Romanian Brass Music

Fanfare Ciocarlia
Fanfare Ciocarlia

Have you ever heard Romanian music for brass? The musicians are sometimes called “Lautarii,” meaning they belong to a class of traditional musicians–often a professional clan of Romani musicians (Gypsies). The bands are sometimes called “taraf.” These groups are not to be confused with peasant musicians.

These Romanian brass bands are completely different than what you’ve ever heard. It really has its roots in an ancient Ottoman Empire brass tradition that never really left the hidden valleys of Romania. It’s kind of like jazz in the sense that it is improvised, but it has its own “rules” that are very different than jazz. In fact it has an almost Hindu “raga” approach and sound. But frenetic.

Here’s Fanfare Ciocarlia playing the jazz standard “Caravan” in their own inimitable style:

This type of band plays for weddings and funerals, where wedding guests dance pretty much constantly for the wedding reception. They dance fast and they don’t stop. Sometimes the weddings last 15 hours. On the first day. And then they keep on playing and dancing the second day!

Check out THIS energy! [audio:|titles=Fanfare Ciocarlia playing “Rusasca De La Buzdug”]

Or this:

[audio:|titles=Fanfare Ciocarlia playing “Sirba De La Zece Prajini”]

Here is the Mahala Rai Banda:

Georges Enesco
Georges Enesco


By the way, Georges Enesco had many Lautari friends and loved their music. Most trumpet players will know Enesco’s very famous “Legende” which was first published in Merri Fanquin’s trumpet method book in 1907.

The most famous Romanian band is  called Fanfare Ciocarlia, which translates from Romani as “Song of the Lark.”

Historical Migration Routes of the Romani
Historical Migration Routes of the Romani


A possible reason the music sounds a little Indian is that the Romani people were nomads who have their origins in northern India.






Here’s “Asfalt Tango” by Fanfare Ciocarlia:

And my favorite amazing trumpet technique and articulation in this clip (not to mention the clarinet)!

[audio:|titles=Fanfare Ciocarlia playing “Trio Cu Patru”]


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