The 1990s was THE decade to be a Romanian rock band.
After the Communist regime was crushed and dictator Ceausescu swiftly executed in December 1989, a sense of exhilaration penetrated deep to the bone of each Romanian, in every little corner of the society: economy, social interaction, arts. Rock music included.
Being a rock musician in the 1980s was a big deal, because under communists it was a symbol of the sought-after liberty. That liberty was there now. ** Survolaj was a band based in the city of Timisoara, where the Revolution began in mid-December 1989. They were together from circa 1988, and already recognized locally and at the most important rock fest allowed under communists, Buzau Rock Fest. Members of the band were in the streets during the Revolution, their life on the line.
In January 1990, the band appeared on the only TV station of the nation, TVR. 1990 went on too fast, with major political events capturing the nation, and no major rock festival was born. But in early 1991 Bogdan Nicolescu, a young radio DJ from the capital of Romania, Bucharest, traveled to Timisoara to convince the band to play in Bucharest. He managed to book a community center in Bucharest – not designed for rock concerts (nothing was designed for music, it was all purpose under communists) -, also managed to book a sound team, invite rock guru Florian Pittis, and sell out Survolaj’s first ever concert in the country’s capital. The concert will immediately become the subject of legend, helping the band achieve cult status. Front man Daniel Silvian Petre shocked everybody with his climactic soaring vocals, diva style, something never done in Romanian rock before and, as far as I know, after (check minute 35 to minute 40). Think Ian Gillan in Child in Time, but higher pitch. He also exposed a poetic side (he went on to become a published poet in 1996), with folkish blockflutte parts and lyrics from great Romanian poets Tudor Arghezi (Hora de baieti), Lucian Blaga (Cintareti bolnavi) and Al. Macedonski (Cintecul ploaiei) Charismatic guitarist Zsolt Szabo established himself as a slide & wah wah prodigy, and opened the concert with a stunning bow & guitar number a-la Jimmy Page. The chemistry between drummer Levente ‘Levi’ Molnar and bassist Catalin Teodoreanu roots back to their mentors Black Sabbath, Cactus or Cream. Their ability to jam and integrate the guitar in a powerful, perfect engine – as shown in the last minutes of this concert – announced the great days to come. ** Survolaj went on to record just one album in this lineup, Survolaj 1, in 1992. That album is a precious collector item nowadays (I took it to Jimi Hendrix’s grave in 2011). ** MORE ROMANIAN PROGRESSIVE from the 1990s Other hidden treasures of Romanian progressive rock of the 1990s include