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  1. 1. June 2014 Dissertation Underground Folklore: from a musical genre to a new cultural consciousness? Author: Rzvan George Galo Main Supervisor: Dr. Fabio Cleto Universit degli Studi di Bergamo Support Supervisor: Dr. Claudia Kozak Universidad Nacional de Entre Ros
  2. 2. Rzvan George Galo Dissertation June 2014 2 Declaration I Rzvan George Galo hereby certify that this dissertation, which is 18,011 words in length, has been written by me, that it is a record of work carried out by me, and that it has not been submitted in any previous application for a higher degree. All sentences or passages quoted in this dissertation from other peoples work (with or without trivial changes) have been placed within quotation marks, and specifically acknowledged by reference to author, work and page. I understand that plagiarism the unacknowledged use of such passages will be considered grounds for failure in this dissertation and, if serious, in the degree programme as a whole. I also affirm that, with the exception of the specific acknowledgements, these answers are entirely my own work. Signature of candidate
  3. 3. Rzvan George Galo Dissertation June 2014 3 Contents Abstract..................................................................................................................................... 4 1. The sound of underground folklore ................................................................................ 5 1.1. Folklore as inspiration ................................................................................................. 7 1.2. Dolhasca, an archaic place......................................................................................... 11 1.3. From colinde to hip-hop ............................................................................................ 13 1.4. The sound of childhood ............................................................................................. 18 2. From identity crisis to national unity............................................................................ 20 3. When in 89...................................................................................................................... 29 4. The thin line between underground and mainstream ................................................. 34 5. Nostalgia between urban and rural............................................................................... 39 Conclusion............................................................................................................................... 43 Bibliography ........................................................................................................................... 45
  4. 4. Rzvan George Galo Dissertation June 2014 4 Abstract The focus of this dissertation is to set the basis for the study of a musical genre referred to as underground folklore. The term was coined by Romanian hip-hop band Subcarpai in 2012 and used as title for their second album. Underground folklore is also a good description for the style of the band, a hybrid between modern genres such as hip-hop and Romanian folklore motifs. The first chapter analyses the sound of underground folklore, in order to make room for questions regarding the reasons for its creation. The hypothesis is that the musical genre was born as a result of an equation with many variables, the most important ones being represented by concepts such as identity and nostalgia, which shall be discussed throughout the study. The context around the creation of underground folklore will also be defined as being related to Romanias recent history and to the underground hip-hop sphere of the city of Bucharest. Ultimately, the analysis will show that underground folklore is a good example in describing Romanian society nowadays, especially regarding the dual relationship between city and countryside, new and old, modern and traditional. This dual relationship can be also observed as the cultural heritage of at least one generation. The primary sources of the study will be the songs of Subcarpai, both instrumentally and lyrically, alongside interviews and documentaries in which the members of the band are the protagonists.
  5. 5. Rzvan George Galo Dissertation June 2014 5 1. The sound of underground folklore Folcloru-i oxigen pentru un popor astmatic Folklore is oxygen for an asthmatic people (Subcarpati, Balada Romanului, 2012) This chapter analyses the construction of a musical genre, which has been referred to as underground folklore (in Romanian underground folclor), a combination between old and new, between traditional and modern, born in the city of Bucharest, but inspired by a tradition that has survived throughout the centuries, resembling an archaic way of life that can still be found in the Romanian countryside. Before any other considerations it is important to clarify that the present study is not focused whatsoever on concepts such as protochronism term used to ascribe an idealized past to a country as a whole, which came to the fore in the 1970s in Romania and had affinities to earlier traditionalist interpretations of national development and, later, to Ceausescu's increasingly nationalist utterances, emphasizing the unique and pioneering character of Romanian culture (Hitchins, 1992, p. 1082). Although the results of such concepts could easily be situated in the sphere of ridiculousness, Romanian culture, and folklore especially, should be by no means seen with discomfiture. The analysis of Romanian rural tradition, although it may seem like an approach to localness, should not be observed in terms of the distinguishness that sometimes folklore proudly acclaims and hardly defends, but purely as an inspirational factor that influenced the expressivity of a new art form such as underground folklore. The concept of underground folklore was introduced in 2012 by the Romanian hip- hop band Subcarpai, which was established in 2010 and was described by The Guardian as an explosive mixture of old and new, an eclectic combination that brings together melancholy Romanian folk songs, Romanian unity songs, traditional instruments and the rhythms of trip-hop, dubstep, hip-hop and dancehall (The Guardian, 2012). Underground Folclor is also the title of Subcarpais second album and it appears to be a good description for the style of the band, which at the beginning was hard to define; constructions such as
  6. 6. Rzvan George Galo Dissertation June 2014 6 etno or neofolk used by the media to name a new way to assimilate and produce folklore were seen with scepticism by the members of the band. Although the construction underground folklore was born two years after the band was formed, it provides a good description for the early works, as well as a pattern that will be hard not to follow, at least in the near future. In this chapter the focus will be on the sound of underground folklore, with particular attention given to the Romanian rural motifs and the way the poetics of hip-hop relate to them. The first part will consist in a presentation of the use of folklore musical motifs throughout various stages of Romanian music. Afterwards, a glimpse at some of the local traditions still preserved will be important in explaining the influence of Romanian folklore productions on underground folklore. Ultimately, a parallel and coalescence between traditional folklore music and hip-hop will be necessary in order to define the architecture and the sound of the underground folklore. The objective of the present study is not to engage in an in-depth analysis of Romanian folklore music, but to prove its necessity in terms of social and cultural identity disruptions of course, references to particular folklore productions will be made, in order to define the subject at hand, a subject very little discussed from a critical point of view, a factor that represents a big challenge considering the almost limitless possible approaches. Thus, in order to avoid a massive confusion in the readers perception, the present chapter will try to answer the question what is underground folklore?, while the subsequent will deal with more difficult questions such as why? or where to?. One could assimilate the process of writing to the process of recording a song, based on multitracking (an overlapping of channels, where each one corresponds to a different instrument), but with ideas instead of sounds. Of course, the simple overlapping of two or more channels during the recording and production of a song is not enough to achieve a good sound. In the same way, the present study needs a decent amount of mixing and masterizing, in order to attribute the right place and level (of importance) to every idea, which just like an instrument or a sound, has a defined role in relation to the spatiality and general vibe of the final result. Hopefully at least the rhythmic part will sound decently.
  7. 7. Rzvan George Galo Dissertation June 2014 7 1.1. Folklore as inspiration Asked about his relationship with folklore, Andrei Marius Alexe, also known as Bean MC (which I shall refer to as Bean throughout the study), the founder of the Subcarpai project, replied that his connection to Romanian tradition is very personal and can be traced to his childhood, when he used to spend his summer breaks in the countryside, in Dolhasca, Moldova (Alexe, 2012). My grandmother introduced me to folklore music - Bean states - she was always asking me to turn down the volume of my rap tapes, to show some respect and listen to our music (Alexe, 2012). Bean affirms that he took advantage of the lack of an authentic sound and the lack of promotion of folklore in current Romanian music, by searching the lost sound, the sound he listened to long ago in Dolhasca, very different from the almost manufactured folklore he used to hear on television (Alexe, 2012). Regarding the commercialize