Arhivă pentru aprilie, 2011


Posted in Info, Uncategorized on 04/04/2011 by Ioan Pop Hoteni/Iza

Ioan Pop, nicknamed Popicu by his wife and close relatives and friends,was born to a family of peasants in the Maramures village of PoienileIzei, where Bela Bartok himself stopped once for his ethnomusicologicalresearch (1913). As a child Popicu learned to play the instruments infashion then: tilinca (shepherd’s pipe), cetera (fiddle), bracia(prepared alto), zongora (guitar) and doba (drum). He began to play asa zongoras at parties and village Sunday dances, for his own pleasurebut also to save money to finish high school. Later he was hired as aninstrument player with the folk ensemble in Baia Mare, while continuingto sing and play on Sundays at village dances (hori), weddings andother parties in the village and region.
The folk ensemble in Baia Mare Ioan Pop worked with in the last years of communism did not bring him any satisfaction. The music which he was forced to produce together with others – corrected, orchestrated, predictable and performed under the command of a conductor – seemed to him unnatural, different from the one he heard in Maramures and played on weekends, but he had not the authority to contest it. In 1988, while on a tour in the West, Popicu found out with relief and surprise that village music is not inferior, artistically speaking, to the official folk music, as he had been driven to believe – quite on the contrary.

Therefore, the December 1989 events found him prepared for a change he deemed necessary. He quit the folk ensemble and took a job at a cultural centre in Baia Mare, hoping to organize there artistic events and enable his fellow natives to sing and play like they did at home, not on city stages. He soon learned he had to fight against a host of culture apparatchiks determined to defend communist folk music to the bitter end. Meanwhile, a new enemy emerged: world music – an incongruent music, coming from everywhere and nowhere, with violent, unfamiliar electric timbres which rural youngsters seemed to embrace enthusiastically.

Popicu decided to face up to both competitors. He set up a traditional music group, Iza, with the best fiddlers and dancers, peasants and shepherds from Maramures. The group is meant to persuade the Maramures people that their music and dances are worth preserving and that they can go on stage without always changing into triumphalist operettas. On the other hand, Popicu and his wife are trying by all available means to convince the people around them to keep their beliefs, customs and rituals of their traditional life. Both are involved in all the holy days in Hoteni; and on Sunday mornings they receive children in the kiosk in their garden and teach them how to properly sing, dance and shout witty couplets during dances. The two Pops’ efforts to make their lives, home and deeds exemplary are not only in keeping with the right course of tradition, but also an embodiment of their economic and social achievements. However, before building a reputation in his country, Popicu had to be successful in the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Switzerland and Germany, where he performed on stage and made records.

The categories of Maramures party music are few, but each of them is rich in distinct songs. The hori are occasional, widely accessible lyrical songs sung individually or in groups, with or without instrument accompaniment, at almost any age and on any occasion. The zicali (instrumental pieces) are performed by ceterasi on fiddles, guitars and drums.

Each peasant house accommodates at least one of these instruments, ever since ancient simple and twin pipes have been given up except by a few solitary shepherds. The zicali de baut (for drinking) are instrumental pieces during which people scan out loud lyrics appropriate to their age and gender. The scanned lyrics are ironical, funny, very dynamic.They are usually in the form of a dialogue between the girls who confront the boys, or the women in friendly contest with the men. The most common zicali de jucat (for dancing) are Barbatescul (for men) and De invartit (for swirling). Barbatescul is a men’s dance in a circle, with a syncopated rhythm, during which the dancers shout dance commands or humorous lyrics.

De invartit is a mixed, couple dance; it is very quick, and its tunes are frequently improvised by ceterasi starting from preexistent melodic-rhythmic formulae. The hollers of the men (women are never allowed to holler during the dance) roll freely, apparently without any connection to the percussive, rhythmic beat of the tunes. However, apart from Romanians, Maramures is inhabited by Ukrainians, grouped in a few villages in the north of the region. Their party music is not too different, yet distinct from the Romanians’. The ceterasi know this music; it is only natural, as they are often hired for their weddings,at which they perform hori and invartite.

A few decades ago, before Popicu was born, there were also many Jews in Maramures – innkeepers, publicans and cattle traders scattered around the villages or living in the town of Sighet. Most Jews were deported at beginning of the 1940s and disappeared from the region. Those who survived left the country after World War II, leaving behind their graveyards. A curious nature, Popicu studied their music, with help from older ceterasi who made efforts to remember it as they used to perform it at weddings. (One of them is Ionu’ lu’ Grigore, one of
Popicu’s frequent collaborators.) Thus, little by little, Popicu’s shows have come to incorporate the music of „others.”




Courtesy of Costin Moilsil – Ethnophonie