Various ‘Rough Guide to Romanian Gypsies’ (World Music Network) 4/5

Located predominantly in central Transylvania, gypsy music has combined Romanian as well as Hungarian melodies, and the folk songs from the region have served as the inspiration for Hungarian classical composers of the calibre of Bartok and Kodaly. In fact by virtue of their nomadic lifestyle and marginal status, gypsy music tends to cut acorss national boundaries. On this latest edition, which updates a previous compilation of the genre, we have a rich variety of sounds. Internationally the best known band is Taraf de Haidoucks and as the first part of their name might suggest, there is something of an oriental flavour to their music. This is typified on ‘Parlapup (Sa va spun de un bautor)’. There is a tendency for gypsy communities to reside in the same street and consequently these are referred to as ‘musicians’ street. Instrumentalists of note abound and are exemplified here by clarinetist Mielu Bibescu on ‘Mite mite’ accompanied by guitar and Toni Iordache playing the uniquely sounding kunan (a kind of zither with Middle Eastern origins) on ‘Cantec si Breaza (ca la fantanele)’. Musicians often play at weddings to earn a living and have an instinctive knowledge of the repertoire. Moldavian brass band Fanfare Ciorcalia fuse traditional and contemporary folk sounds (adding drums) and here contribute two excellent songs ‘Alili’ and ‘Kan marau la’. For an authentic introduction to grass roots gypsy music from central Europe, this compilation should be your first port of call. Tim Stenhouse

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