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Oana Cătălina Chiţu [Romania]

Oana Cătălina Chiţu [Romania]

ARTIST: Oana Cătălina Chiţu

COUNTRY: Romania

GENRE: Romanian, Romantic, East European Tango, Jazz, 20th Century Chansons

ABOUT: Sweet songs of sorrow – old world tango from Bucharest “Da-mi gurita s-o sarut” (give me your mouth, so I can kiss it) was sung by the Romanian tango star Jean Moscopol in the thirties. When Romania’s King Mihail was forced to abdicate in 1947, many artists left Romania, crossing the green border to the West. The voices of the elegant tango and foxtrot singers were gone, Jean Moscopol had emigrated, the Gypsy singer Zavaidoc had died and Cristian Vasile had fallen silent: There was no place for “decadent tango” in the Socialist People’s Republic of Romania.

“Da-mi gurita s-o sarut” is also sung by Oana Cătălina Chiţu who lives in Berlin. Although she does perform in sequined dresses and costume jewellery true to the style of the era, she has done more than just don the melancholic tangos and songs from the repertoire of Maria Tanase as if they were a costume to wear on stage, perfectly mastering the passionate gestures of the tango performers from back then. While the singer and her band have mainly ventured through the music of the Balkans up to now, she has recently come back to the songs of her childhood. Even thought tango classics like “Mina Birjar” by Jean Moscopol were not played on Romanian radio in the seventies and eighties, Oana Cătălina Chiţus’ father sang them every evening on his way home from the village pub where he worked. Snatches of music from another time Oana only knew about from the tales she had heard, but which aroused her curiosity. She learned more from relations in Bucharest who ran an antique lottery shop from the thirties and owned countless old gramophone records by the tango stars.

Oana Cătălina Chiţu grew up in the backwaters of Romania in rural surroundings and she sang in the church choir of her home village as a child, already learning guitar in her early years. She arrived in Berlin in the nineties, after having made many stops along the way, and studied piano, jazz and opera singing. In 2000, she formed the Balkan band ‘Romenca’ with the accordian player Dejan Jovanovic who comes originally from Serbia. However, her yearning for the elegant Romanian tangos never left her and, when the Romanian writer Mircea Catarescu wrote an article about the beautiful Gypsy girl Zaraza, triggering off speculation about dramatic jealous scenes between the singer Zavaidoc and his rival Cristian Vasile, this finally urged Oana Cătălina Chiţu to give all of those old tango melodies their rightful place and bring them into to the present. In the autumn of 2007, supported by the Romanian Cultural Institute in Berlin, she brought her musical and theatrical performance “Bucharest Tango” to the stage. The theatre was not only filled with Romanians living in exile, but also tango fans who had never previously heard of the tango metropolis of Bucharest. Oana Cătălina Chiţu interprets the texts, which mainly deal with love and were mostly written for the tango stars by male composers, with the same sensitivity as the songs of the unforgotten Maria Tanase. Chiţu has been a great admirer of Tanase for a long time and her songs have been part of Chiţu’s repertoire for years. During her concerts, the Romanian singer proffers spontaneous and charming translations of the highly poetic texts of the Tanase songs again and again to the audience.

Oana Cătălina Chiţus’ warm and sonorous voice does justice to Tanase and to the tangos; the arrangements are original and yet remain in touch with tradition. No other singer of the younger generation from Romania has been able to approach the tangos à la romanesque so authentically and yet so freely. Only a few musicians have attempted to perform the old music, and the unlovingly arranged tango versions with keyboard accompaniment that can be heard in Bucharest restaurants are best forgotten. Although Romania is a country with a rich musical tradition, everyday life there has been dominated since the revolution by cheap pop music. Factory-produced Manele squeezed out the virtuoso music of the suburbs into existence on the cultural periphery, although there has recently been growing interest in the muzica lautareasca.

Oana Cătălina Chiţu, now resident in Berlin, and her virtuoso Eastern-European Balkan tango orchestra bring the Tanase songs back to life with a suggestive potency and lend the rather melancholic tangos a different emotional nuance. Chiţus’ musicians combine tango hits with Jazz, Sinti Swing and Flamenco, take a look at the period between the Wars without a false sense of nostalgia and open the doors to tangos and songs from Bucharest, the grubby Paris of the East, which were up until now only known to insiders.

LINE-UP (line-ups are available from duo to octet):
Oana Cătălina Chiţu: vocals
Dejan Jovanovic: accordion
Vladimir Karparov: alto saxophon / clarinet
Alexej Wagner: acoustic guitar
Dimitris Christides: drums / percussion
Alexander Franz: double bass
Veaceslav Anton: violin
Valeriu Cascaval: cimbalon

“Chiţu’s voice is somewhere between Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf, and very unlike anything you’re likely to have heard before.” (Chris Moss, Songlines) (Top of The World)

“Thank goodness the wait is over. Get ready for a real treat when you give “Divine” a first listen. I guarantee you will be drawn in by the extroverted first track, and into the ballads and romances as well. If anyone can spark life into this music and this repertory, it is Oana Cătălina Chiţu and her first rank musicians. Give a listen, then listen again. That’s what I’ve done and I am more delighted with each hearing.” (James Baker, Texas Public Radio)

“Berlin-based Romanian singer Oana Cătălina Chiţu uses her outstanding voice to sing the essential repertoire of one of Romania’s most cherished performers of the 20th century, Maria Tănase. Oana Cătălina Chiţu has taken these popular songs and gave them a makeover, making them modern in a sense but also timeless at the same time.” (Angel Romero, World Music Central)

“Divine is an exceptionally good collection of 20th century songs by the splendid Oana Cătălina Chiţu, one of the finest performers of Romanian music of our times.” (Angel Romero, World Music Central)

“Whether tackling sensual love songs, instrumental romps (“Tananica”), or heart-wrenching doinas (“Cântec de leagan”), Chitu and her band breathe bold life into the legacy of Romania’s early 20th-century popular music, without losing their contemporary sensibility or experimental drive.” (Devin MacDonald, BroadwayWorld)

“An imaginative singer and her band who’ve taken on the task of carrying a weighty legacy and succeed mightily.” (delarue, New York Music Daily)

“Wanna try something adventurous that will still appeal to your jazz sensibilities? How about ROMANIAN CABARET MUSIC?!? Did I get your attention yet? GOOD! Singer Oana Catalina Chitu delves into a songbook that I can guarantee NO ONE in the US is taking songs from; traditional tunes Romania diva Maria Tanase made famous in her home country a couple generations and a whole world of music ago. She fronts a band that is sort of what you’d expect if The Hot Club of France lived behind the Iron Curtain; swinging and sensuous with a gypsy flair. The accordions and violins are bouncing off of the walls of this smoky nightclub of sound. Chitu’s voice is alluringly earthy, and the band can roar like a stampede as on the incessant “Trenule Masina Mica” or delve into a tango-ish dance floor special on “Habar N-ai Tu”. She gets playful on “Lunca, Lunca” and can make a mournful ballad drip with pathos on ”Pe Vale.” There are translations of each song inside, but who cares? The swing is the thing, and wait until you hear the band whirl around like a top on the manic “Tananica.” This is a force that needs to be dealt with. Get them to the States NOW NOW NOW!!! Pretend that I’m the Jack Bauer of jazz journalists, “You’ve got to trust me”.” (George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly)

– “Divine” (Asphalt Tango, 2013)
– “Bucharest Tango” (Asphalt Tango, 2008)

– Cafe Hahn, Koblenz, Germany
– Baschrassfestival, Heidelberg, Germany
– Moods, Zurich, Switzerland
– Spielboden, Dornbirn, Austria
– Ulmer Museum, Ulm (Bucharest Tango!), Germany
– Gypsyfestival, Tilburg, Netherlands
– Bardentreffen, Nuremberg, Germany
– Muziekpublique, Brussels, Belgium
– Stadschouwburg, Brugge, Belgium
– TransVocale, Frankfurt, Germany
– Akkordeonfestival, Vienna, Austria
– MMDM, Moscow, Russia
– Moods, Zurich, Switzerland
– La Spirale, Fribourg, Switzerland
– TFF, Rudolstadt, Germany
– Festival der Kulturen, Stuttgart, Germany
– Södra, Stockholm, Sweden
– RASA, Utrecht, Netherlands
– Zuiderpershuis, Antwerp, Belgium
– Cultuurcentrum Brugge, Brugge, Belgium
– Ethno Jazz, Wroclaw, Poland
– Balkan Trafik, Brussels, Belgium
– Cinema Paradiso, St. Pölten, Austria
– Akropolis, Prague, Czech Republic
– Mupa, Budapest, Hungary
– Summertime, Jurmala, Latvia
– Teatr Wytwornia, Warsaw, Poland



Oana Cătălina Chiţu [Romania]