Kails, Negru! Whats new on Negura Bunget camp? How was your tour with Enslaved?
Salut! We just got back from the tour a few days ago, so we are just resting a bit and preparing to get back to work. The tour was pretty intense. Not that long, but much focused. We had some great times and played some very nice concerts, including two sold out ones in London and Paris.
This year you are celebrating 15th anniversary. Looking back to the first Negura Bunget steps and comparing with current state – what has changed? What kind of road was those 15 years?
It’s a bit hard to really take a look at the past while things still move so fast in the present. But I’d say we had hard but enjoyable ride over all this years. We worked a lot, but we also accomplished a lot. I don’ think the band changed fundamentally compared with the beginning, we are the same people, with similar ideas and concepts, just older and more experienced. I’d say our biggest achievement is the place we stand now in. We accomplished a lot of things already, and we have all we need to take things further. All the knowledge and experience we accumulated is going to be put to good use for the future plans, and this is a very nice and exciting feeling. We are just about to develop some of the plans we are working on, and it by far the most ambitious thing we did so far. The Transilvanian Trilogy is a musical and visual trilogy the will just take everything we did so far to a much higher level.
Late of you are very productive and intensive – in less than couple years you‘ve presented two full-lenght albums, ep, dvd and done plenty of shows. Is Negura Bunget on their best shape or lets say – on their wave? Was there any new winds that blowed after Hupogrammos and Sol Faur left the band? Does the new musicians strengthened the band so good or this is a more natural state of constant moving forward and doing your best?
I think there are always things you can do better. And the same goes with Negura Bunget. We still have a lot to improve and evolve. But we are aware of this, and we are working hard to keep the same evolution path, and take things to higher levels. The new line-up opened for sure a lot new perspectives for us, both musically and conceptually. In the last years of the old formula, we became a bit trapped, and their departure was like a trigger that unleashed a lot of energy. And all you seen so far are just small parts, we have a lot more coming. One key element that changed is the fact that all the members of the band are now involved directly, which not only brings different views together, but also helps us move faster. Everybody has its strengths, and we try to put everything to good work for the progress of the band. We became more and more organized and focused.
You had a huge tour across the Europe last year – „Spirit of the Land“ – presenting your new and re-newed music. What was the reactions? What kind of band Negura Bunget is in the Europes‘ eyes (in the rest of the world)?
I’d say we had some great times on the tour. It matters less the place you play, and more all the details that make a good concert: venue, promotion, audience… I couldn’t say all the gigs were that great, but all in all it was a good tour. The response we got form the audience was even more amazing, and the same was the response the new album got in the media. So they both went hand in hand, and took even us a bit by surprise. It’s hard for me to say how different people see and understand us as a band… because we have quite a lot of layers, and different people relate to different parts of what we do. I’d say this is one of the key element for us, being able to tough different people in different ways.
You use many romanian elements in your music, which certainly helps to make you quite unique band. Besides the fact that those elements do strengthen your music, how important is it for Negura Bunget that people will recognise you as being a Romanian band?
We are a Romanian band… but I wouldn’t say we make intentional efforts to show this… The way things naturally shape for us in the music and lyrics either make this aspect clear or don’t. This is who we are, it’s as simple as this. We are proud of being from Romania, but still there are always people enjoying our music who have no idea where we came from. And that’s just fine with us.
Does (how) today's realities impacts the concept or creation process of your band?
We are influenced by the present same as we are by the past. We live for a reason in these times… and we are not apart of them.
How important for you is the message in the music, the words behind the notes? Its obvious, that Negura Bunget doesn‘t belong for those bands, that really cares only about playing ephemeral four chords metal and shouting whatever.
Every little detail counts. Every note, every word, each image, action or attitude… they all have to converge in a single point in order to move you ahead and create something meaningful. So we pay attention to everything, and we work on all the details until we are satisfied with the result.
Negura Bungets‘ lyrics are in your native romanian language, but nevertheless this band is great example for those, who says and even declares, that if the band sings in whatever, but not english - the doors are closed and there are no chances to be appreciated on the international scene and etc. Could you speak more about this topic? Why Negura Bunget is calling out to their listeners in romanian? Is this a point of identity? Maybe something else?
Negura Bunget was always inspired and influenced by the local spiritual, historical and folkloric traditions. Dealing with such matters in English would mean to be fake to ourselves. We also work in detail on the lyrics, every word, sound and meaning is important, we research lots of ancient local collections… and there is just no way you can create or translate that into another language. Also we always believed that if you have something meaningful to say, people will get the point of it, one way or the other. So we don’t see an inconvenient the fact that we sing in Romanian, it’s just a natural thing to do.
Your music is a kind of a tribute to the ancestors – their values, world view, relationship with nature. Those topics are reanimated and presented through the grasp of the progenys. Basically those topics doesn‘t have a place in nowadays life that is evolving faster than we can understand that. How do you think why its so hard to make people look back and search for answers in their ancestors wisdom? In the nature?
I think different people relate differently to such matters. It’s not our goal to make people think things through a certain way… We are expressing our personal vision. If we manage to share it with the audience, each has to take things further on its own, on a personal level, which is the only meaningful one. Nature can open ways of understanding your place and meaning in the universe, can fill you with energy you need for your everyday life or can offer comfort and escape from disrupting things in your life. But again, all this happen at personal level… We use our personal experiences on these matters to create or musical and conceptual vision, and try to share all this with the audience so that they can take it further on their own. On our next project, the Transilvanian Trilogy we’ll get even deeper into such matter, and I’m sure it will be a thrilling experience, both for ourselves, and hopefully for our audience as well.
I‘ve read you saying that „when we write an album we focus on what is important to us, which then goes to influence our music.“ – so what was important for the band on the last album called „Vîrstele Pămîntului“?
The direct natural connection with our land and our past. Understanding your history opens paths for the future. This is what the album is all about.
With a huge amazement I have to confess, that the atmosphere on „Vîrstele Pămîntului“ is something under my perception. The same can be said about earlier releases, thats for sure. And its a fact, that the atmosphere, the transilvanian spirituality, is Negura Bungets‘ one of the famous elements. I can speak countless about the feelings while listening it and the moments of life, when its impossible (or better not) to listen for your music... Anyhow, could you speak more about the atmosphere, the feelings you‘ve put in your art?
The balance between atmosphere and aggression was always the key element in our music. Both parts are equality important and both help us shine each other. The atmosphere comes from within most of the times, it’s probably the most conceptual part, but at the same time the most natural as well.
How important do you consider live shows to be for the band? Which do you think is a more accurate portrayal of Negura Bunget, a live show or a recorded album? For what kind of audience you dedicate your music?
We always have in mind the live performance when we compose our music. It’s easy to make things sound good in studio, but if you are not able to keep the same level of intensity live, we feel it’s not a complete experience. I’d say both aspects are fundamental and should complement eachother. The recorded album offers a more personal experience, while the live is a social more direct one. We don’t have an exact audience in mind when we compose or perform our music on stage… and we like the fact people react and understand our music differently. Some enjoy and express themselves on the more aggressive parts, while some just absorb the atmosphere…
The show at ”Kilkim Zaibu” festival will be the first Negura Bunget acquaintance with our country, audience. Until you've been invited to play, have you ever heard anything about this long lived festival? What‘s your point of view in such event, especially at the context of nowadays situation and attitudes? How do you think, what kind of future is waiting for such events and folk/pagan music? Are we going in right direction?
Yes, I‘ve been interested for quite a while in the Baltic Summer Festivals. We were also supposed to play there a couple of years ago, so I know Kilkim Zaibu directly since then. I think it’s a great festival and we are more than happy to finally get there! As for a direction in time... in think it goes both way. There are for sure more and more festivals that are just opportunities to meet people and drink your brains, same way as there are some festivals that are more interested in the actual content of the music and spirituality they promote. Of course the balance goes towards shallowness most of the times, but there is still a growing Pagan movement throughout the Europe. In the Baltic are that’s probably more evolved, matured and natural, while in Western parts it’s more puerile, but still it’s nice to see things happening in this ares.
This years festival is going to be contemporized with summer soltice feast. Could you tell how it is celebrated in your country/region? Is there left any interesting and authentic rituals?
Summer solstice is of course an important celebration in the local traditional calendar. The Romanian people celebrate Dragaica or Sanzienele on the summer solstice. Dragaica, an important agrarian divinity, was born on the 9th of March (the spring equinox according to the Julian calendar). It is said that she reached maturity in a miraculous way on the 24th of June and this is when the flower bearing her name blooms. Dragaica is not only the name of the Goddess but also of a ritual performed on this occasion. Dragaica resembles the Neolithic Great Mother Goddess, an agrarian divinity and her rituals are in connection to these celebrations. When the cereals begin to grow ripe the girls gather up and choose the most beautiful of them and they give her the name of Dragaica. They crown her with an eared garland adorned with many skillfully embroidered headkerchieves and they accompany her when wandering about the villages singing, dancing and calling her their sister and mistress in their beautiful songs. Dragaica’s dance has erotic connotations and it resembles the one belonging to a ritual dedicated to Kupalo, the God of the Western Slaves. He is also celebrated on the day of the summer solstice. This was the day when Dragaica was believed to be singing and dancing accompanied by her nuptial suite made up of beautiful girls and fairies. During the nuptial ceremony Dragaica cures people from disease, gives the medicine plants a specific perfume, protects the cornfields from hail and storms and foreordains the girls who are about to be married. If this day is not properly celebrated whirlwinds and storms break out, people become sick, flowers lose their perfume. The appearance of the first signs announcing the arrival of winter coincides with the end of her dance. The days are shorter and the nights longer.
Sânzienele form a complex mythical ensemble together with Ielele and Dragaicele. They are celebrated during the summer solstice in the same day in which Ioan Botezatorul is celebrated. They acquire pre Christian mythical connotations. On Sânziene people put fairies at their doors and windows as a means of protection against evil fairies and spirits. The magical rituals are based on a symbolical association of the sun with the flowers, the Fairies and the garland wreathed of those flowers. The Fairies embody some of the characteristic features belonging to plants. Another type of ritual consisted of a torch lighting symbolizing the invincibility of the sun during the longest day of the year. Torches used to be lighted on the hills surrounding the villages the night before the celebration and afterwards spinned in the air and thrusted in the middle of the orchards and cornfields.
These rituals dedicated to Dragaica which were held in the open air gradually lost their mythological function and thus turned into fairs and social meetings between people living in different villages, some still happening even today.
Could you please tell us about what is the situation with Romanian archaic folklore and cultural heritage? How lively it is?
There are still original traditions being kept around the country, but they are of course disappearing slowly. Fortunately Romania has still parts of the country which are not connected with the modern world… no roads, electricity or phones… so people living in those ares still keep traditions and practices in their original forms. But again this is a natural situation; there is no effort in the preservation and promotion of such elements.
And some last words for the end.
Thank you for the support! I hope we meet at the festival and we have a great time together over there! We will prepare for sure a special performance.