How you doina?

Just kidding.

I do a fair amount of scouring YouTube for music in the Romanian language. It helps me learn the language and sometimes I find a jewel hidden in between all the manele.

When I found Doina, I was kind of shocked that I had never heard about it before. It seems to be a very important part of Romanian folk tradition and heritage of the people. You would think that someone would’ve mentioned it (or maybe I would have seen mention of it somewhere!), but for whatever reason, I had to discover it on my own. Perhaps I’ve been hearing it all along, and I just never realized it 🙂



Doina is a type of traditional Romanian music. The improvisational style of Doina melodies is what makes it so beautiful; they are the expression of the melancholy soul and its longing (dor).

There are different kinds of Doina: the songs of shepherds and peasants, drinking songs, lullaby, outlaws, and perhaps one more familiar to American audiences, klezmer. Yes, klezmer music is descendant from the Doina music form (don’t forget that until the 1930s, Romania had a population of over 750,000 Jews). Doinas can be sung without accompaniment, with simple instruments such as flute or even a leaf (!), or enhanced with multiple instruments like violin or accordion.

In 2009, UNESCO added Doina to its list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity“.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite Doina songs so far:

Doina Oltului (instrumental):


Doina Basarabia (instrumental):


Doina din Wallachia (instrumental):


Outlaw’s Doina (Doina haiduceasca):


Doina din Maramureș by the lovely Maria Tanase


Lullaby Doina (again by Maria Tanase!)


Doina Klezmer:


Doina de Jale (of grief):


Argatu’ also has a Doina de Jale for a more modern take:


Perhaps my most favorite modern Doina of all, from Subcarpati (of course):

SHINE Festival

When I first arrived in Romania, Claudiu surprised me with tickets to the SHINE festival. SHINE Festival is a two day rock/metal festival in the heart of Bucharest.  I hadn’t heard of it, but once I found out the lineup, I was very excited. He had heard me talking about how much I was ~loving~ Carla’s Dreams lately, and he looked up when they were playing next. And, not only were we going to see Carla’s Dreams, but Subcarpati was playing the second night. Omg, I was so stoked.We booked a hotel and we were ready to go.

We decided to pack only our backpacks and take the train to Bucharest. I had heard scary stories about the trains in Romania, so I was pretty apprehensive, but the train we took was actually really lovely. It wasn’t too expensive and it took about two and a half hours, comparable with driving time. The difference is you can drink beer on the train. I also discovered that if you get car sickness, you can also have train sickness! Ha.

Our train ride took about two and a half hours, and we arrived at the Bucharest station, Gara de Nord. From Gara de Nord, we hopped on the metro – another neat experience. Despite the heat outside, the metro was nice and cool. Every time the train left the station, you got a nice breeze. Another really neat thing about the metro trains was that they are basically one long room – that’s right, you get on a train “car” but inside there are no partitions. You can look down from one end of the train and see all the way to the front. The metro trains are also much wider than ones I’ve seen in other cities. And the seats face inward (unlike Atlanta’s MARTA where the seats face all different directions and make absolutely no sense). Some of the stations have pretty artwork.


We spent some time walking from the metro to the hotel (again, learning experience). I think mentally we were pretty convinced to take a taxi next. It was probably close to 95 degrees and humid as heck, so we were all sweaty and gross. Authentic backpacking. Anyway, we eventually found the hotel, took showers, and had a delicious dinner downstairs. Then, it was time for the first night of the festival!

We got some beers and settled into the seats around the Arenele. We had passes into the golden circle, which meant we could get right in front of the stage if we wanted, but we decided to chill out and enjoy the music first.


My first observation was that I hadn’t packed enough black. Almost everyone was head to toe in black – I had forgotten this was a metal festival! I loved watching the young people (I sound really old here) enjoying their beers and thrashing about in the mosh pit. Everyone was having fun and being respectful at the same time. It was quite unlike what I would see in the US (people way too drunk starting actual fights – cops arresting and dragging hooligans out…etc.). The atmosphere here was chill and fun. Just a bunch of people enjoying some rad metal music.


For Carla’s Dreams, we went to the front of the stage because I wanted to be as close as possible.


They did a great show – even though I think they had some problems with their guitarist. Apparently he kept messing up(? although I couldn’t tell) and Claudiu said that the lead singer ended up kicking the guitarist off the stage for being drunk. Eh, it happens. They made up for his absence with great enthusiasm, and we all had fun.


Most of the people singing in the crowd (around me, anyway) were younger women. Carla’s Dreams does a lot of pop songs, so I think they have a wider appeal to the population.

20160702_012426I sang along to the parts that I knew and I actually felt like I was a part of the group (which doesn’t happen often, I usually feel like the outsider in most groups).

We got back to the hotel, crashed, and slept until almost noon the next day. We had some time before the evening concert started, so we went to the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. They had a cool flea market going on outside and I ended up finding some very cool antiques – I can’t say specifically what I got because they’re going to be Christmas gifts for my family back home 🙂 We tried walking around some more, but we basically had heatstroke and nothing seemed worth the effort 😦

We decided to head back to the hotel to bask in the air conditioning after we did the flea market because it was already a zillion degrees and incredibly humid. Is this Romania or south Georgia?! Our air conditioner in our room was one of the most amazing things about our entire trip. The room was so deliciously cold. It really helped us to recharge.


Robin and the Backstabbers

The last night of the SHINE festival was great – we saw Mihai and Robin and the Backstabbers perform, and then it was time for Subcarpati.


I’ve written about them before, but honestly, there is so much more to this band that I could ever put into a post. I will say that what I admire most about this band is their commitment to integrating traditional old world Romanian music with new hip hop beats. 20160703_013822They make traditional Romanian music relevant for a new generation and it’s helping the younger generation connect with their culture. Subcarpati is doing what other artists should also be doing – helping to preserve Romania’s unique artistic culture not by changing it, but by adding to the “conversation”.


Mara singing in Aromanian with Subcarpati

Here is an example of old world meeting new world – music that young people mostly likely wouldn’t listen to on their own transformed into something that makes you want to dance:


I wish we had bands in America that would try to do this with some of our traditional folk music. I’m thinking Appalachian folk music (because that’s where I’m from), but imagine if they took old bluegrass or traditional New England hymns and made something really wonderful with it?

Here’s another one (my personal favorite) that’s been transformed:


But I digress 🙂

Getting back to the concert – Subcarpati got on stage at close to midnight and when we left after two they were still going. The show was high energy with tons of crowd participation. So much jumping up and down and dancing. My soul was happy and joyful, but omg my legs were so sore the next day! They were the perfect ending to the SHINE festival. I’m very glad I got to see them perform. Argatu (part of Subcarpati) will be at the Electric Castle festival this week, and I hope to hear more of his work.

Again, we crashed at the hotel and probably would have slept a lot longer, but they wanted us to leave by noon 🙂 The concerts were so awesome and I’m so lucky to have see some of my favorite bands all in one place!

We took a different train back to Brasov – still nice, just older. Because I took a motion sickness pill, I ended up sleeping most of the way, so I don’t think it mattered really what train we were on, lol. I’m beginning to think that’s how those pills work – they just make you sleep so you’re completely unaware of the motion 😛

Up next is Electric Castle – I hope it’s as awesome as SHINE. I’m sure it will be 🙂


Carla’s Dreams


One of my favorite bands for learning Romanian is Carla’s Dreams. I listen to a lot of pop music because the lyrics are repetitive – and while that helps me learn the language, I also get really bored with the bubble gum superficiality of the songs. Enter Carla’s Dreams. The band was formed in Moldova and the perform “in disguise” with face paint, hoodies, and sunglasses. The lead singer has a very distinct voice; it’s very low and he uses just enough vocal fry.

I’ve posted some of their songs here before (Aripile and Sub Piela Mea) because I love the flow of the melodies and the beat of the words (sorry, that’s as technical as it’s going to get, lol). The best thing about Carla’s Dreams is that many of the songs hover between pop music and spoken word poetry. In this song, you get depth and melancholy in the lyrics along with a catchy beat, the best of both worlds:

I appreciate the homage to traditional music woven subtly in the beats in Suna-ma and Ratusca:

Here is a song in English (which oddly enough, I don’t like nearly as much as the songs in Romanian – he just sounds like the guy from Creed in this one):

In Russian:

and then there’s songs that are just for fun – this song in particular was very popular last summer. I think I’ve heard it a million times, but I only recently looked up the lyrics.:


Speaking of bands and artists that sing in Romanian, I would love any suggestions for music. Who should I be listening to? Bonus points if it’s vaguely easy to understand the words 🙂

…and does anyone know where I can see this band live? I know they just had a concert, but I’m hoping they’ll perform more this summer.

Sandu Ciorba Zumba

Okay Internet, I am going to have to thank you for this. Whatever gods of destiny are out there, they blessed me the day they put this video in my Youtube suggestions.

Sandu Ciorba Zumba

Uh…I might actually try this!

This looks high energy and fun. Not to mention, it could possibly be the much needed break that I need from Pitbull (dale/fuego/Mr. Worldwide).


For those of you who are uninitiated, Sandu Ciorba (is this really his last name? soup?) is a Manele singer who routinely tricks me into listening to his songs because his videos are so much fun. Am I a fan of the music? Possibly? Or do I come for the awesome ladies in the background of these videos? Hell, yes.

These ladies are the whole reason this song works:

Not to mention this song is catchy as hell. I’m totally guilty of thinking “WOO LOO LOO LOOOO” at inappropriate times.

Notice how the women in the videos are displaying actual talent (and whoa there with that crazy hood, Sandu):

Now, I don’t know what that snap dance is called, but it looks pretty hard to me. I would probably fall down if I tried.

In this video, men are also showing their moves (the ladies are killing it again – in heels):

Again, another high energy dance. I could probably do it. I mean, at least five seconds of it. At least.



In all of the videos, Sandu gives it his all, putting his heart into dramatic facial expressions that a Backstreet Boy would be jealous of – just so we can get the real emotion of the manele. I’m not sure what he’s singing about, but man, it must be deep.

Now if someone could explain to me why his hair always looks wet…