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Published: Friday, 3/30/2001

Musicians keep traditional Eastern European sounds alive


In Eastern Europe, the old ways of doing things are fading away.

The songs and dances of traditional musicians are being replaced by generic pop sounds from the West.

Blame the trend on modernization, or looking further back, on the genocide that shattered village culture during World War II.

In the Romanian village of Clejani, however, while its neighbors are being conquered by Madonna, U2, and Britney Spears, local musicians are fighting back by taking their music on the road.

The Romanian Gypsy music ensemble Taraf de Haidouks (Band of Brigands) performs at the Valentine Theatre Sunday.

Formed in 1990 and made up of violinists, accordionists, a bassist, and cymbalum (a large hammered dulcimer), the ensemble includes three generations of musicians ranging in age from 20 to 80. The group has recorded three award-winning albums and is busy with tours across the United States and Western Europe.

Two young Belgians, Stephane Karo and Michel Winter, introduced the Gypsies' music to the West when they asked some of Clejani's musicians to perform in Belgium. Speaking by phone from Cleveland, where the group played this week, Mr. Winter described his first encounters with the music in 1990.

“The musicians were surprised that we were interested in their music, very surprised,” he said. “At that time, there were still some of the traditional music-making events, such as christenings and weddings, but increasingly, people didn't want to hear music from another generation.”

Mr. Winter and Mr. Karo were interested in the old sounds, though, and they decided to test the group's appeal abroad.

The Gypsy music ensemble Taraf de Haidouks performs at the Valentine Theatre at 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15 to $25. Information: 246-8000.

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