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Career pathways for Roma musicians 07/08/2018

Posted by allthingsro in music, Uncategorized.
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If you are a Romanian Roma musician, you have, very crudely speaking, two career pathways open to you: you can “manele up”, or you can go down the traditional music route.

To take the manele career path first. If you ask a Romanian what manele is, they’ll probably tell you “Gypsy music”, but this is not strictly accurate. It’s party music made by Roma to exploit Romanians. It’s fun and often cheap and tacky, and can sound vaguely oriental. Sample lyrics may include such gems as “You know that I’m sorry / I was with another girl / My heart belongs to you.” The words generally celebrate the singer’s virility, cunning and wealth. It’s customary to throw notes of money at the musicians at live manele performances. Top manelist Dan the Badger has diversified by founding a school for aspiring performers. And as BBC2 documentary The New Gypsy Kings reveals, some may have connections to the Romanian underworld.

The other end of the scale is populated by the likes of Fanfare Ciocarlia and the brilliant Taraf de Haïdouks, dubbed the best band in the world by Johnny Depp. They perform ferociously fast traditional music. The most successful gypsy bands get to travel the world. Taraf de Haïdouks used the money they earn from touring to bring electricity to their village.

But there are two problems. They lack protection and cannot rely on the police to provide it. Putting on international tours requires credit, and according to members of Taraf de Haïdouks, Romanian banks are reluctant to give it to Roma musicians. They resort to borrowing from loan sharks, and their income from tour appearances may barely cover their debts. Their amazing female vocalist is shown earning a pittance making bricks by hand in the BBC2 documentary.

Clearly Taraf de Haïdouks need a better manager. A hard-headed negotiator and creative strategist who can cut deals and organise stunning global tours. I’m up for it. To be honest, I’ve never managed anything more challenging than a busy inbox, and I wasn’t very good at that. But I can gen up with a copy of Music Management for Dummies and learn as I go. This could be the dawning of a new era for all things Romanian.

My Romanian-language vlog of 2017 07/01/2018

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YouTuber MsAnneGreen is quite simply a beacon of hope. Watching her vlogs I am filled with a sense that, perhaps one day, Romania might become a better place. And she is never failingly entertaining.

MsAnneGreen, a PR graduate, has transformed herself into an online agony aunt for young Romanians, producing Sex Talks that answer questions such as, and I quote, can a guy lose his virginity if he has sex with a condom? She vlogs about making “bus friends” in her guide to travelling on Romanian buses (yes, you need them). She has quite an appetite and posts her video reviews of snacks sent in by her fans in other countries. Recently she’s opened up about 2017 being a difficult year for her own mental health. My all-time-favourite vlog has to be her hilarious and very accurate impressions of types of Romanian shop assistants.

But my vote for Romanian-language YouTube vlog of 2017 goes to Anne’s boyfriend, makadobra, who appears in some of her vlogs and provides a laugh-out-loud voiceover for a make-up tutorial she made. In his vlog “Mesaj pentru prieteni”, he rounds up a top five of frequent Romanian grammatical mistakes. He waxes lyrical as he calls upon Romanians to insert a comma after “la mulți ani” (“la mulți ani, mama… la mulți ani, România… la mulți ani, virgula!”), while at the same time owning up to occasionally making one or two of the other errors himself. He explains that if a young Romanian male texts “vrei sa vi la mine” to the object of his affections, he is unlikely to get anywhere. It is a wonderful piece of educational and entertaining theatre.

Bravo, Andrei! Here’s to Romanian YouTubers and commas everywhere.

An Anglo-Romanian ice cream creation 21/11/2017

Posted by allthingsro in food.
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When I headed off to university, I took with me Sophie Grigson’s Students’ Cookbook, a Sainsbury Cookbook. It has served me proud and remains a go-to cookbook on my shelves.

The Sweet Things section includes a recipe for Jam Ice Cream that intrigued me for many years: truly, is it possible to create something as delicious as ice cream with just three ingredients, one of which is jam, and a minimum of equipment? Well, I’ve tried it, and it most certainly is.

On my second attempt, I replaced the English marmalade of my first foray into the delights of Jam Ice Cream with a more Romanian flavour.

I went to my local Romanian store, The Village Shop in Norwich, which was sadly petrol-bombed following the EU referendum in a hideous act of cowardice.

Dulceata afine

I chose Dulceața afine, bilberry jam, for nostalgic reasons: bilberries take me back to my trip to the Banat. Now Dulceața afine is a jam that doesn’t hang about. It’s a powerful kick of vitamin C and ideal served with pancakes.

As you can see from the photos, I went for a raspberry ripple effect. Ideally the jam and cream should be blended more thoroughly; otherwise you risk encountering a dull lump of cream in the midst of the bilberry deliciousness.


375 g (approx.) Romanian jam
2 tablespoons lemon juice
300 ml double cream

You will also need a freeze-proof plastic box (approx. 900 ml to 1 litre capacity).


Start by making sure you have space in your freezer. The plastic box should be stored flat in the freezer, and ideally you want to be able to slip it into the freezer with minimum tipping.

Mix the lemon juice into the jam until it is smooth. Whip the cream until it just holds its shape, then fold the cream into the jam.

Pour into your plastic box, cover and freeze for at least 8 hours.
Romanian jam ice cream

Designer luxury, made in Cisnadie 04/07/2017

Posted by allthingsro in places, Uncategorized.
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The Guardian reported on 17 June that luxury Italian shoes by Louis Vuitton are largely made in Cisnadie, a small town in Transylvania.

The shoes retail as “made in Italy” under EU law because the soles are added in Italy, where the shoes are “finished”. But all the other steps in the production process take place in Cisnadie.

Production is managed by an obscure subsidiary of LVMH, Somarest, and is shrouded in secrecy and high security. The factory employs some 700 people from the local area. The Guardian calculated that an employee would have to work for nearly half a year to save enough for a mid-range pair of Louis Vuittons.

But shifting production to Romania to cut costs is an old story. Romania is becoming the world’s back office. Translation technology provider SDL has an office in Cluj providing technical support and, I think, some development services (big thumbs up to Raluca for sorting out my licence problem in no time).




‘Tis the season of goodwill 02/01/2017

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As it is – or was – the season of goodwill and good cheer, I’ve donated to dexonline.ro. DEX is quite simply the committed Romanian learner’s best friend and a beautiful resource. Although I wouldn’t dare to claim that I’ve been very committed to expanding my Romanian vocabulary over the past year, I still love DEX. And I’d even argue that it beats Duden hands down, even though this is the kind of thing that the Germans are supposed to be good at. For one thing, entering a search query takes you directly and quickly to the results page (nul points to Duden there). The definitions are also usually more helpful than Duden, and DEX generally lets you jump directly from the noun form, for instance, to the related infinitive (which Duden doesn’t). In some cases, the definitions on DEX are enriched with examples from literature.

All in all, a big thumbs up to DEX – I’m sure I’ll be back, and I hope I’ll be able to donate more generously in future.

My new identity by Google AdWords 19/12/2016

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Ever had that feeling that you don’t know who you are, what you’re doing or where your life is heading? Luckily Google AdWords is here to help.

Google AdWords can’t solve my many existential problems, but at least it can tell me what to buy next. And apparently, what I need to do next is send money to my family in Romania.

To explain: I’m a freelance translator, so I spend a lot of time online looking at a lot of random stuff, most of which is work-related. If I translate a marketing text about coffee, I’m haunted by images of coffee machines everywhere I search for a week.

Last week I took a 15-minute and checked out a few pages on cinemagia.ro, the go-to Romanian-language site for film news. Google AdWords then decided I must be a Romanian living abroad who is missing my family back home and really wants to send them some money. What’s next? forbes-2016-12-14


Romanian exports 26/09/2016

Posted by allthingsro in music, Uncategorized.
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You don’t need to go to Romania to experience Romanian culture. Thanks to the Romanian diaspora, Romanian music comes to you if you live in Offenbach, near Frankfurt in Germany.
I spotted this poster for manele star Sorinel Pustiu in the centre of Frankfurt while I was wandering through my old haunts in Frankfurt. I lived in the German financial metropolis for about six weeks, but it would be more accurate to say that I lived in Little Romania. Frankfurt is now a building site, and the Turkish café downstairs is now a shisha bar, but some things don’t change. There’s still a tiny off-licence round the corner where you can pull up a pew and have a brew if that’s what takes your fancy, and Offenbach is still a destination for Romanian cultural exports.sorinel_pustiu_in_offenbach-001

Manele before manele was born 01/02/2016

Posted by allthingsro in music, Uncategorized.
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I’ve stumbled across an intellectual discussion on the evolution of manele. To Romanian ears, that last sentence might sound like a full-on contradiction. Ask a Romanian what manele is, and they may well answer “gypsy music”.

Not so. Manele or maneaua is music made by gypsies to exploit Romanians. To which it should be added: music made by gypsies to exploit Romanians with the lowest possible investment of lyrics, talent, instruments and production values. You have to listen to it to understand how bad it is – and how much fun it is. And not really understanding the lyrics is not a significant obstacle.

The high-brow discussion highlights what it calls “proto-manele” where the genre began to evolve from state-sanctioned folk music in the 1980s into today’s manele. It highlights Magdalena by Nicolae Răceanu on YouTube as a crucial turning point.

Compare this to Răceanu’s La Constanţa-n cazino, which features all the typical manele low production values (and dance moves). I have the eerie feeling that I’ve heard the backing track before, and I’m now convinced it’s the same or similar to Cânt mereu by Liviu Pustiu, as featured on Manelomania Vol. 1 around 2002. Which would only confirm my point about minimum investment for maximum returns.

My online brand 19/01/2016

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I have noticed, perhaps belatedly, that another blogger is using a tagline rather similar to my own. The blog in question is kingofromania.com, billed as “All things Romania”. Given the ease with which our taglines might be confused, I think it is time for me to set out my brand identity for All Things Romanian.

Firstly, my brand is about, well, all things Romanian. My brand values explained

More than a test drive 10/01/2016

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To paraphrase Iggy Azalea, you’ve got to work out whether a Romanian male is worth more than a test drive. To wit, Andrei from Episode 1 of Salvati Iubirea (Save love), a drama probably best described as a scripted reality TV show or simply badly acted and narrated.

But our focus is not the quality of the televisual entertainment but Doina’s dilemma.

Doina is married to Radu, has a son, Matei, and a better-looking lover, Andrei. She has decided that Andrei is the love of her life and leaves Radu for him, taking Matei with her. More on bad TV and Romanian men