Taraf de Haïdouks — which translates to “band of honorable outlaws” (a “haidouk” is a Robin Hood-like hero of Romanian folklore) — are a group of virtuoso gypsy musicians from the Romanian village of Clejani. Called the “world’s greatest gypsy band” by some, this colorful cast of characters has charmed audiences worldwide (actor Johnny Depp is one of their biggest fans).
With musicians ranging in age from their twenties to their seventies, the Tarafs play intense, rhythmically complex music at a breakneck pace on fiddles, cymbaloms, and accordions. They’ve also earned a reputation as free spirits, drinking reporters under the table and breaking into song at all hours of the night.
They have a new album — their first studio album since 2001’s Band of Gypsies and the death of their star violinist Neacsu Neculae — due out next month called Maskarada. This time around, the Taraf take on classical music with “re-gypsyfied” renditions of works by Khachaturian, Bartok, Liszt, de Falla, Albeniz, and others.
I’ve seen clips of Taraf de Haidouks where as many as twenty musicians are involved (mostly violins and accordions), but this live performance of “Rustem” features just a quartet — violin, cymbalum, upright bass, and one manic accordion: