Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Taraf din Clejani, 1949-1952. Happy Chanukah!
It’s the first evening of Chanukah tonight, and we have a special little gift for all you fans of the festival of lights... classic early recordings of the Taraf din Clejani, the Romanian Lautar orchestra that would eventually become known as the Taraf de Haidouks... all for... free. The musicians of the village of Clejani, located about twenty kilometers west of Bucharest on the dusty Oltenian plains, are better known as the world music phenomenon called Taraf de Haidouks. I had heard the band from Clejani earlier on a French Ocora label CD. Speranta Radulescu began recording the Lautarii from Clejani in the early 1980s and, in 1986, she took the Swiss musicologist Laurent Aubert to Clejani, where they made a series of recordings with the late Nicolai “Culai” Neacsu and members of his family.Aubert released this work on the French label Ocora in 1988 as "Musique des Tsiganes de Valachie; les lăutari de Clejani" In their original formation, the bands tended to comprise about four or five members, which is about how many musicians could be supported on the money from a wedding gig in traditional context. Their western promoters felt that the band should be presented as a large scale spectacole, and so the Taraf de Haidouks was formed which included as many as 30 musicians on stage at a time. Fame abroad did not, however, translate into acceptance at home - as Garth Cartwright writes in this report, the Taraf were still looked down upon by the authorities inBucharest as "dirty Gypsies" even while their CDs sold millions abroad. It made for great stage shows, and imprinted the Oltenian lautar tradition on western audiences as a wild ride with multiple accordions, several cimbalom players, and dozens of fiddlers competing for the mike stands. French festival promoters like stage overkill, and Taraf de Haidouks were willing to provide it in spades. In a traditional context, however, the bands would have been much smaller, and to my tastes, it is in those line ups that one can really appreciate the old style lautar presentations of ballads and epic songs which would be sung after midnight by the friends of the groom. The musicians from Clejani were not some discovery made out of the blue in 1990, however. Clejani had been active playing in national folk festivals and stage performances as early as the 1940s in Romania. The existence of so many dynastic lautar families in Clejani is attributed to the days when Gypsies were slaves to noble Boyar estates in pre-independence Wallachia. Clejani, apparently, was attached to a larger Boyar sponsored monastery, providing work for many Rom Lautar families. A newspaper in Romania, the Jurnalul National, has been issuing a series of classic recordings of Romanian music over the last year as gift CD to subscribers. Unfortunately, this means that these are not current, commercially available recordings. We’ve already posted about their fantastic CD of Alexandru Cercel. Well, Happy Chanukah everybody! Here is the link to download a full CD of early field recordings of the Lautarii from Clejani, made between 1949 to 1952. (The link leads to a German based file sharing site, don’t worry, it is safe. Type in the pass code, wait a few minutes, and it’s all yours. How I got to that file is another, very Romanian story… ahhh, Romanians and the internet, a match made in Heaven!) If you can’t read Romanian, the Jurnalul offers a fine flash presentation of historic photos of the Clejani lautarii (click on the camera icon below the photo on this page. This is the sound I love. The small ensemble style really gives a sense of what the music of the outer marches of the Ottoman world sounded like when this music still functioned within a feudal society that provided for a professional caste of musicians. You can hear the more archaic Turkish/Ottoman influences on the repertoire, alongside Central European music for the new urban Elite of Romania. Although Klezmer music doesn't actually share much direct influence with the lautar traditions of southern Romania (as opposed to the lautar tradition in Moldavia, where the two musics do converge in a strong way) both Jews and Gypsies functioned as conveyors of Ottoman musical practice and theory into European music.This is Clejani without the glitz of the World Music spotlight. This is the good stuff.