Local Culture, cultural events and manifestations
Main feature of the Romanian local culture is the special relationship between folklore and the learned culture. This is mainly determined by two factors. First, the rural character of the Romanian communities resulted in an exceptionally vital and creative traditional culture. Folkloric creations (the best known is the ballad Miorita) were a trademark of the Romanian culture. They were both a source of inspiration for citizens from rural and urban areas. Second, for a long time learned culture was governed by official and social commands and developed around courts of princes and boyars, as well as in monasteries.
Folkloric music is one of the oldest types of Romanian musical creation, defined by its great vitality. Even nowadays it represents a source for modern musical creation. Conservation of Romanian folkloric music has been supported by a large audience, as well as by numerous performers who helped further develop the folk sound. For example, Gheorghe Zamfir is famous throughout the world today and helped popularize a traditional Romanian folk instrument, the pan flute (ro: ‘nai’).
The religious musical creation, born under the influence of Byzantine music, adjusted to the intonations of the local folkloric music. This saw a period of strong increase between the 15th and 17th centuries. Traditional Romanian music reflects a confluence of sounds similar to Central European, as well as Balkan traditional music. In Romanian folk music, emphasis is on melody rather than percussion, with frequent use of the violin for melody and often only the cimbalon for percussion. The melody itself and especially the melodic embellishments are reminiscent of music from further south in the Balkans and of a distant Turkish influence.
There is a great variety of local particularities of the culture in Romania, depending on the geographical position and the influences over time: Moldavia (ro: Moldova) is well known for brass bands, quite similar to the those we can find in Serbia. A famous song from this region composed after 1990 is ‘Rose from Moldova’. The song starts by introducing the main protagonist, “Moldavian Rose”. The vocal lead asks “Moldavian Rose” many questions, while the replies describe life in Romania and dreams. The song has received criticism for exacerbating Romanian stereotypes describing women “wearing head scarves and people farming geese”.
Consisting of Oltenia and Muntenia, is home to the ‘taraf’ bands, which are perhaps the best-known expression of Romanian folk culture. Dances associated with tarafs include sarba and hora. The fiddle leads the music, with the cimbalon and double bass are accompanying it. The cobza, once widespread in the region, has been largely replaced by the cimbalom.
Lyrics are often about heroes like the ‘haidouks’. ‘Taraf de Haidouks’ is an especially famous taraf and have achieved international attention since their 1988. Haidouks first attained visibility as ‘lautari’, traditional entertainers at weddings and other celebratory occasions.
Has been historically and culturally more linked to Central European countries than Southern or Balkan Europe, and its music reflects those influences. The province is tied historically to the smaller western regions of Maramures, Crisana and Banat, and they are often referred to collectively as Transylvania. In the end of the 1990s, the Maramuzical music festival was organized to draw attention to the indigenous music of the area.
Dobrogea’s traditional music is characterized by Balkan and Turkish rhythms. The population here is ethnically mixed, while the music has a heavier Turkish, Bulgarian and Makedonian import compared to the rest of the country. The most popular dance from Dobrogea is the ‘geamparale’, which is very much different from the other traditional dances of Romania.
Is a remote province in north part of the country, where its traditions include some of the most ancient Romanian instruments: “cobza”. Pipes (ro: fluieraç or fluier mare) are also played, usually with accompaniment by a cobza (more recently, the accordion). In modern times, violins and brass instruments have been imported in modern times.
In Banat, the violin is the most common folk instrument. Other instruments include the ‘taragot’ (today often the saxophone plays the taragot role in bands).
A special category is Suburban Folk or “Manele”. Anton Pann had the first few transcriptions of a new style that was present in the suburbs of Bucharest in the 19th century. The new style flourished and grew, being promoted by ordinary musicians playing in suburbs called ‘Mahala’. This musical style combined the Balkan and Gypsy styles into a new style that we call today Manele. After the 1989, this genre was booming in certain categories of population. The performers are mostly from the Gypsy (roma) minority in the country. This style often represented the lower-educated musicians and addressed a lower- educated audience. There are a few subjects described in those songs, mainly: money, enemies, loved ones or power/qualities.
Etno music is a popular Romanian style, which keeps somehow the typical ethnic sound of Romanian traditional folk music. It is adapted to the modern sound of music, as employs frequently synthesizer effects, along with the typical traditional instruments. It emerged in the early 1990s as a revival of Romanian traditional folk music and maintained a constant popularity until nowadays.
Local cultural events and manifestations
Romania is a country where centuries- old traditions and crafts are strongly rooted in the local culture. There is nothing unusual to see people dressed in traditional costumes going to church, carts filled with hay pulled by horses, or shepherds marching in the mountains with their flock.
Most authentic events and celebrations across the country are:
Maiden Fair on the Gaina Mountain
(ro: Târgul de Fete de pe Muntele Gǎina). It is the oldest and the biggest traditional celebration in Romania, taking place in the Avram Iancu village, in the Apuseni Mountains on the closest Sunday to the Saint Elijah celebration on 20 July. In olden times, this festivity was a gathering of the
locals, where family and f riends were reunited and it was also a matchmaking festival. The young women came with their parents and their trousseau and, if a match was made, the marriage was celebrated on the spot by the local priest. The event is animated by folk shows and ceremony dedicated to Romania’s national hero Avram Iancu.
Autumn is the season when shepherds descend from the mountains and return home with their sheep. The end of the pastoral year is celebrated all over the country, marking a centuries-old practice. In the Brasov region, in the village of Tohanu Nou, the descent of the sheep from the mountains is commemorated at the end of September. During the festival, dance and music shows are performed and a local produce market is organized where both locals and tourists can buy dairy products.
Long Way to the Merry Cemetery
Organized at the end of July, in the Maramures region, the Long Way to the Merry Cemetery is not only a festival, but a national campaign aiming to promote the traditional Romanian village as a universal heritage. The festival is organized in two different locations: during the first week, the activities take place in Tara Lapusului, while in the second week they are run in Tara Maramuresului. The festival ends in Sapanta, at the Merry Cemetery. During the whole event, craft workshops, folk music concerts and meetings with the elders of the villages to share their life stories are organized. Every day ends with a party with local dances.
Hora de la Prislop
Hora de la Prislop is a one-day festival held at the end of August in the Prislop Pass in the northern Carpathian Mountains. In the morning, the participants attend the service in the Prislop Monastery. Once the liturgy is finished, the parade of the traditional costumes follows as each participant wears folk habits representative for the area. This represents the official opening of the festivities, followed by dances, folk music and local dishes.
Junii Brasovului Parade
Junii Brasovului Parade is held on the first Sunday after Easter and is an event marking the revival of nature and the beginning of spring, but also a celebration of the new year of the Dacians, Romania’s ancestors. Junii are young people who used to reside in the Schei neighbourhood, where the medieval Romanians lived when they were not allowed to dwell inside Brasov’s citadel. Today, the festival re-enacts the juni descending from the mountains on their horses, wearing traditional clothes and carrying batons, sceptres and flags. They are spread in seven groups, each having its own costumes and approaching from a different quarter of the Schei district.