Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Alexandru Cercel and Ion Niţoi: Old style Lautar Fiddle and Cobza
I wrote a few months ago about the slow demise of the cobza (Hungarian: koboz) in Romanian traditional music. The cobza is a folk version of the lute, or more likely, a Romanian/Moldavian adaption of the Turkish oud, althoug the word is a much older Turkic root for many types of central Asian stringed instruments and appears often in medeival Hungarian as a family name for hereditary bards and ballad singers as kobzos. Finding musical sources for obscure instruments such as this can be frustrating... so it is time to share a little secret. It seems that last year a Romanian newspaper began releasing limited edition CDs of great recordings of Romanian music - including a lot of excellent lautar material - as a free give away with editions of its paper. One of these CDs was the 1957 recordings made of Alexandru Cercel by Romanian ethnomuscologist Constantine Brailou. Cercel (1883-1970) was one of the last great singers of the old lautar traditon in the Arges region, and on these sessions he was accompanied by his long time cobza player Ion Niţoi. Now the little secret: you can download this recording here. Follow the directions, type in the little secret codeword... and there you go. Since the release was a promotional give away, and the CD is now unavailable... I wouldn't worry too much about downloading it. Amazing, hardcore old style Romanian lautar music the way it was played in smaller villages before the advent of the big stage orchestras.What is also exciting is the addition of the small cimbalom - the ţambal mic - on the dance tunes, making this one of the only available recordings of a small band format before the introduction of instruments like the bass and accordion. This is what Romanian Lautar music sounded like a century ago. Another discovery I made by having way too much time on my hands... a short video on Youtube of Ion Albesteanu and Marin Cotoanta playing fiddle and cobza in pure old fashioned lautar style.