Controversies around the „manele” performed at Gopo Awards

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The manele performance at the Gopo 2019 Awards gala has been criticised by some local artists, while the organizers retorted that artists should not be treated with prejudices.

Manele is a mixture of “oriental” Romanian folk and contemporary pop music with bases on Balkan influences The lyrics usually refer to themes of love, enemies, money, alcoholism and difficulties of life in general, or some of the songs are specifically dedicated to parties, weddings, funerals, etc. Manele style contains objections to music primitiveness and low performance. Manele are widely criticized for their lyrical content, which often consists of boasts about the singer’s supposed sex appeal, intellect, wealth, social status, and superiority over so-called “enemies”.

TV actor, songwriter and sincer Mihai Margineanu has slammed the manele moment performed by a band coming from Dan Bursuc’s school: „Last night, at the Gopo Awards, the fanciest event of the Romanian cinema culture, organizers have brought on stage a band consisting of chubby Roma guys, their T-shirts covering their stuffed bellies who performed <a manele programme>,” said Margineanu, arguing that the audience seemed embarrassed by the situation, which seemed „borrowed from the communist era”. „I saw the peaks of our culture applauding out of embarrassment and common sense, like in the communist time, when you had to applaud so that the communist secret police officer can see you that you are not retrograde and destabilising. Seeing so much subculture injected in culture last night, I was certain that Romania is in advanced metastatic disease”, he argued.

When a commentor told him that he had also stolen from the Roma culture for his songs, Margineanu replied: „Hey..I play gypsy music, some songs in Romani. Manele is not part of the Romanian culture, but part of the stupid people’s illiteracy. The manele singer has nothing to do with the Roma or with the gypsy.

Singer Aurelian Temisan has also criticised the manele performance, commenting that „he lived a shameful moment.” “To see on the National Theatre an elite festival, bringing together script writers, directors, producers, TV people and actors and to listen a white T-shirt chunky who lacked only the barbecue…”, he argued.

Temisan’s wife, actress Monica Davidescu said in her turn that „Gopo Awards, glamour, elegance, if only organizers would not have made a flagrant mistake and bring manele on stage”.

In retort, the Gopo awards’ organizers explained that the artistic performances and parodies within the Gopo Awards are usually reflecting social and political contexts or that are related to the life stories or the topic of the nominated films.

In this case, the invitation to Kana Jambe band is obviously related to the plot of the film <Soldiers. A story from Ferentari> directed by Ivana Mladenovic, that received the award for the debut film. It is an extremely courageous movie, which revealed the uncomfortable realities in a social area totally ignored by the Romanian cinema so far. The story of the leading character, an anthropologist who is moving to Ferentari to write his PhD thesis about manele, the fact that the film is featuring a sequence related to Dan Bursuc’s school, convinced us that the presence of Kana Jambe band would only continue the film director’s undertaking. Let’s avoid marginalisation, let’s try not treat the artists with prejudices only because they perform a certain music genre that many do not like. We wanted the Gopo Gala this year to be a plea for diversity, acceptances and tolerance”, reads the organizers’ message.

Ferentari is a is a neighbourhood located in the 5th district in Bucharest. It has a bad reputation—as being the worst borough in Bucharest as the district of drug dealers, prostitution and mob actions in Bucharest, and is also known for the accommodating a large socially disadvantaged Roma population. The word “Ferentari” comes from the Latin word “Ferentarius” meaning “soldier in the old pedestrian army”.

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