6 Clicks… For the Endless Voyage: Gadjo Dilo

In our occasional feature we invite guests to select the six cultural links that might sustain them if, by some mischance, they were forced to spend eternity in a succession of airport departure lounges with only an iPad or similar device for company. Today’s voyager is Gadjo Dilo, who brings his distinctive Romanian aesthetic to the waiting room…

I felt at first that I’d used at least 60 favourite clicks on my blog, but then more came to mind. Here, I thought I’d link them, loosely, with my current place of residence, as people seem to find this tolerably interesting*.

#1: Constantin Brâncuşi , rightly Romania’s most famous artist in my opinion: his pieces of reductionist sculpture are exquisite. Born in a village, he started his career painting icons but then decided to walk to Paris. He had a large circle of Bohemian friends there but reputedly wouldn’t let Picasso into his studio knowing that the balding Spanish shagnasty would nick his ideas:

#2 Romanian ruralness continues to make this – for me if for absolutely nobody else – a charming place in which to live: cherry picking festivals, chestnut collecting bacchanalias and folks dressing in traditional cozzies just for the hell of it. I’ll illustrate this briefly using works by Romania’s best painter, Nicolae Grigorescu (above and below) who – like Brâncuşi, he’d fled church iconry for Paree – became a decent Barbizon School en plein air-ist.

#3 Mocanita: In the country’s northernmost part, known as Maramureş, this narrow-gauge railway still carries logs down from the mountains but is now also a prime tourist attraction – a day-long ride up and down a stunningly beautiful valley using original steam locomotives. I can think of nowhere else I’d rather be, especially as here when accompanied by the folk music of the area:

#4 Maia Morgenstern (above) is an actress best known for playing Jesus’ mum. I haven’t seen that but I have seen the award-winning Ulysses’ Gaze, which I confess I found unnecessarily long, pointless and dull. But when Maia appears in it I am transfixed, as I have been watching her in the theatre here. Other Jewish-Romanian luvvies include Edward G. Robinson; (partially) Harvey Keitel, Dustin Hoffman and Lauren Bacall; and screenwriter I.A.L. Diamond. They’re all brilliant, and it’s a feeble excuse, but here’s a scene from the last named’s timeless Some Like it Hot:

#5: Germans are all the rage these days. Malty gave us plenty, several blog colleagues are romantically involved with them, and here in Transylvania they are the only thing that Romanians and Hungarians can agree on. “Let’s get the Germans back”, they say, “and we’d have better roads, reliable cars, and…” ahem, “…they’d get rid of the people we don’t like!”. This means Gypsies and then (non-Aryan) Hungarians or (decidedly non-German) Romanians, according to taste. Astonishing. Be careful what you wish for, lads. Now, you and I know that the Germans have moved on, and I for one wish to celebrate their artistry. Most Romanian “Saxons” – gastarbeiters,some from as long ago as the 12th Century – were deported or have emigrated, leaving only Banat-born Johnny Weissmuller’s yell. But here’s the sublime (German-Ukrainian) Sviatoslav Richter and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Schubert’s stirring Auf der Bruck:

#6 Folk music Most of my work colleagues here are cheerfully listening to Grindcore and Cradle of Filth and scorn my tastes, but I maintain that the old ways are still the best. Speaking of Gypsies, and Hungarians as we were – and by way of balance – there’s an awful lot of great music pumped out by that particular ethnic combination. Here’s cimbalom maestro Kalman Balogh, normally a purveyor of good old-school Pikey Metal, having a stab at classical folk hero (and voluntary Romanian speaker) Béla Bartók:

* I feel I should apologize here to Mahlerman, if he’s reading this, at whom I recently rather went off on one (for reasons I don’t understand other than getting out of the wrong side of the bed) when he made a perfectly reasonable remark about my adopted homeland. I hope he’s still talking to me.

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13 thoughts on “6 Clicks… For the Endless Voyage: Gadjo Dilo

  1. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    November 9, 2010 at 13:27

    Gadjo, with so much sublime local culture to draw on, why would you ever find yourself in an airport departure lounge in the first place? I imagine you would set a world record for fastest onset of homesickness.

  2. info@shopcurious.com'
    November 9, 2010 at 14:16

    ‘Balding Spanish shagnasty’ – love it! Hadn’t head of Brancusi, but enjoyed seeing this curiously cool private view a la tube. Am tempted by the train ride – looks spectacular, what’s the weather up to in Romania at this time of year? Great traditional folk music too – but how could anyone do that to Bartok’s Romanian dances… (by the way, do you really dance that fast?)

  3. finalcurtain@gmail.com'
    November 9, 2010 at 14:19

    I had to look back Gadjo, to try and spot when you ‘went off on one’. I could only find your spirited response to my rather feeble attempt at humour when I mentioned that I wanted to live where folk pointed at ‘planes in the sky – I used to live in Ireland where they did! And as for you being on the naughty step – as my gran used to say, you big soppy date. Would be interested though, in your opinion of the current selection of music from the overgrown path, on Lazy Sunday a couple of days ago?
    Your own set which I’ve just seen (obviously) are wonderful – in fact, when I finish my current tranche of work, I’m going back for another look.

  4. Worm
    November 9, 2010 at 16:10

    I cant actually watch any videos at the moment as I dont get my home internet back till the weekend, but Im sure they’re all great. Grigorescu is really rather good isn’t he?
    Just incidentally I was intruiged to discover the other day whilst randomly reading the news that there is still a leper colony in Romania. Its actually rather scandalous how little most brits know about the balkans generally. I best most british people couldn’t even show you where it is on a map with any confidence

  5. kevinmusgrove2000@yahoo.com'
    November 9, 2010 at 23:12

    I could never really take to Brâncuşi until the Hairy Bikers visited the memorial to the fallen of World War I. I’m still not a fan but I could see the virtue of his use of space and stature.

    And any excuse for both a mention of Lauren Bacall and a clip of “Some Like It Hot” can’t be a bad thing!

  6. zmkc@ymail.com'
    November 10, 2010 at 04:25

    Not “absolutely nobody else”.

  7. fchantree@yahoo.co.uk'
    Gadjo Dilo
    November 10, 2010 at 06:20

    Peter, Cluj probably has the newest (and consequently least characterful) modern airport in Europe! It’s an interesting point you raise: as an ex-pat, one’s homesickness for one’s muvver country might get edged out by homesickness for one’s adoptive one – this hasn’t quite happened yet, but it’s perfectly plausable.

    Susan, Brancusi really is worth a look, in my opinion – best of all in New York’s art galleries – there is the lingering doubt about where art can possibly go after reductionism. Yes, some Romanian dances really are that fast, but sadly, from a personal perspective, my knees are not always up to them these days 🙂

    Mahlerman, ah, good show, but one is never entirely sure on the ‘Net whether ‘humour’ comes across as such 🙂 I did comment on your Lazy Sunday selection, and found the music there very interesting, though challenging at times. By the way, “on the overgrown path”, are you a Janacek fan by any chance? I shall use your gran’s excelent phrase as soon as the occasion arises.

    Worm, yes, Grigorescu really is rather good. Not perhaps a setter of trends, but very very accomplished. I didn’t know about there being a leper colony here; Romanians may not eiither – so there may be no point asking – as they are world champions at ignoring what they don’t like.

    Kev, ah yes, the Hairy Bikers, I remember that episode, and I remember that they reasonably enjoyed their visit here (but then the ‘cuisine’ here doesn’t really get any better than an outdoor barby of meat for hairy blokes). Indeed, “Some Like It Hot” is one of our favourite films: we saw it again the other day and were again amazed at it’s all-round excellence (and its cheekiness… for 1959).

    zmkc, mmm, I’m glad that there is somebody else as well as me 🙂 I must tell you sometime about our trip to the annual festival of the nearby (largely Hungarian) village of Mera, where all ethnicities were living side by side and seemed to be making a good fist of it, which was nice.

  8. philipwilkinson@ukonline.co.uk'
    November 10, 2010 at 09:57

    Gadjo: What a terrific selection: thank you. I was thrilled to see lots of Brancusis I’d not seen before and the train sequence was an unexpected pleasure. And Fischer-Dieskau and Richter in the Schubert – fantastic. They had me scuttling off to listen to three other recordings of this song, just to confirm, of course, that D F-D sings it best of all, combining a speedy pace with expressiveness: marvellous.

    Re homesickness for one’s adopted country, I share my life with a woman who divides her time between two countries, feeling pangs when she leaves one for the other. I suppose it shows she’s emotionally balanced…

  9. finalcurtain@gmail.com'
    November 10, 2010 at 10:26

    Yes Gadjo, I’m a big fan of the great (and frisky) Czech, each bar of whose music could only have come from him. ‘In the mists’ and ‘On an overgrown path’ are surely masterworks. I would already have included him in Lazy Sunday, but I couldn’t find anything ‘brief’ enough; 3-5 minutes seems to me (x4) to be about the limit of what I might expect Dabblers to endure, even on a couch-potato Sunday.
    And where has Maia Morgenstern been hiding all my life?

  10. Worm
    November 10, 2010 at 11:00

    …and what a great name Morgenstern is! – ‘Morning Star’ – it sounds very poetic and lovely!

  11. fchantree@yahoo.co.uk'
    Gadjo Dilo
    November 11, 2010 at 06:42

    Hi Philip, I’m glad that you enjoyed it 🙂 Yes, Fischer-Dieskau and Richter were both absolute masters of their arts. I particularly like that series of filmed lieder: there are several of them and D F-D is in particularly spirited form, sometimes seeming to tease Richter. The latter, though seemingly a most hetero old codger when at the old Joanna gets up and one point and rather minces off! Ah, from whence does Mrs Philip Wilkinson hail?

    Mahlerman, you are clearly even more a man after my own heart than I hitherto expected. Janacek turned me on to 20 century classical music and I still listen to his music in preference to almost anybody else’s. I looked for his delightful “Hospodine!” as a possible Lazy Sunday item of my own (should I be afforded the chance) but couldn’t find it anywhere on YouTube. Maia is indeed a handsome woman, and becoming more striking with age, unlike the silly floosies which youngsters today profess to prefer….

    Worm, Mel Gibson apparantly chose Morgenstern for his Chist-killing epic for precisely that reason 🙂

  12. philipwilkinson@ukonline.co.uk'
    November 11, 2010 at 22:25

    Gadjo: I will look visit YouTube and look for the filmed lieder.

    Mrs W hails from the Cotswolds but spends a lot of her time in the Czech Republic, which, as you will know, is in Central, not Eastern, Europe. The land of Janáček, in fact (and indeed of Mahler, although not a lot of people know that). I am particularly fond of Janáček’s string quartets, by the way, and I’m listening to his piano music more and more.

  13. fchantree@yahoo.co.uk'
    Gadjo Dilo
    November 12, 2010 at 05:19

    Philip, Cotswolds and The Czech Republic sounds to me a particularly delightful combination! I’ve had a soft spot for the latter ever since I read The Good Soldier Svejk and I once spent a very happy week in Brno and its environs. Should you fancy a short excursion to Eastern, rather than Central, Europe, I would recommend our George Enescu’s two excellent string quartets.

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