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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.

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.

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

Alina – Manele in translation 23/01/2010

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Manele – I know it’s bad and I shouldn’t like it, but I do. Here’s a sample of a typical manele song in translation.

Alina by Viorel Ciolac

I (x2):
I would spend all my money with the girl I like
And I would give it all to her to have her for a night

Chorus (x2):
Alina, Alina
I want you to be only mine
Alina, Alina
I will love you all my life

II (x2):
It doesn’t matter how I make money if I’m clever
All my enemies die of envy because I’m intelligent

Chorus (x2)

III (x2):
Many girls would like to have me for a night
But I can’t love them when I feel you’re close