A fiddle is heard, a cymbal is heard,

The sweet voice of a minstrel…

(Trec Țiganii)

 From the oldest times to now, Roma people were considered one the finest musicians, the first lute players. Even though their music has changed its sounds drastically through the ages, the way the ensembles are organised and the instruments used to play differentiate Roma artists from any other. From lute players at palaces to the religious manea that is popular today in many Roma Penticostal communities, the Roma music has evolved through the ages.


Since the time of kings and emperors, Roma have been known for their music and have always been in demand to entertain at various events and celebrations.

During the time of slavery in Moldavia and Wallachia, Roma musicians, also known as lute players (lăutari), enjoyed privileges that Romanian peasants did not.

The term “lute player” has echoed through the centuries and is a temporal landmark and a representative figure in the history of music.

When the Roma began migrating from India, they were culturally and musically influenced by the countries they crossed and these influences are still reflected in their music today at a linguistic and instrumental level.

The style of their music has oriental origins, but ranges from Indian rhythms and Turkish manea to Spanish flamenco.

According to Speranța Rădulescu, an ethnomusicologist, Lute music was built mainly on improvisation and the native talent of the Roma. At the beginning of their time in Romania, their music developed in courtyards of peasants and had a uniform character in that it did not take into account the cultural region of the country. The music was sung by voice and the accompaniment was produced ad hoc, with the blacksmith’s hammer and anvil, improvised spoons and drums.

During the communist regime in Romania, the Roma population was not considered an ethnic minority, therefore it was not possible to speak of a music that belonged to them and for this reason some Roma musicians claim that there is no traditional Romani music.

Professional Roma music, however, involves many instruments and people organised in ensembles or bands. It differs according to region. In multi-ethnic regions such as Transylvania, their music has Hungarian and Romanian influences, so it bears almost no resemblance to the music produced in the South area, where the predominant ethnic group is Romanian.

For centuries, Roma musicians have played a special role in preserving the traditions of other communities by playing at their events.

A case in point is the group Fanfara Transilvania from Cugir, in Alba county.

We sing folklore from Transylvania and Moldova and sometimes at weddings we have to sing folklore from the regions (Banat, Muntenia, Maramureș), but in general we manage to sing folklore from all areas of Romania because it comes from our country,” says group leader.

The ensemble is made up of 10 members from generations of Roma musicians with family ties (brothers, cousins, uncles).

In order to keep the tradition alive in Cugir, every child is encouraged to learn to play the brass band instruments.

In the Gypsy tradition, at funerals, Roma musicians are present throughout the wake until the burial and their role is to keep the memory of the deceased alive and to keep the community united. The lyrics of mourning songs tell the story of the person who has passed into the eternal world and through the voice of the lute player, imaginary messages are conveyed and a dialogue is created between the deceased and their family.

Among the Roma population, music sometimes has the role of attracting them to houses of prayer. Some Protestant priests, also known as pastors, have turned church music sermons into Christian manele, which has brought the Pentecostal Roma together.

Traditional lute music deteriorated remarkably after the anticommunist revolution in 1989, when the public began to turn to a new musical genre that is still so controversial today, maneaua.

Many of the lute players have slowly moved from traditional sounds to modern ones and accommodated themselves to this new trend.

Since the distant past, Roma have often had to adapt to the conditions and policies imposed by a particular territory. They have thus come to adopt the beliefs, music and way of life of the place where they settled.

Just as every part of the world has its own culture, traditions and customs, there are differences in melodic and rhythmic structures in music from one region to another.  It is therefore almost impossible to define the parameters of a musical style that belongs exclusively to the Roma minority.

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