Manele Tidbit #2: Loudness Wars

This is a series of uncorroborated rumours and ideas thrown at me from various people I've talked to about manele. Until I finish my research none of it is to be regarded as empirically sound, well-collected evidence, and I'm not providing any source for any of it. Yet! Please correct me if I'm wrong about anything.

No, not those loudness wars.

During the communist era the Roma were an almost completely silenced group in Romania. Not fitting into the idea of national unity, they were silenced, their culture considered crudely derivative of the Ottoman one and unsuitable in the new Romania. They were forbidden from playing their music, excluded from official records, barred from holding many jobs, and generally treated as second-hand citizens. After 1989 there should have been a change to all that but as we all know "free" capitalism and a racist social order doesn't work that way, and they were still consistently pushed to the lowest rungs of the social ladder, discriminated against at all levels, including officially.

But free speech did bring one big change: the Roma could now be heard.

Manele was the catalyst. Out of cars blared the music loudly. Off balconies. Huge speaker systems were set up. Suddenly the previously forbidden tones were everywhere, an immanent political statement reading: here we are.

For an elite that was continually used to nationalism it was extremely offensive. Not to mention the extreme racist right, and to music snobs and emos. Together participants from these groups formed an unholy alliance of "anti-manelisti" on the web, quite well organised, which ran events and planned activities to silence the Roma again. Their most famous action - which should earn them both grudging admiration and scorn from an IT-concious crowd - was a malware virus specifically designed to delete manele MP3s, but in this context, another of their more creative ideas is perhaps more interesting: they planned a counter-attack in loudness. Not long ago, the call went out to put up speakers that blared Mozart (!). Can you imagine a more fantastic image of a culture war, crude gypsy music and eurocentric elite music battling over the soundscape of the city?

Of course, the whole silly dichotomy is queered up by the roma, who are always the most cunning ones after centuries of marginalisation. Because the thing is, Mozart is also manele. Anything can be manele. And here is the video to prove it, if you ignore the gaming noises in the first 30 seconds: a great manele cover of Mozart's 40th Symphony.

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