Several of the most charismatic and skilled members of the veteran Romani music group Taraf de Haidouks have died since its last studio album from 2007, Maškaradă (Crammed Discs). For many bands the loss of such figures would be irreparable—and to be sure, I’m certain this ebullient combo from the Romanian village of Clejani lacks some of the fiery, magnetic stage presence it possessed when Ion Manole, Nicolae Neacsu, and Ilie Iorga were still alive and kicking. But the beauty of such a group—steeped in the oral transmission of its traditional repertoire and inherently impervious to the shifting tides of the music industry—is continuity. The music is ensemble-driven, and there’s a long line of younger players who grew up hearing and playing this stuff who are waiting to jump in. That’s certainly the way it sounds on the group’s recent album Of Lovers, Gamblers, and Parachute Skirts (Crammed Discs)—though the album’s title is surely the handiwork of the group’s Belgian producers, there’s no appreciable intervention in the actual music.
Taraf de Haidouks enlisted a variety of guests to fill out the group, including the electric singer Viorica Rudareasa—a veteran collaborator with the ensemble who memorably sang on its version of “Dumbala Dumba”—as well as Marin “Tagoi” Sandu, the accordion-playing son of Neacsu who’s carrying the tradition forward with his own group Bahto Delo Delo. For today’s 12 O’Clock Track you can check out “The High Balcony in Ciolpan,” a manic dance number with pathos-laden vocals from the combo’s avuncular accordionist Marin P. Manole.