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Romanian exports 26/09/2016

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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

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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.

Learning Romanian with Candy 02/11/2014

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Pop songs are a great way to start learning a language. Angry pop songs are even better. Let’s get down to telling that special someone what they really need to hear, with the help of girl group Candy.

Start learning Romanian with Candy.

INNA ain’t it – DJ Project is 17/04/2014

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True to my vocation of liking all things Romanian, I’ve tried, I’ve really tried to like INNA. The cute Romanian singer looks amazing, her outfits are fantastic, but her songs feel too robotic. However, she doesn’t sing (much) in Romanian, and she’s actually a bigger star both on social media and in real life outside Romania.
I much prefer the Romanian dance group DJ Project. Their songs (more…)

Somewhere in the Balkans 09/06/2013

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You’re more likely to find biting social commentary in Romanian hip-hop than in the newspapers, so it’s said. The rapper Puya is one example of this phenomenon. Here’s my attempt to translate his hit “Somewhere in the Balkans“. I’m much indebted to the Romanians on YouTube and elsewhere who have provided their own translations.

We drink beer and wine
Not whiskey or gin
We love bribery, corruption with all our hearts
We don’t know much, no kidding!
It’s a tradition here since we were kids
We love having dollars, we hate having jobs
What do I care about global warming
We want dollars, dollars, let the whales starve to death
Many problems, mess-ups on our minds, babes
Do you think we like
Knocking up against them all the time? Translation of “Somewhere in the Balkans”

How good is to be a fish 03/06/2012

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Spotify has helpfully translated track 10 of Puya’s Romanisme – Part 1. According to Spotify, “Ce bine e sa fii peste” means “How good is to be a fish”. Spotify, you rock, but, no, that just doesn’t work. Let’s leave word order aside and focus on the fishy business.

Romanians, being good Francophiles, appear to have adopted the French slang “maquereau” (“mackerel” meaning pimp) for, well, pimps. In English, our fish are generally sweet and innocent, when they are not getting away.

So, in English it has to be something along the lines of “How good it is to be a pimp”, unless someone can suggest something more colourful and fishy.

Translating Romanian songs 30/03/2012

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My tutor at Aston University Christina Schäffner said once that “People don’t really translate pop songs anymore”. To which I say: Shakira. And follow up with: Tatu.
Now, I don’t claim that I can turn Romanian songs into “Hips Don’t Lie”. I’m not saying that I do a particularly good job at it. But I still think it’s worth a try.
Why? Well, I’m doing it for those English-speaking YouTube surfers who happen upon a catchy Romanian song. Sure, they don’t need to know the story, the words, in order to appreciate it. But I’m sure that one day, some of them – a few of them – might want to know what lies behind “Nu vreau banii tăi” (“I don’t want your money”) or similar.
Translation is something that few people feel passionate about. As a language undergraduate, I used to agree with other students who said that translation was the boring bit. (I’d like to re-assure Professor Schäffner that I’ve changed my mind.) But music people do get passionate about. So I hope that these song translations will spark comments and maybe even a few online debates about Romanian rock and pop.

In the shadow of the Great USSR 24/03/2012

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Under Ceausescu, Phoenix fled Romania and sought refuge in Germany. In 2000, they released “In the Shadow of the Great USSR” (In umbra marelui U.R.S.S.), which became “In the Shadow of the Great Bear” (In umbra marelui urs) due to a printing error.

I stand alone and ask myself
Why I left home
Could it be the curse
That has been oppressing us for ages? (more…)

I don’t want your money 22/01/2012

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Why translate manele? Because I can. It’s true: aside from commercial Romanian pop, song lyrics are beyond me. But manele I can just about manage. And because the world needs to know that the lyrics are so bad – even when it’s such fun.

Sorinel Copilul de Aur si Laura Vass feat. Susanu – I don’t want your money (Nu vreau banii tai)

2005 .. Guess who has returned to smash the charts… The Golden Boy… Laura Vass… And Susanu… And
Come on, let’s start the nervous system, maestros…
[Laura Vass]:
I don’t want your money, I’m not on the make
If you had been poor, I still would have chosen you Read the full lyrics for

Who is my heart? 26/08/2011

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Ah, manele! Sometimes it’s so bad, it’s good, especially when you have drama, passion and a duet from top-notch manelisti Sorinel “The Golden Child” and Laura Vass. You’ll find the video on YouTube, but comments have been disabled, probably due to the commentators’ foul language and vitriolic anti-gypsy tirades.

Sorinel Copilul de Aur (Sorinel “The Golden Child”) & Laura Vass – Cine e inima mea? (Who is my heart?)

What has happened, why don’t you want me anymore?
I know you love me, I can see in your eyes
Even if I cheated on you, today I’m sorry
I wish from my soul to be yours again

I believed in you but I deceived myself
I saw you with another girl when you were kissing
I’m not worthy of that, I loved you too much
I listened to your fake whispers of love

Who is my heart? Who is my love?
Tell me what made you leave my life
You’ve lied to me since I’ve know you, and I realised too late
Go on, go to her forever, I can’t put up with you any longer
I know that I’m your heart, I know that I’m your love
I will never ever leave your life my love
I’m asking for your forgiveness, my life, I’m asking for your forgiveness before you
And from my heart I promise you that I will not lie to you again
(Repeat chorus)

For whole nights I cried and my eyes burnt
Now you’re crying too and asking me to come back
You know that I loved you, but I can’t forgive you
You can say anything to me, but I no longer believe you

Why are you behaving so badly towards me now?
Do you want me to end up crying like a madman?
I know I messed up and I want you to forgive me
I’m guilty and you can (forgive me) so that you can scold me


Translation by Daisy Waites