Taraf de Haidouks, Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts

Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts is the sixth CD released by Taraf de Haïdouks, a Romanian Gypsy band. Since the band formed in 1990, this CD also celebrates their 25th anniversary. Taraf de Haïdouks began as a group of individual musicians who came together to play for various village events, such as weddings and funerals. They all hail from Clejani, about 40 km south of Bucharest and not far from the border with Bulgaria. The area has long been recognized as a hotbed of traditional music; in fact, a number of the musicians in the band appeared on recordings from the area taken by ethnomusicologists who visited in the late 1980s.

taraf_de_haidouks_lovers_gamblers_parachcute_skirtsThe band has evolved over time into a strong and very popular performing ensemble, touring worldwide and appearing in films. These include Latcho Drom (Safe Journey), which documents the travels of the Romani people from India to the far western edges of Europe and The Man Who Cried, starring Johnny Depp and Cate Blanchett. Four of the original band members have passed away, but, like many traditional bands, new members have joined to replace them. Featured on this CD are nine band members, playing violin, flute, accordion, clarinet, and cimbalom (a large hammered dulcimer), along with five guest artists, including three vocalists.

At 72 minutes long, the CD contains 14 separate tracks, featuring a very listenable and entertaining mix of slow ballads and fast dance tunes. Selections reflect the band’s intention of revisiting some of the traditional melodies and styles that inspired them in the first place. Track 1, “Balalau from Bucharest,” is a song about a musician well-known for gambling and starting fights in bars. The vocalist is guest artist Viorica Rudareasa, one of the few Rom women working as a professional singer (all the regular members of Taraf de Haïdouks are men). Her voice and vocal style remind me of Marta Sebestyen, who often performs with the Hungarian traditional band Muzsikas. In fact, the pulsing rhythm on this track reminds me a lot of the music of this band! Rudareasa reappears on Track 13, “I’ve Got a Parachute Skirt,” a rather raunchy song about a woman whose husband leaves her alone a lot and her interest in finding other men.

Track 3, “Cold Snowball” is a ballad about someone whose lover left him. The song starts with a plaintive flute that slides into accordions and a very sad-sounding male vocal, in this case the band member Constantin Lautaru, who learned the song from another musician.

I always find myself preferring the instrumental tracks on CDs like this. One of my favorites was Manele Pomak, a fast one featuring Filip Simeonov, the band’s Bulgarian clarinet player. This one has a Middle Eastern feel, not surprising given the influence of the Ottoman Turks on this region. Another was Track 11, “Dance Suite a la Clejani,” a medley of dance tunes. But then I also enjoyed Track 9, “No Snow, Nor Rain,” an old ballad performed by Gheorghe Manole, a guest artist who usually performs as a street singer. He plays his violin with a horse hair in lieu of a bow, giving it an interesting raspy sound. The track, which also features the cimbalom playing of Ion Tanase, sounds like Gypsy blues.

Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts comes in a trifold paperboard package with two pockets. The CD is in one pocket. The other pocket contains a very nice little 28-page booklet in lieu of liner notes. Written in French and English, the notes include a brief description of the origins of each track and translated lyrics for the ones with vocals. Several pages in the booklet feature photographs of the band taken at various times over the last 25 years. They look like they are having fun!

(Crammed Discs, 2015)

[Editor’s note: Taraf de Haïdouks have a website. Crammed’s page for Taraf de Haïdouks’ Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts has a few tracks available for streaming.

Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati del.icio.us Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

1 comment to Taraf de Haidouks, Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>