baila
4 Sa Te Ajunga Dorul Meu
5 Vintule Bataia Ta
6 Pleaca O Nevestica N Lume
7 Maneaua Florareselor
8 Inima Suparacioasa
9 Doi Tovarasi Am La Drum
10 Hora Dinspre Ziua
11 Adu Calu' Sa Ma Duc
12 Unde O Fi Puiul De Aseara
13 Hora Lui Gore Ionescu