Gabi Luncă / Princes Among Men
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Gabi Luncă
Sounds from a Bygone Age Vol. 5
Asphalt Tango

Various Artists
Princes among Men: Journeys with Gypsy Musicians
Asphalt Tango (

The sustenance of Gypsy music as folk music was one beneficial consequence of Eastern Europe's Cold War isolation, as documented by Asphalt Tango's Sounds from a Bygone Age series. The fifth volume is dedicated to Romanian singer Gabi LuncLuncă (b. 1938), who launched her career by winning a local folksong contest, followed by radio appearances and a move to Bucharest that launched her professional recording and performing career. Together with the man who became her husband, Gypsy accordionist Ion Onoriu (heard here, along with trumpeter Costel Vasilescu and tsimbal player Toni Iordache), LuncLuncă forged a career combining bars, cafe, party, and wedding performances with regular radio, TV, and festival appearances. If today's prevalent Euro- and Gypsy pop influences reflect the homogenizing dictates of international youth culture, these LuncLuncă classics, resurrected from the vaults of the state-owned Electrecord label, presents sounds from an era when national tastes were as vibrant and distinctive as they were elusive of the Party's cultural oversight.

Princes Among Men reflects Garth Cartwright's journey through the Balkans in search of traditional Gypsy music; the disc complements author's book of the same title (a carousing read in its own right). Along with gems from better-known artists such as Fanfare Ciocarlia, Jony and Boril Iliev, Toni Iordache, Kocani Orkester, Boban Markovic, Ferus Mustafov, Esma Redzepova, and Taraf de Haidouks, this 18-track compilation exposes listeners to other artists equally talented and diverse. Captured here are the speeding brass lines, knuckle-breaking accordion, bounding tsimbal melodies, relentless start-and-stop percussion, thumping bass, and searing vocals, the boundless energy, good humor, and high spirits that distinguish the living Gypsy legacy in the Balkans. - Michael Stone

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