Music of Romania

Romania is a European country with a multicultural music environment which includes active ethnic music scenes. Romania also has thriving scenes in the fields of pop music, hip hop, heavy metal and rock and roll. During the first decade of the 21st century some Europop groups/artists, such as Tom Boxer, Morandi, Connect-R, Akcent, Edward Maya, Alexandra Stan, Inna and Yarabi, achieved success abroad. Traditional Romanian folk music remains popular, and some folk musicians have come to national (and even international) fame.


Folk music is the oldest form of Romanian musical creation, characterised by great vitality; it is the defining source of the cultured musical creation, both religious and lay. Conservation of Romanian folk music has been aided by a large and enduring audience, and by numerous performers who helped propagate and further develop the folk sound. One of them, Gheorghe Zamfir, is famous throughout the world today, and helped popularize a traditional Romanian folk instrument, the panpipes.

The religious musical creation, born under the influence of Byzantine music adjusted to the intonations of the local folk music, saw a period of glory between the 15th and 17th centuries, when reputed schools of liturgical music developed within Romanian monasteries. Russian and Western influences brought about the introduction of polyphony in religious music in the 18th century, a genre developed by a series of Romanian composers in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Traditional music


In Banat, the violin is the most common folk instrument, now played alongside imported woodwind instruments; other instruments include the taragot (today often the saxophone plays the taragot role in bands), which was imported in the 1920s from Hungary. Efta Botoca is among the most renowned violinists from Banat.


Bucovina is a remote province, and its traditions include some of the most ancient Romanian instruments, including the ţilincă and the cobza. Pipes (fluieraş or fluier mare) are also played, usually with accompaniment by a cobza (more recently, the accordion). Violins and brass instruments have been imported in modern times.


Crişana has an ancient tradition of using violins, often in duos. This format is also found in Transylvania but is an older tradition. Petrică Paşca has recently helped popularize the taragot in the region. Also, in Roşia village are well known two local instruments: Hidede, a type of violin with a trumpet, replacing the resonance box, and a type of drum called Dobă.


Dobrogea's population is especially diverse, and there exist elements of traditional Tartar, Ukrainian, Turkish and Bulgarian music among those populations. The most popular dance from Dobrogea is the geamparale, which is very different from the other traditional dances of Romania. In fact, Dobrujan music is characterized by Balkan and Turkish rhythms.

Maramureş and Oaş

The typical folk ensemble from Maramureş is zongora and violin, often with drums. Taragot, saxophone and accordion have more recently been introduced.

In Oaş, a violin adapted to be shriller is used, accompanied by the zongora. The singing in this region is also unique, shrill with archaic melodic elements.

Moldavia (Moldova)

Violin and ţambal are the modern format most common in Moldavian dance music. Prior to the 20th century, however, the violin was usually accompanied by the cobza. Brass ensembles are now found in the central part of the county. Among the most renowned violinists from this region is Ion Drăgoi. There are also many musicians among the Csango, ethnic Hungarians who live in the Siret Valley. Moldavia is also known for brass bands similar to those in Serbia.

There is a famous song written about a Moldovan girl living in Bucharest called 'Hey Cherry Blossom'. The song starts by introducing the main protagonist, Cherry Blossom, the male vocals ask Cherry Blossom many questions, she replies describing life in Romania and dreams of having blue eyes instead of brown. The song has received criticism for exacerbating Romanian stereotypes describing women "wearing head scarves and people farming geese", however Cherry Blossom does repost to the questioner that "people in the cities normally don't", her herself now living in the city. (Documentar - Muzica romaneasca dupa 1990)


Main article: Music of Transylvania

Transylvania has been historically and culturally more linked to Central European countries than Southeastern Europe, and its music reflects those influences.

Violin, kontra and double bass, sometimes with a cimbalom, are the most integral ensemble unit. All these instruments are used to play a wide variety of songs, including numerous kinds of specific wedding songs.

Drum, guitar and violin make up the typical band in Maramureş, and virtuoso fiddlers are also popular in the area. In the end of the 1990s, the Maramuzical music festival was organized to draw attention to the indigenous music of the area.


Wallachia is home to the taraf bands, which are perhaps the best-known expression of Romanian folk culture. Dances associated with tarafs include brâu, geamparale, sârbă and hora. The fiddle leads the music, with the cimbalom and double bass accompanying it. The cobza, once widespread in the region, has been largely replaced by the cimbalom. Lyrics are often about heroes like the haidouks. Taraf de Haïdouks is an especially famous taraf, and have achieved international attention since their 1988 debut with the label Ocora. The Haidouks first attained visibility as lăutari, traditional entertainers at weddings and other celebratory occasions.


Muntenia has a diverse set of instrumentation. The flute (fluier in Romanian) and violin are the traditional melodic element, but now clarinets and accordions are more often used. Accordionists include the renowned performers Vasile Pandelescu and Ilie Udilă.


Oltenia's folk music and dance is similar to Muntenia. Violins and pipes are used, as are ţambal and guitar, replacing the cobza as the rhythmic backing for tarafs. The cimpoi (bagpipe) is also popular in this region.


The most widespread form of Romanian folk music is the doina, which translates as "shepherd's lament or longing". There are other styles of folk music. These include the bocet ("lament"), cântec batrânesc (traditional epic ballads; literally "song of the elders") and the când ciobanu şi-a pierdut oile ("when the shepherd has lost the sheep").

Doina is poetic and often melancholic, sometimes compared to the blues for that reason. Doinas are often played with a slow, free rhythm melody against a fast accompaniment pattern in fixed tempo, giving an overall feeling of rhythmic tension. Melodies are sometimes repeated in differing songs, and typically follow a descending pattern.

Regional styles of doina:

Other styles of doina:

Classical music

Notable Romanian composers of the 19th and 20th centuries include Ciprian Porumbescu, Anton Pann, Eduard Caudella, Mihail Jora, Dinu Lipatti and especially George Enescu. Also famous is the composer and conductor Sergiu Celibidache.

The Australian composer Julian Cochran wrote works extensively titled Romanian Dances with a collection of piano works and two orchestral works, exemplifying affinity amongst classical composers with the Romanian folk music tradition outside of Romania. [1]

Béla Bartók was born in Nagyszentmiklós in the Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary, now Romania. He collected Hungarian folk songs with his colleague Zoltán Kodály and used them in several of his compositions, notably in his string quartets.

György Ligeti and Iannis Xenakis were two avant-garde composers born in Romania who were followed in the second half of the 20th century by the Romanian spectralism school: Ştefan Niculescu, Horațiu Rădulescu, Iancu Dumitrescu, Octavian Nemescu, Ana-Maria Avram and others.


Jazz has been imported in Romania as early as the interwar period, thanks to musicians such as Sergiu Malagamba.[2] However, jazz music was banned after World War II, with the arrival of the communist regime. The ban was dropped in 1964.

Promoted by Cornel Chiriac, jazz musicians such as Eugen Ciceu, Richard Oschanitzky and János Kőrössy helped establish the genre in Romania, initially promoted alongside "easy music". Vocalist Aura Urziceanu has performed at New York City in 1972 and toured extensively under the name Aura Rully.

Although restrained, jazz after 1989 still has cult following, with a number of festivals such as Gărâna International Jazz Festival. Contemporary jazz singers include Johnny Răducanu, Anca Parghel and others. In recent years a few bands have emerged that make use of elements of nu-jazz, trip hop and electronic music: Aievea, Jazzadezz, Norzeatic & Khidja and others.

Muzică uşoară românească

The term could be translated literally as "Romanian Easy Music" and, in the most common sense, this music is synonym with "Muzică de estradă" (from French "estrade", which means "podium"), defining a branch of Pop music developed in Romania after World War II, which appears generally in the form of easy danceable songs, made on arrangements, which are performed by orchestras. This music shows many similarities with Western Popular music, as most songs could be defined as a form of Schlager. It supported influences from other similar melodic styles, like Musica leggera italiana (from Italy) and Canción Melódica (from Spain). This Romanian style of music was popularized abroad through the international Golden Stag Festival, held in Brașov, since 1968. The most representative interprets are those from the 1980s, 1970s and rarely, 1960s: Aurelian Andreescu, Elena Cârstea, Corina Chiriac, Mirabela Dauer, Stela Enache, Luigi Ionescu, Horia Moculescu, Margareta Pâslaru, Angela Similea, Dan Spătaru, Aura Urziceanu.


Romanţă (plural: romanţe) is a vocal or instrumental musical piece, sung in a poetic and sentimental mood. It appears as an accessible and expressive melody, on the background of piano and guitar orchestral arrangements. It presents similarities to British music style "Easy Music". The history of Romanian romanţe can be traced back until the Interwar period, when it became famous through the agency of the most popular Romanian singer of that time, Marin Teodorescu, who is better known as Zavaidoc. After World War II, singers like Gică Petrescu integrated in this music orchestral elements, which are specific for Argentinian style, Tango Nuevo.

Muzică de mahala

Muzică de mahala appeared in the early 1980s, in Banat area, as an counteraction to the omnipresent traditional Romanian folk music. The new style supported the influence of the Serbian turbo-folk music and was banned by the communist regime because it was associated with the low morality and culture. This new style borrowed many influences from Balkan culture, on the background of Romanian folk music, employing instruments from Pop music like electric guitar, bass guitar, synthesizers and drums in exchange for the traditional instruments from lăutarească music like cimbalom and, in some cases, for violin and accordion. After the Romanian Revolution from the end of the 1989, this genre began to fade out, becoming almost extinct in the middle of the 1990s. This music is seldom referred as Proto-Manele because it has represented a model for other popular style, Manele, which emerged at the end of the 1990s, few years after the disappearance of muzică de mahala. Representative mahala bands:


Etno music is a popular Romanian style, which keeps most accurate the typical ethnic sound of Romanian traditional folk music. It is adapted to the modern sound of music, as employs frequently synthesizers along with the typical traditional instruments. It emerged in the early 1990s as a revival of Romanian traditional folk music and maintained a constant popularity until nowadays. It has the largest audience through the fans of Romanian folk music and it is popularized, along with Romanian folk music, through the medium of Etno TV, a Romanian Television, dedicated mainly to Romanian folk music, especially the modern side of this music.

Contemporary Romanian Folk

Acoustic Romanian style of music, inspired by American folk music, with sweet lyrics and played almost exclusively with guitar. Generally, it evokes a poetic and melancholic atmosphere. It emerged in the early 1960s, along with the first releases of Phoenix band. It was promoted later, through the medium of the Cenaclul Flacăra, a cultural phenomenon from the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, which was initiated by Adrian Păunescu, a Romanian poet. A lot of Romanian folk artists gain affirmation through the Cenaclul Flacăra movement: Mircea Vintilă, Vasile Șeicaru, Florian Pittiș, Valeriu Sterian, Nicu Alifantis, Alexandru Zărnescu, Victor Socaciu, Vasile Mardare, Magda Puskas, Emeric Imre.

Rock music

From the early years (the '60s) there was in Romania an active Rock scene. Because of their free attitude which was associated with the western culture and the capitalist society, the communist regime censored as much as possible the rock musicians.[3] From the beginning they had a "paria" social position. The symbols of the movement like: long hair, jeans, stage attitude were considered decadent. The bands activated under the name of "instrumental-vocal musical ensemble" to avoid the expression rock which was considered to be subversive.[4] Despite of this, the rock scene resisted with consequence in one kind of "official underground" before the revolution from 1989.[5]

Veterans of the scene kept the rock spirit alive under difficult restrictive conditions.[6] The connection with the "news" from west was made within radio stations like "Free Europe" which were forbidden to listen. Rock was in these troubled times for its Romanian supporters more than music. It was attitude against the lack of freedom.[7] Some names with historical resonance for the Romanian rock movement: Phoenix, Sfinx, Roșu și Negru, Mondial, Sincron, Sideral, Semnal M, Metropol, FFN, Progresiv TM, Pro Musica, Catena, Iris, Compact, Holograf, Timpuri Noi, Krypton, Cargo, Celelalte Cuvinte, Post Scriptum, Florian Pittiș, Cornel Chiriac, Dan Andrei Aldea, Octave Octavian Teodorescu, Sorin Chifiriuc, Nicu Covaci, Valeriu Sterian, Mircea Baniciu, Ovidiu Lipan, Ilie Stepan, Liviu Tudan, Mircea Florian, Dorin Liviu Zaharia, Teo Peter, Florin Ochescu, Paul Ciuci, Cristi Minculescu, Dan Bittman, Josef Kappl, Iuliu Merca.

The political freedom and the cultural openness obtained after the 1989 revolution marked a new era for the rock music in Romania. The scene is now very active even the rock music is not one of the main act in the Romanian mass media. The rock clubs have a rich list of concerts. There are yearly organized great rock festivals with national and international character.[8]


In the 1990s and the early 2000s, with the emergence of independent television and radio stations, the term easy music has been replaced by pop. Mainstream success is shared between early dance-pop bands such as A.S.I.A., Animal X, Blondy, Body & Soul, L.A., 3rei Sud Est or Akcent, pop-rock singers and bands such as Ștefan Bănică Jr., Holograf, Bosquito, Voltaj or VH2, hip-hop outfits such as B.U.G. Mafia, La Familia Paraziții or Ca$$a Loco, Latino singers (Pepe) and others (electronic band Șuie Paparude and some alternative rock bands such as Vama Veche, Bere Gratis, Sarmalele Reci, OCS, Spitalul de Urgență, Zdob și Zdub or Luna Amară that are still popular especially in the underground).

Romanian Dance-Pop (Popcorn)

With the exception of Moldavian-based band O-Zone, Romanian Europop has not achieved considerable echoes outside the borders of the country until 2005, when the band Morandi has achieved success with songs written in English, Portuguese and other languages. The sound of Morandi, DJ Project, Fly Project and a few others marks the transitional period to the Romanian Dance-Pop of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Thanks to a couple of artists such as Inna, Edward Maya, Alexandra Stan, David Deejay, Play & Win and others, a new sound has emerged that has managed to achieve commercial success outside Romania and dominate the national TV and radio music charts. This new sound, nicknamed pejoratively by some "popcorn"[9] after the name of one of its characteristic synths, is characterized by "shiny", danceable melodies, hooks sometimes based on synthesized accordion[10] and simple lyrics written most often in English, accompanied by videos frequently featuring young women. "Popcorn" has been criticized by some as superficial (sometimes being even compared to Manele), overly commercial, repetitive and easily grating, as a large number of producers and performers (including singers that initially achieved notoriety in the early 2000s, such as Andreea Bănică or Connect-R) have adopted this sound in a short period of time. However, since Romanian spectralism is virtually unknown outside the avant-garde music community, "popcorn" may be considered the first movement in the history of Romanian history to gain momentum.

House music

An important influence on Romanian dance-pop was house music, which gained so much following in clubs that, thanks to radio stations such as Pro FM, has attained mainstream status. Minimal house in the vein of Ricardo Villalobos has and is being produced by DJs such as Petre Inspirescu, but vocal-based house continues to have more success. As of recently, dubstep has emerged alongside house music, although currently still underground.

Underground music

Pre-1989 underground bands include the new-wave band Rodion G.A. alongside older rock bands such as Celelalte Cuvinte and Semnal M. First electronic music attempts belong to composer Adrian Enescu.

First represented by bands such as Vorbire Directă and R.A.C.L.A., hip-hop music has achieved quickly mainstream success with bands such as B.U.G. Mafia, La Familia and Paraziții, in spite of them being criticized for delivering explicit language and themes. The scene is currently split between mainstream rappers (Puya, Guess Who) and underground rappers (Vexxatu Vexx, C.T.C., Haarp Cord). Labels dedicated to hip-hop include Hades Records and 20 CM Records.

Rock scene is currently split between metal bands (such as Negură Bunget and Trooper), progressive and indie rock outfits (byron, Kumm, Robin and the Backstabbers). There are also other niches such as punk rock (E.M.I.L. Haos, Terror Art) or post-rock (Valerinne).

Underground electronic music scene has been until 2010 somewhat unified by the existence of the Timișoara-based festival TMBase, reuniting DJs and producers from genres such as drum and bass, breakbeat, dub techno, electronic rock etc. A result of TMBase collaborations is the IDM outfit Makunouchi Bento, who have attracted some attention with their Bandcamp-released material.[11] Also notable is the label La Strada Music, which has been home to names such as Silent Strike (who has gained acclaim on the Internet and some radio stations with the single Astenie featuring Ada Milea), Yvat (a prolific IDM producer of Belgian origin, based in Bucharest), Electric Brother, nu-jazz outfit Aievea and others.

Trip hop and post-rock have influenced a few bands such as Margento, but dream pop, shoegaze and other niche genres are poorly represented. Freak folk is partially known due to the success of singer-songwriter Ada Milea, but is practiced by only a few other bands such as Nu & Apa Neagră. The producer Minus has attempted to introduce bitpop and, more recently, chillwave.

Dubstep DJs have started to emerge, though with the genre has also been associated the band R.O.A., who have achieved some mainstream success thanks to the leader Junkyard, formerly vocalist in Șuie Paparude.

Music festivals

Jazz festivals


See also



  1. Stephen Pleskun (2012). A Chronological History of Australian Composers and Their Compositions - Vol. 4. Xlibris Corporation.
  3. Arta Sunetelor - Magazine - 2009-01-25 Article: Interview with Florin Ochescu (Reporter: Sorin Lupașcu)
    • Yes! There was Romanian rock before the '80s! There are many explanations for the lack of recordings ... including the fact that during this period the censorship operated oscillating ... when more severe when larger, I think this was a policy to keep the things under control, culturally at that time. (Romanian)
  4. History National Museum of Romania - Project "The Communism in Romania" - Article: Our youthfulness - The music of the '70s-'80s
    • Beyond the music and text, clothes and haircut distinguish the rockers from the rest of the population. Through this, young displayed openly a statement to the regime. On the other hand, the censorship gave way in the press only negative news about the rock (drug use, sexual promiscuity, violence). So it was that if you wanted to be on TV or in a more importantly concert, your hair had to be cut, you don't wag and, especially, to be clothed regulation: the uniform of the band was a popular shirt or suit. In any case you could not show up dressed in jeans and T-shirt. If you passed the test "suit" after that you had to argue on the repertoire, it was not allowed to sing in foreign languages or parts that the censorship don't like. There have been cases where censorship expressly requested to modify the words of some lyrics. (Romanian)
  5. Formula As - Magazine - 2004 Article: Interview with Iulian Vrabete (Reporter: Corina Pavel)
    • We appeared rarely on TV, because we had long hair and we had to collect it back with clips, to mask it. But the concerts were extraordinary and the world loved us unconditionally. Maybe where there were no other offers. (Romanian)
  6. Adevărul - Newspaper - 2012-06-14 Interview with Cristi Minculescu, singer (Reporter: Laurențiu Ungureanu
    • It was, until '90, a struggle, a continual torment. With that chasing, with the censorship. But we can not arrogate credit for that time because we weren't the only ones in that situation. (Romanian)
  7. - Project of the "Society Online" Association - 2012-05-10 Article: In Memoriam Cornel Chiriac an unforgettable soldier of liberty (Author: Vladimir Tismăneanu
    • Cornel Chiriac, the one who, first at "Radio Romania", then at the Radio "Free Europe" proved that rock music could undermine the petrified system, it can be an efficient form to contest the totalitarianism and the retrieval of dignity. He was one of the most prized radio journalists by the legendary Bernard Noel. He didn't just exceptional music programs, but organized true tribunes for freedom. (Romanian)
  8. "Cronici concerte / evenimente". Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  9. "Ce parere aveti despre stilul POPCORN?". Forumul Softpedia. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  10. "Romanian Dance-Pop (aka Popcorn, Romanian Popcorn, Romanian Dance Music) - Music Genres - Rate Your Music". Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  11. "Makunouchi Bento". Makunouchi Bento. 29 December 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  12. Clayson, Nancy (17 March 2012). "International Pop Music Festival Crystal Star begins online registration!". Belle News. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
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