It is a cold and grey dawn as we take the ferry to cross the Danube and catch the infrequent bus to Cerna. Cerna is the village of the Megleno-Romanians and it is here that we hoped to record the last musicians that could still play their music.
Cerna long lost whatever charm it once may have possessed. It's a dreary town. We order coffee and ask the customers if anyone still sings in the Megleno-Romanian language. Not for years, we are told. Disappointed, we ask if anyone still plays the music of the Megleno-Romanians. Finally someone mentions a flute player who lived on the edge of town.
Hardened snow cakes the ground. Some birds on top of the leaky roofs eye us suspiciously. We arrive at the house of a kindly old man who invites us in. Heat... Tsuica... we are content. However he tells us he has not played in many years. He is too old to play anymore, he says with a sigh. He tells of his youth when there were many musicians, and of the old songs which brought the hills to life in the springtime. He does recall one man who may still know them. He ponders awhile. He does not know if he still plays as it was years since he heard him perform.
We find the house he told us about. Outside working in this cold with only a hand knitted sweater is Ion Otti. He is a sprightly man with an easy laugh that belies his 80 years. Yes, he does know the old songs! Yes, even some in Megleno-Romanian! He is surprised at our visit and is at first reluctant to play. The last time he played was to researchers from the ethnographic museum.
We go inside his house which is almost as cold as outside. He does not seem to mind. I notice that even his pants are hand knitted. He shows us the lute that he made himself as a young man. It is beautiful. We sit around the kitchen table and are privileged to hear not just songs in the dying language of Megleno-Romanian, but age old Turkish and Bulgarian songs as well. All this wonderful music reflects the journeys this unique ethnic group travelled before settling in the modern nation state that now is Romania.
mastered by Jonathan Schwartz