A group of gypsy musicians from the small Romanian village of Clejani, the line-up of Taraf De Haïdouks (their name translates as Orchestra Of Honourable Brigands) has featured Lonel Lonitsa Manole (15 November 1967, Izvoarele, Romania; accordion), Marin P. Manole (b. 20 September 1943, Clejani, Romania; accordion), Marin Marius Manole (b. 3 January 1958, Clejani, Romania; accordion), Lon Manole (b. 9 June 1920, Clejani, Romania; vocals/violin), Lon Lonica Tanase (b. 10 September 1969, Bucasni, Romania; cymbalum), Dumitru Cacurica Baicu (b. 16 September 1931, Bolintin Vale, Romania, d. 9 September 2007, Clejani, Romania; vocals/cymbalum), Anghel Caliu Gheorghe (b. 30 March 1960, Clejani, Romania; violin), Constantin Costica Lautaru (b. 27 February 1959, Gratia, Romania; violin/vocals), Viorel Vlad (b. 11 October 1959, Cartojani, Romania; double bass), Llie Lorga (b. 15 November 1928, Mirsa, Romania; vocals), Paul Posalan Gluclea (b. 10 January 1933, Gratia, Romania; vocals/violin), Gheorghe Fluerash Flacaru (b. 29 July 1954, Valea Seca, Romania; flute), and Neculae Neacsu (b. 4 February 1924, Clejani, Romania, d. 3 September 2002, Romania; vocals/violin).
Taraf De Haïdouks were first brought to the attention of the outside world in 1990 when they performed a few concerts in Belgium. Signed to Crammed World (a subsidiary of the Belgium-based Crammed Records label), they released their debut, Musique Des Tsiganes De Roumanie, in 1992. It introduced the bands mix of crazed Balkan dance tunes, medieval ballads, Indian-sounding gypsy vocals and an upright bass sound reminiscent of vintage rockabilly. An instant hit among world music fans across Europe, the Tarafs toured extensively, including appearances at the Montreux International Jazz and WOMAD Festivals. They also appeared in the award-winning documentary film Latcho Drom and a television special with classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Their second release, Honourable Brigands, Magic Horses And Evil Eye, was even stronger and more diverse than its predecessor and topped many world music critics Best Of The Year polls.
The band continued to combine a rigorous touring schedule with frequent trips back to Clejani and their traditional gypsy lifestyle. In 1996 Taraf De Haïdouks, a documentary film about the band made by French director Guy Demoy, was released. 1998s Dumbala Dumba featured guest appearances from other Romanian gypsy musicians as well as the usual Tarafs line-up. In the same year the band gave an acclaimed performance with the Kronos Quartet at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
The Tarafs released their major label debut in 1999, helping introduce their music to a North American audience. In 2000, they made a brief appearance in Johnny Depps The Man Who Cried, having already performed at the actors Viper Room club. The bands figurehead, Neculae Neacsu, died in September 2002. Their next studio outing, 2007s Maskarada, offered up interpretations of classical pieces by composers including Bartok, De Falla, Ketèlbey, Albeniz and Khachaturian. While honourable in intent (classical music has routinely borrowed from gypsy music), the results were rather a mixed bag.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.