Musician Gică Diricel: His Music and Estrangement
Speranţa Rădulescu
Translated by Gabriel Neagu

Dobroteşti or Doage, musician Gică Diricel's village, is located in southern Romania, on the wide and fertile plain of the lower Danube, about 150 kilometers from Bucharest. Its traditional way of life seems destroyed; in reality, it is so strong that it is capable of absorbing and integrating all the changes brought by time into its apparently urbanized structure. Most of the houses, sumptuous and of a queer and eclectic architectural style, have two stores, but they are mere "show-off" villas, for their owners go on living in their familiar f├ónaţ, i.e. in their small, two-roomed structures which they either inherited from their ancestors or built as annexes on the model of the old ones. Many villagers have become prosperous businessmen who sell and buy anything: garlic, blue jeans, sheepskins, building materials, corn, plum brandy, Swiss chocolate, etc. Yet, in each extended family -- some young couples live in the husband's parental home -- there are at least two persons who trade in agriculture and sheep breeding, the traditional occupations in the region.

The villagers from Doage do not seem to attach much value to their own customs any more. However, on Eastern Orthodox All Saints' Day (also known in the area as the Summer Fun Fair and celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost) they come from all sides and get together to observe with utmost exactness a ritual of incredible archaism. At 2 o'clock a.m. all the women go to the cemetery to mourn at the cross of the family grave and to fill the departed in on the latest news, in a loud voice: births, marriages, villagers' departures for work or school elsewhere, successful exam results, etc. At 7 a.m. they go and sit down in the middle of the street and devoutly wash the feet of the passers-by. Finally, toward noon they go home and prepare a lavish feast for all the relatives. Dobroteşti will soon be a town, but mothers get angry if their daughters go to the Sunday dance in the company of boys from another part of the village.

At weddings, the bridegroom hires the taraf (ensemble of professional musicians), which comes complete with female vocalist, synthesizer, electric guitar, drum, and amplification equipment, but in the middle of the banquet the lăutari (sing. lăutar, i.e. professional musician) produce their traditional violin, dulcimer, and double bass and start interpreting the old ballads ordered by the table-mates. About 40 years ago Dobrotesti revolted against collectivization and consequently suffered a heavy toll of people killed, tortured, and imprisoned. After the repression the village calmed down and changed its strategy: to survive decently they took to the black market. Right after the events in December 1989 their business was legalized. Now the village is full of life and action. The musicians, too, must keep pace with the changes demanded by the village's strong-willed and energetic inhabitants.

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