Romanian rock music is alive and well, a mature musical genre with its beginnings in the 1960s.
As one that started listening and attending live concerts in late 1970s, I am mostly familiar with three decades of its history: the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
I left Romania at the end of 90s to settle in Canada, so I’m a bit out of the loop ever since.
The 70’s and 80’s Romanian rock was fascinating to witness.
It served well our thirst for freedom under the dark reign of Communists.
Communists were gone at the end of 1989, so the 90’s – especially the early ones, 1990-1993 – were loaded with creative rockers coming of age and free to play anything.
Below are my top 10 songs to get you started with your crash course in Romanian rock. Enjoy!
Arguably the best Romanian rock band ever. Famous for emigrating illegally to Western Germany hidden in speaker cabinets in the back of a truck.
Band’s leader, Dan Andrei Aldea, is arguably the best guitar player Romanian rock ever had (just listen what happens in this song after minute 2’45”). Also a complex musician with formal classical training, Aldea emigrated to Western Germany during the dark 80’s in Communist Romania.
Band: Celelalte Cuvinte
Another band from Transylvania (just like Phoenix above), Celelalte Cuvinte (a wordplay literally meaning “the other words”) rocked the 80s with their blend of hard rock, elaborate passages and lyric interludes. Still an active band.
Band: Pro Musica
Prog rockers from the vibrant scene of Timisoara (where Phoenix and Celelalte Cuvinte were as well), Pro Musica’s career spans three decades, 70s-90s
The most beloved Romanian rock singer ever was the frontman of Iris for 22 years: Cristi Minculescu. Just recently he left the band to pursue solo projects.
Band: Timpuri Noi
This chorus of this song from the 80s goes like “light bulb, please stay alive, we love you” – a tongue-in-cheek reference to the forced hydro blackouts that Ceausescu ordered in the 80s, leaving a nation in the dark and cold on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, little is known and talked about the Hungarian rock scene in Transylvania during late 70s to mid 80s. Growing up in that part of Romania, I was lucky enough to go to rock concerts that were just like in the West! Hard rock, long hair, lighting show – this was out of this world for a kid in Communist Romania.
Metropol were the best known band, but there were at least a dozen more worth mentioning.
Definitely a great page in Romanian rock music.
Band: Semnal M
Another legendary band from Romania, Semnal M called Cluj – the capital of Transylvania – home. They brought the Deep Purple-ish sounds into Romanian rock, but went well beyond that.
Solid rockers from Timisoara, one of the bands that successfully managed the transition from underground rock during Communist regime to freedom rock after 1989.
Survolaj shocked everybody when they showed up on Romanian’s rock scene.
They were the first to package Led Zeppelin, Cactus and jam rock in the form of a Romanian rock band with a modern sound. The few live appearances were closely followed by a cult audience.
The diva-like ambitus of frontman Daniel Petre, unique in Romanian rock, is well represented in the 18-minute epic below.