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Romanian and Transylvanian Music

Rhythms, Melody, History and Dance Performance Music

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Of all the Balkan countries, Romania has the richest fiddle tradition. Any Western fiddle player willing to master unusual meter combinations will be rewarded with an energizing repertoire of amazing music.

"The mountainous terrain, the large size of the rural population and the relatively slow pace of industrial development and modernization have all contributed to the survival of a way of life which disappeared from the rest of Europe centuries ago... As in much of south eastern Europe, much of the music making is in the hands of gypsies, and has been since the mid 19th century when gypsies first settled in the country in large numbers... Particularly important is the mountainous region of Transylvania, famed for its music as well as for its bloodthirsty legends. Though lying today within Romania, it has a large ethnic minority of Hungarians, who because of the region's isolation and poverty have maintained a culture and way of life which has changed little in centuries. Transylvania has a special place in the hearts of Hungarians as a vital link with their past. "— Chris Haigh

Transylvania is located in north-west Romania with a mixed Romanian, Hungarian and Gypsy population, and its music, of course, reflects the population.


"The primas [first violin] takes the main melody, enhancing it with chromatic runs, double stops, arpeggios, pizzicato, harmonics and the like- all performance tricks which could be improvised on the spot to enhance the performance.

"The second violin or contra (sometimes also called braci or secunda) is used to provide both harmony and rhythm. It has three strings, tuned to G, D and A, and a flattened bridge allows easy double and triple stopping, creating simple chords. The contra is held not under the chin, but low down on the chest, tilted perpendicular, allowing for very economical use of the bow. A typical bow stroke has a slight pause in the middle, separating an on- and off-beat, giving a sort of ooh-ah, ooh-ah sound."— Chris Haigh



7/8 [ 2-2-3 ]


Lyrical rubato improvisation, slow or fast, typically played over an extended single chord from a cymbalom.
Fast or slow circle dance.
The Fast-Slow rhythm of a slow hora is often written as 5/8.
Hora Femeilor (big Hora)
6/8 rhythm.
Traditionally performed by women.
Fast dance tune in 2/4 time.



Cartwright, Garth, Nicolae Neacsu, Romanian Gypsy violinist who conquered the West, 2002,, web. Obituary. "Despite his good fortune late in life, Neacsu continued to wear his battered trilby and live in Clejani. He saw himself as one of the last traditional Gypsy fiddlers, observing in an interview: 'You don't learn this job, you steal it. A true Lautar is one who, when he hears a tune, goes straight home and replays it from memory. The one who plays it certainly won't teach you. Yes, the violin is light in your hand, but it is heavy to learn. Like mathematics."

Maura Enright, Additive Meters: Count, Internalize, Enjoy!

Gundula Gruen, Gypsy Fiddle Collection.

Chris Haugh, Balkan Fiddle, Web.

Latch Drom segment featuring Nicolae Neacsu singing his famous 'Ballad Of The Dictator' while playing his violin with a horsehair tied in a loop.

Simon Broughton, Muzsickas, Songlines Magazine, 2008. Web. Brief biography about a notable and durable Hungarian and Transylvanian music group.

TARAF DE HAIDOUKS: The most famous Romanian Roma band, originally led by Nicolae Neacsu.

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