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The Manele and The Underworld

SchiopThis article deals with the connection between manele and the criminal world in Romania. Although I finished it more than a year ago, I hesitated a long time before publishing it – it seemed that these things, though known, wouldn’t necessarily do justice to my favourite musical genre and would certainly upset those who work in the industry, especially the “lăutari”. Nonetheless, I believe that the identity of the genre cannot be understood without reffering to its complex connections to the heroes of the subterranean economy, that the triumphant rethoric of pimpin’ (“şmecherie”) and the anxious one of mistrust, both deeply rooted in the heart of the genre, cannot be understood otherwise. As the Berlin based DJ Shantel noted, the manele are kind of gangsta, Balkan’s gangsta, if you ask me – and if they are gangsta, then, let them be truly so, that is to say, with bad boys, ex cons and blood spattered on the walls. I believe that only this kind of stories can do justice to the genre, proving that the manea was the true underground of the last twenty years, a real “music of the marginal”, not even in the slightest hip-hop and least of all rock or the dopey clubbing of the last few years. To quote a producer, the manea was banned because it gave people something forbidden – slyness, spicy videos, masculine power, whatever people here would admit liking if they were more honest with themselves. Meanwhile, it’s true that 70% of manele are about romantic love or sentimental family scenes – but the other 30%, the strictly masculine one, with “smecherie”, brotherhood or mistrust is significantly more important for the identity of the genre, singularizing it. Or, the concepts of şmecherie and frăţie (broness, brotherhood) cannot be understood without an initial detour through the history of the guilty love between the two industries.


Money from Gigs and Song Requests


The lautari’s money come to a lesser extent from copyright and related rights, they mostly come from “gigs” (“cântări”), performances in restaurants/clubs or at different private events, like weddings, baptisms, “sweet-sixteen” parties, birthday celebrations. If, during the 90s, the industry was making substantial profits from audio-tapes sales, in the following decade, the proliferation of digital technology and online piracy limited the chances of a consistent copyright revenue for the lautari: “Radio stations don’t air manele, TV stations can’t do it even if it would bring them higher ratings…The soloists gain more from recitals than from cd sales [albums – a.n.]. And in the last 3 or 4 years sales have plummeted. It’s not that more money is coming from concerts and events, because it’s not – but it would have been better to receive them from both ends of the spectrum. Here, you’re allowed to download songs (from sites like or – a.n.). Everybody does that (manager, 41).” There are no statistical data regarding the extent of piracy and the sales of albums and compilations, but according to one piece published by Taraf Magazine in 2011, the manele are the most pirated genre. One of the performers interviewed about the intent of the lautari to establish an organization that would represent them on the copyright market (ARAIEX) complained about the meager revenues coming from cd sales, adding that a hit is important because “it keeps you up” in the eyes of the public, but the bulk of the money come from live performances. The fact is also noted by Adrian Deoancă in one of his pieces for Plaboy Magazine, and by one of the top lautari: “Nicolae Guţă has just received a Platinum Disc for the sales of his albums, but the bulk of his money still comes from weddings and baptisms. Those who think that you can get rich playing manele are sorely wrong. Do you think that Guţă would still go and play for 13 hours straight at a party if he was so rich? Would he risk feeling the bullets fly again past his ear?”

Therefore, the manele singers’ money come to a great extent from gigs, from private events. At such a gig, the lautar has two distinct revenue streams – his fee, which is agreed upon at the beginning (which can be up to 10.000 euros in case of a top ranking lautar, according to a report aired in 2011 by Antena 1 TV) and the grease (şpaga), the extra-something he receives for the songs that he performed on request.


Preferred Customers – The Mobsters


A good lăutar must know how to emotionally manipulate his audience in demanding more and more “special-requests”. A lăutar, as ethnomusicologist Victor Stoichiţă remarks, never plays for his own pleasure, “The lăutari tradition has a deeply rooted belief in refraining from expressing one’s emotions. They are perceived more as manufacturers of emotions than as real purveyors of emotion.” Or, in the words of one lăutar, quoted by the same researcher, “The lăutari are the most cunning and deceitful of people. Their only goal is to please.” (Stoichiţă, 13)

The clients of these “special-requests”, as Stoichiţă shows, are the big shots (şmecherii), which made a lot of money on the underground market (and which don’t show up in any of the “richest man” rankings because they don’t pay taxes), or the youngsters that copy them, the “wannabees”, who, despite having only limited financial resources (“they don’t have a meatball in their belly,” as one lăutar colorfully put it), give money to the lăutari in order to appear as financially potent as the real big cahunas.

In a word, informal economy entrepreneurs intermingle with mobster of nation-wide repute, as can be seen in all sorts of videos from parties held by Fane Spoitoru, Caiac, the Sportsmans’ Clan, the Cordoneanu brothers, Bercea Mondialul, the Cămătaru brothers, and posted on; and I chose just a few legendary names from the Romanian mobster repertoire.


The Mobsters’ Manele Parties


Organizing an event with a top ranked manele singer is a way of displaying your financial prowess (paying 3 to 10 thousand euros for an acclaimed lăutar is a feat that only the wealthy can afford) and improving your reputation – in case the event is posted online or ends up being shown as a video on one of the specialized manele channels. There is a fierce competition between the underworld kingpins to showcase at their parties the most famous of manele players. An established name can gather up to 50.000 views on, and one of Florin Salam’s live performances can easily gather 100.000 viewings.

The manele are the main channel by which mobsters try to attain public notoriety: they order songs that glorify them – themselves, their children or their kin -, they demand that the videos shot in their homes are played on manele channels, they upload footage form private events attended by other mobster bosses. Moreover, a lot of manele foster this fantasy by making a theme out of the name or the brand (both synonyms for renown) of the mobster: “my mother made me a heavyweight/ the whole country knows I’m great/…/my name carries a lot of weight/ higher than the market rate” – “de talie mondială m-a făcut mama/ ştie bine toată ţara de valoarea mea/…/ am nume mare/ cu greutate şi multă valoare” (written by Petrică Cercel; this version is sang by Copilul de Aur).

This kind of parties are meeting hotspots for rival groups that hold a precisely defined social role: new alliances are born, old ones are strenghtened, old rivalries die out – as it happened at the baptism of Stănel Corbu’s niece, held in Brăila, in 2007, which reunited the most important names of Brăila’s underworld (according to local newspapers). During the party, the boss of the local mafia, Titel Crăcănatu (Bowlegged Titel) “promised to mary his lieutenant, mr. Vincler, which, in turn, will pledge to become the godfather of his <brother>, Costică Buricea.” At the same party, Titel Crăcănatu was “flabbergasted by the fact that his mortal enemy, Nicu Ţăranu, came to him with his arm outstreched as a sign of friendship.” An excerpt from this party was also posted on youtube. One such piece, which  musically illustrates the meeting of different groups during a private event, is The brigades have united (“The brigades have united/ our forces are undivided” – “S-au unit brigăzile/ şi ne-au crescut forţele”)


Songs by Request


A man of means can not only ask for a specific song to be performed, he can order a piece (or even a hole album) to be written especially for him or his family. In the 10th decade, a famous lăutari couple was dedicating “countless” albums to its patron, Leo from Strehaia. From these songs, Leo emerges as a financially potent man, who’s sexual prowess is envied by all: “Gipsies start bursting a vein/ when Leo makes the dollars rain/ and all his rivals squirm in pain” (“mor toţi ţiganii/când apare Leo şi aruncă cu banii/se oftică toţi duşmanii”). Other songs are about Leo’s parents and children – and last not least about the affair that the singer had with the mobster (“I’m married and I have a lover/ I make the lines of the gossip cover” – “Am amant şi-s măritată/ mă vorbeşte lumea toată”). In this kind of manele (made to order), the name of the sponsor/patron is embedded in the songs – the lirics of the studio version don’t usually contain the name of the benefactor, however, this may sometimes be featured in the intro-dedication of the song (a dedication placed either at the beginning or inside the piece itself, in order to give it a more authentic feel). In fact, studio pieces that recount the story of a particular businessman are rare, the orders being rather reserved for live performances.

One such close-circuit studio piece is “Versace is only one” (Unul e Versace), belonging to a lesser-known manele player, Oniţă from Caracal. The piece, which tells the fictionalized version of the release from jail of young Geani Versace, who gives a great shindig for all his friends, was ordered by his powerful uncle, Sorin Magnatu (“the Magnate”), to let the world know that his nephew had been set free from prison (“I’ve waited for two long years/to hold my boy and burst in tears/and here the day has finally come/when he got out of the can” – “de doi ani doamne tot aştept/ să-mi strâng băiatul meu la piept/ dar a venit ziua cea mare/ şi am ieşit din închisoare”). The piece is accompanied by a video clip filmed at the family reunion, in which we can see Geani Versace stepping through the prison door. He hugs his son and “his uncle, or Sorin Magnatu,” and then climbs with all his family in a sumptuous Cadillac which takes them to the restaurant where the family reunion is being held.

However, Oniţă from Caracal is only an obscure name in the branch and, by the nature of things, an association with him cannot be in anyway profitable in terms of prestige. On the contrary. A hotshot (“şmecher”) who wants to “live large” must be symbolically associated with a top lăutar. At another event, the team consisting of Sorin Magnatu and Geani Versace joined with another famous lăutar who, not without hidden irony, makes a bombastic portrait of the pair by modifying the lyrics of the song “The Bombshell” (by Sorinel Puştiu – Sorinel the Kid): “The hood is buzzing at high noon/ That Sorin might be some sort of a tycoon/ and while he takes stabs at justice with my rhymes/ here comes Versace with all bells and chimes” – “se vorbeşte lumea în sat/ despre Sorin că e magnat/ trage cu mine-n dreptate/ uite că vine Versace” .

In these live contexts, the generally neutral lyrics are adapted in such a way as to mention the person that ordered the party or requested the song: “Amar is not alone/ Dacu’s with him flesh and bone/ homies are sick to the gut/ that he’s richer than King Tut// Pounds and pounds of shiny dough/ fly into my pockets, ho/ parcels, satchels, all come in/ filled with lovely emerald green” (“Amar nu e singurel/ ca e Dacu lângă el/ moare lumea moare moare/ că Amar are valoare// Sutele de milioane/ vin la mine-n buzunare/ pacheţele şi pacheţele/ şi saci de lovele”). In its live version, the song, who’s studio version is entitled “Hundreds of millions” (“Sutele de milioane” – Nicolae Guţă), is dedicated to Amar the General, the brother of mobster  Bercea Mondialul (“World Class Bercea”).

In such encomiastic pieces, the lăutar has to alter the lyrics in order to bring them closer to a stage setting, by filling the empty frames of the studio version with the flesh of a particular story. The bigger the grease (şpaga), the more colorful and original the story (up to the point where a lăutar, suddenly touched by grace, composes an entire song dedicated to his patron right there, on the spot: “never forget that I wrote it [the piece]on the spot…tomorrow I won’t remember a single word and I’ll have to listen to it again. That’s how I worked all my life” – “să nu uiţi că [piesa] asta ţi-am scos-o pe loc aici…mâine n-o mai ştiu, trebuie s-o ascult din nou. Toată viaţa numai aşa am scos”).

Even in such songs made to order, the lăutar never (or seldom) speaks in his own name, becoming  a sort of ventriloquist, capable of assuming in turn each of the voices (or perspectives) of those who request his songs. Thus, in one of the manele dedicated to the return form prison of daddy Nuţu (incidentally, a very ingeniously orchestrated one) the lăutari successively embody the mobster (“Stay, Salami, by my side/ and I’ll fatten up your hide” – “Stai, Salame, lângă mine/ O să am grijă de tine”), his wife (“While Nuţu was away from me/ the phone was mute as the Dead Sea” – “Cât a fost Nuţu plecat/ nici un beep nu mi-a dat”), uncle John from Constanţa (“only two hours have gone/ since I sat next to my Don/ and now I’m just a lonely John” – “înainte cu două ore/ am stat lângă naşul meu/ şi am plecat şi mi-a părut rău”) and last but not least, the lăutari themselves (“now is finally my turn/ to give daddy something in return” – “acum e şi rândul meu/ să fac pentru tata meu”). If Adrian Minune’s piece is marred by a sort of poorly enacted sentimentality, from the very first note, Florin Salam’s interpretation emerges as one of the most brilliant eulogistic manele ever, exemplary for the art of the lăutar: for a fee, he succeeds in improvising and performing a piece that seems to exude the most sincere feeling of gratitude – and, in its climactic finalle, his total commitment to his boss: “now it’s finally my turn/ to give to daddy in return/ ‘tis him the soul in which I burn// I know no worry and no fear/ to Mica and Nuţu I adhere/ I’ll have no worry and no fear/ it’s Nuţulică I hold dear/ let there be known in all the land/ they are the family by which I stand/ the greatest family ever/ with a heart that gives forever” – “acum e şi rândul meu/ să fac pentru tata meu (las-o aşa!)/ că ăla e sufletul meu// nu ştiu teama nu ştiu frica/ am să recunosc de Nuţu, recunosc de Mica/ să n-am teamă să n-am frică/ eu mă mândresc cu Nuţulică/ să audă toată ţara/ ăştia-s familia mea/ familie de valoare/ c-are o inimă mare.” As is the case with the mythical Sirens, you’re compelled to believe him.


The Poetics of Manele: Metaphorical Encoding and Taboos


The thematic landscape of the genre cannot remain unaffected by this association: the lăutar plays what you want to hear and, seeing that most of the times, the client is a mobster or an “informal businessman”, he sings what this particular kind of man wants to hear, about a world of strength and bigshots. In this subsection I will show that the poetics of manele, which is constituted by the “working together” of the lăutari and the illegal or informal bussinesmen, articulates itself on the basis of several strategies that involve metaphoric encoding, placing different entities and processes under taboos (state authorities for example) and the use of polysemantic terms (which can refer either to relations that are questionable from a legal standpoint, or to more honest, reasonable ones).

If rap music revels in glamorizing crime and presenting it in the least ambiguous of terms, the manele are built on a totally antithetical poetics, which rests upon ambiguity and the deferral of reference that, at least at first glance, make the texts seem devoid of any subversive elements. A closed-circuit poetics in which, as one Ferentari resident put it: “don’t you worry, those that have to get it, will get it!”

In order to illustrate this, I shall use a made-to-order piece called “Head and Tales” (Cap şi Pajură), belonging to Florin Purice (Florin The Flea), a lesser-known manele player, but otherwise, maybe one of the most inventive composers of the last generation. The song, launched in 2010, gathered 3,5 million views on youtube and was still frequently aired on Taraf Tv during this summer. Read innocuously, it seems to be a simple “brotherhood manea” about two brothers that recall their heroic road to success, fuelled by self-confidence, in which one of them, being far away and more experienced than the other, is worried that his brother, now on his own, will not cope with life and thoughtfully cautions him about the wickedness of men. My interviewee proved to me that, if you read the text using the key given by the intro dedication of the studio version, “to Nuţu and Sile”, its meaning is completely reversed. Nuţu and Sile Cămătaru are brothers and gangsters of national repute, probably two of the most well-known in Romania. The lăutar speaks from Sile’s perspective, who is in jail and, as the song says, “far away”, which means in prison, but who will soon be released (and, as a matter of fact, Sile Cămătaru was released a year later), “it won’t be much longer and all will be all right”. The first stanza recalls the successes of the group that stayed “at the top of the pyramid”, that is to say the most powerful of mobsters, and has become a “living legend” (which is not totally untrue, taking into account their nation wide notoriety), defining at the same time the secret bravery of the gangester life, “we’ve been through a lot, but nobody knows it”. The two are “good brothers”, having a powerful emotional connection, “together we make a single heart”, sharing the gangster values of stregth and honor, “strength and honor, blood and earth”. Now that the group’s unity has been undermined, “now that your bro’ isn’t beside you/ they think they can swarm to feed on you” – “că lumea profită, crede că nu ţine/ că nu e şi fratele tău lângă tine”, Sile urges his brother through the lăutar’s voice to stay strong. But his brother will get out soon and “we will do our job properly”, without any mistakes that might send them back behind bars. The piece ends with a threat to their rivals “you have two options left to play/ you do as we say or you do as we say” – “sunt doar două variante pentru voi/ ori faceţi ca noi, ori faceţi ca noi,” the only alternative being total submission.

No matter how dodgy the context in which they are performed, the manele never speak openly of any illicit behaviour. As it is plainly shown by another made by order manea – in which one mobster is eulogized by his lieutenants (“Long live the boss”) during a wedding held in Timişoara, where he is the godfather of the newly-weds: “long live our only boss/ he’s the slickest one across/ he’s got dough, he’s got the shit/ he gives our daily bread to eat (go, Nuţule, go!)/ he’s not a sellout, he’s legit (go, Nuţule, go!)/ he built us our own cribs to fit// you’ve always been there for us, Nuţule/ you’d rather die than sell us out, Nuţule/ you’ve never stopped giving back, Nuţule/ you fed us and you quenched our thirst/ you’ve always helped the other first” – “hai să ne trăiască şeful/ ăsta e descurcăreţul/ are bani şi are de toate/ ne ţine pe toţi în spate (ale, ale, Nuţule!)/ nu se vinde până la moarte (ale, ale, Nuţule!)/ ne-a făcut case palate// ai ţinut mereu aproape, Nuţu/ şi nu te vinzi pân’ la moarte, Nuţule/ că mereu la toţi le-ai dat, Nuţule/ de băut şi de mâncat/ pe mulţi pe mulţi i-am ajutat.”

The only dubious reference in  this seemingly correct text from the point of view of the law is “he’d rather die than sell us out” (i.e. he would never betray them), otherwise, the text could be read as a naïve homage to a philanthropist. In order to discern the real meaning of the piece, the verses need to be put in the context created by the political interplay of dedications – where the song reasserts the continued loyalty and obedience of the mobster’s underlings.

One of the most acomplished and complex pieces of this series, actually, a true performance, is The Soldiers by Florin Salam. Although not a piece made to order, it has no studio version, being reserved exclusively for live performances. Apparently speaking about Salam himself and his band, the piece is read differently by those in the know: as a ludic parable about power, faith and obedience in criminal organizations. In the following, I will analyze a performance given in 2010, in a Timişoara club. Initially, the soloist pretends to be speaking about himself and his band, more acurately, about the way that they have taken by storm the local music market (“Men! We played our hand too well/ We came and we gave them hell/ We cleaned up the hole joint/ And them shits are squeaking oink!” – “Soldaţi! Ce-am făcut ce n-am făcut/ Şi de unde-am apărut/ C-am rupt România în două/ Duşmanii se fac că plouă”). The references to the gangster world are the designation soldaţi (Men!) and the expression “we cleaned up the hole joint” – “am rupt România în două” which, in gangster slang, means great financial profits, illegally obtained. The piece is structured around forceful solo and instrumental interventions (in which the hole orchestra is heard), punctuated by slow passages, in which the soloist’s dialogue with the band is accompanied only by the beat of the drums: Salami is talking to the members of the band at the microphone, while they are cheering him in the background, creating a sort of hypnotic potency, a veritable power trance. The piece subtly glides towards a more direct type of message, “Men!”, calls the singer to his band, which, in turn, replies with acclamations, “you said it boss!” and aggressive rallying hollers, “to war, to battle, oh, daddy, oh”. “Are you with me?” he goes on to ask, “you’ll never sell out, won’t you?” and the soldiers answer with prolonged shouts of enthousiastic approval, confirming their commitment to their boss. In the next sequence, Salami asks them to sit down (“sit, men!”), a test-metaphore for their obedience – the main reason for which, during the next passage (a powerful one, subversively called “hot pursuit”, which reproduces the sound of machine-gun fire), Salami sings standing up, while his band plays form a squatted position.

In the songs performed live at the events organized by the mobsters, the references to the gangster universe are much more precise than in their studio versions, but still somewhat vague. Thus, the organization is described in terms ambiguous in meaning, such as: brigade, brotherhood, shock troops, commando, iron guard[1] (initially, a criminal group and, in a larger sense, any gangster brotherhood), mercenaries, soldiers, army and other expressions pertaining to military hierarchy or the idea of order: general, head, chief, ranks (superior or in respect), to make the law, as well as any number of derivatives from the lexical family of the verb to sell (in the sense to betray). But where does this predilection for military metaphores come from? One researcher, Diego Gambetta, shows that criminal organizations from Sicily have a quasi-military structure, with a boss, lieutenants and soldiers, all obeying a very strict discipline. A situation not that different from that of the Romanian criminal organizations which, according to the press, have bosses/chiefs, lieutenants and soldiers.

In addition, it seems that Romanian gangsters have developed a certain weakness for their Italian counterparts’ preferred outfit – the suit. A propensity toward black in case of the bosses, sunglasses, leather jackets, Adidas sweatpants and skinhead haircuts for their lieutenants – an imitation of the Italian working-class outfit. As a matter of fact, the general trend seems to be massively influenced by Italy – which exerts a much stronger fascination than the anglo-saxon hip-hop and its baggy clothes.


The Lăutari, Pop Troubadours


In spite of their connection to organized crime, with a few notable exceptions, the manele players don’t end up being criminals themselves. In gangsta rap, the star appearing on stage can be an actual gangster (2pac, 50cent, etc.), the mobster or ex-con past of an artist can have a positive effect on his public image; the connection with the criminal world is acknowledged or even exagerated, since it constitutes an integral part of the genre’s identity: as such, it’s not necessarily bad if the man deals some dope on the side. In manele, the roles are strictly assigned: the manele players do not become gangsters and vice versa.

Particularly well-suited to describe the manele player’s relationship with his gangster patrons is the paradigm of the Medieval troubadours, the courtly minstrels which sang the feats of bravery of the noble that protected and payed them – or the beauty of his spouse. These songs were tributary to the high style, “les beaux mots”, poetically exagerating (or fabricating) the valour of the noble and his wife’s everlasting beauty. For the noble it was a way to be eternalized and, at the same time, display the full extent of his power.

To paraphrase Harold Bloom, in the “chaotic age” of postsocialism, the nobles are replaced by the underworld worriors of the day, who demonstrate their power showing that they can afford a top-ranking lăutar that can extoll them and their families. The style is similarly distinguished (“for him, nothing but the most beautiful words for as long as I live,” says a famous lăutar, referring to one of his well-known mobster-patrons), the hyperbola also present. The medieval troubadours praised the great military exploits of their protector – the lăutari glorify his “şmecherie” and his financial might.

In the hectic years of the tenth decade, the connection was more visible, some of the lăutari allowing the public to see that they are protected by mob bosses. The most notorious case is that of a famous musical couple which made a big splash at the end of the tenth decade with five albums dedicated to a certain mobster. Moreover, his picture was featured on the inside cover of the albums, where he was represented on a totally different scale than the musicians, which, by comparison, looked like Hansel and Gretel in the arms of an ogre. His status as financial supporter of the musical performers is specified both on the cover of the album, monopolizing the hole page with the statement “sponsor: Leo from Strehaia, Prince of Gipsies” and in the introductory acknowledgements (which mention the entire extended family of the mobster), and even in the lyrics, which praise ad infinitum the erotic and financial exploits of the prince.

A lăutar from Târgovişte, specialized in manele bagabonţeşti [for the ‘hood] was also the protégé of a mobster who dwelt in the former royal residence of Mircea the Elder and to whom he dedicated an album called Shindig at the hotshots – Chef la şmecheri (“everyone, from king to pawn/ knows Ghenosu as a don/ he’s as sharp as a tack/ he’s a real wise guy whack” – “tot judeţul tot oraşul/ lui Ghenosu-i zice naşul/ e şmecher cu minte multă/ mafiot sută la sută”).

Two other lăutari from the new wave of manele let us know that they are the protégés of a dynasty by repeatedly referring to one of its leaders as their boss.

Before the two, though, there was another famous lăutar that glorified the aforementioned family, showing his gratitude in a manea dedicated to the return form prison of one of its bosses: “my heart squirms in burning pain/ he took me in, out of the rain/ dear god, it was way back then/ when Nuţu loved me like a mother hen” – “mi-este inimioara arsă/ ăla mi-a dat prima casă/ eram doamne la început/ şi Nuţu mă iubea prea mult”; as a matter of fact, in the dedication to one of his songs, the lăutar affectionately calls him daddy Nuţu. Several years later, we find the same lăutar rented by another clan, beaten and stomped by its blood thirsty soldiers, who (according to the daily newspaper Libertatea) “admonished the prince of manele for being unfaithful to them by accepting to play for rival clans, a serious offence to their authority.”

At this level, art praises you, but also rips you off – and few are those who can afford to rent a troubadour or have their name engraved in the timeless fabric of a song or an album. All the rest, wannabe hotshots and the like, have to content themselves with live performances in clubs where, by throwing away half their paycheck, they feel, for about five minutes or so, part of the select club of the chosen.

But, since we are living in the age of “mechanical reproduction”, there are even cheaper solutions. At this level, the rather “pop”-ular one of the common listener, uniqueness is no longer possible and the works are available in cheap copies, “clean” studio versions, without any overt references, left as empty fictional frames with which any hapless bastard that sends a four euro dedication to Taraf TV in order to see his and his girlfriend’s name in the news ticker at the bottom of the screen can identify. Uniqueness and live sensations cost top dollar.


Translated into English by Alexandru Macovei

[1] Examples: Nicolae Guţa and Sorina’s piece, We are the Iron Guard –  Noi suntem Garda de Fier; Adrian Minune’s live performance, Who is the Iron Guard?  – Cine e Garda de Fier? or the most explicit piece, The Iron GuardGarda de Fier  written by DJ Sebi and dedicated to the hotshots operating in the West.

4 replies on “The Manele and The Underworld”

“The Manele…” ROFL
CA sinteti distractivi cu un text despre asa ceva in engleza.
Articolul asta ar merge mai bine pe Academia Catavencu sau Kamikaze 🙂

Foarte tare. Toata lumea se astepta la un articol de genul asta in 1 aprilie, dar el a venit in 4…

Thank you Adrian, that’s very interesting article.
I would love to learn more about the phenomenon “Manele”.
If you do a sequel, which I hope you do, you might go a little bit into the history of the music and its origins. Someone told me that it developed from Ottoman military anthems in the Dobrogea.

Thanks again and hope to read more soon! Julia

Excelent articol. E interesant subiectul manelelor si m-ar interesa daca ai mai multe surse sau daca ai facut cercetarea pe cont propriu.

Pe mine ma intereseaza mai degraba prin prisma altui fenomen inrudit, cel de anti-manea, prin care de fapt se manifesta un rasism inhibat. Si asa mai departe.

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