Sunday, July 06, 2008

GABI LUNCA - Sounds From a Bygone Age Volume 5 (Asphalt Tango)

Another top-notch addition to specialist Balkan music label Asphalt Tango’s widely acclaimed series of classic Romanian music.

Gabi Lunca was known as the silken Gypsy woman - as much for her florid dresses and showy earrings as for her music - and was a national star much sought after for weddings, concerts and television appearances during the peak years covered by the recordings showcased here, the late ’60s and ’70s (she’s still alive, but sings only in Pentecostal churches these days). Delivering a melancholy, organic popular music style which was redolent of the times - all jaunty accordion and yearning violin, with a backdrop of cymbalom and percussion flourishes - she intoned soulful, heartfelt narratives in a smokily seductive, slight nasal voice that may not have quite matched Romica Puceanu (subject of Sounds of a Bygone Age Vol 2) in depth or artistry, but which spoke eloquently of the lives and loves of Communist-era East Europeans.

Highlights include the delicately nuanced, deliberate rhythms of Rau E, Doamne, Bolnavioara (with great stabs of accordion from Lunca’s musician husband, Ion Onoriu); the lurching Da, Mama, Cu Biciu-n Mine!, all wheezing beat, squealing violin, and with a deeper vocal from Gabi with Onoriu’s accordion dancing between the cracks of the verses as Lunca almost breaths sad, almost sobbing notes into the microphone; and Azi E Nor, Maine-i Senin, where Gabi is uncharacteristically deep and powerful, stretching the notes out to full, emotive effect.

The Sounds of a Bygone series is as lovingly-annotated and packaged as the recent Golden Afrique series, and is as eerily seductive as the much-cclaimed Ethiopiques releases. As such it deserves equal credit. Start here, and work backwards, you will not be disappointed.

This review first appeared on

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