New York Gypsy Festival: Wedding band with worldwide following heads roster
By Marty Lipp/For The Star-Ledger
Since beng discovered in 1996 by a German sound engineer, Romanian wedding band Fanfare Ciocarlia has toured internationally and influenced a generation of pop and rock musicians.
07/09/2012 – Few cultures have been as demonized and romanticized as the Gypsies, but the New York Gypsy Festival focuses on their spirit as embodied in their soulful, exuberant music.
This year’s festival, taking place from Saturday to Sept. 30, features one of the bands that helped sparked today’s interest in Gypsy, or Rom, music: Fanfare Ciocarlia of Romania. The brass band, known for its hyper-propulsive playing, was “discovered” by a German sound engineer, Henry Ernst, while he was traveling through Eastern Europe in 1996.
A gas station attendant told him about some Gypsy musicians, from the nearby town of Zece Prajini, who played at weddings. Once in the northeastern Romanian town, Ernst asked around and soon was surrounded by 20 enthusiastic players.
“I thought I’d stay an hour,” Ernst says. “But I stayed three months.”
In the weeks that followed, Ernst watched jam sessions and two-day weddings. He decided that the rest of Europe needed to hear these villagers, who didn’t even have a name.
“We had long discussions about possible names,” says the band’s Oprica Ivancea. “There were hundreds of suggestions and several liters of vodka flowed down our throats until we all agreed on ciocarlia, (meaning) skylark. In the end, we found the skylark is a perfect description for the virtuosity and diversity of our repertoire, and, at the same time, the name brings a little humor into the game: The wolves come as skylarks!”
Though Ernst knew nothing about the business, he pulled together a 10-city tour in Germany and France, and Fanfare Ciocarlia quickly grew a cult following.
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