The Persistence of Music in Romania

If you spend just a couple of weeks in any kind of urban environment in Romania you’re going to find that certain songs will get hammered into your consciousness whether you like it or not.

What am I talking about?

Scanning the Romanian FM radio band, you will find the vast majority of (musical) stations to be extremely similar, based on just a few formulas:

Budinca Hits – Designed to be extremely smooth and relaxing, a melange of commercial hits of the last 40 years.

Morning Zoo – Has a “wacky crew” doing “hilarious” jokes in the morning and then the rest of the day is 80% English, 10% Romanian, 7% Spanish, 2% Italian and 1% German and always zero percent Hungarian, Russian, Bulgarian or Polish.

The music itself is a standard blend of what is called “Top 40” in many places, the commercially-driven hits that half the globe is listening to simultaneously (I know, if that’s not creepy, what is?)

Techno Variant – Same as above except sometimes they’ll play “techno” music exclusively, especially that kind that barely has any singing and is mostly just interesting electronic rhythms and sounds.

If you combined the entire playlists of all the radio stations in these genres I doubt it would be even one thousand separate songs. There is clearly someone, somewhere, or a group of “someones” who is choosing this playlist because it is surprisingly limited and updated simultaneously when new songs are added.

What is indisputable however is that the songs playing on Romania radio follow the power law, which in layman’s terms means a few songs get played one hell of a lot.

This fact combined with the reality that in (urban environments in) Romania it is nearly impossible to escape the range of these radio broadcasts means you will be forced to memorize these songs. Radios in Romania are playing almost everywhere and at nearly every hour of the day and night.

Just a few of the endless places you are quite likely to hear a radio blasting:

  • Inside a taxi
  • Playing at the corner magazin mixt
  • At a cafe
  • At a bar
  • At McDonald’s
  • During any kind of public event or festival
  • From overhead speakers at large bus stops
  • On some nicer trains
  • From cars driven by guys who enjoy playing loud music
  • At a restaurant
  • At a friend’s house

And many, many more…

Therefore about the only way to avoid this (in a city) is to always stay at home, close your windows and never, ever turn on your radio. You can basically never conduct any kind of business, commercial or social, without this music going straight into your cranium.

Over the years, I’ve met a lot of visitors and sometimes as early as the third day they’ll turn to me and ask, “What is the name of that song?”

If you’re at all sensitive to having songs get “stuck” in your head, Romania is not the country for you. Every morning all over the city in this land, the residents awaken with a certain song stuck in their head, precisely because of this phenomenon.

I can personally guarantee there are at least a million Romanians who don’t speak a word of English, lying in their beds, mentally mumbling through the chorus of a Lada Gaga song :P

6 thoughts on “The Persistence of Music in Romania

  1. and a lot of that english language music is romanian acts singing retarded lyrics in english. it all began in 2006-2007, when they discovered they could easily take over europe with catchy (for the targeted audience) tunes. we used to complain sometimes about the romanian language pop music from the previous decade, but what has been happening for the last 4 years is horrible. though it’s somewhat of a global trend, not just concerning romanian ”artists”.oh, i wish they would sing in romanian for us, ‘cos, yeah, i understand the need for international success, but what’s that got to do with us? the lyrics used to be stupid sometimes, but stupid, not retarded.


  2. @Sam. R. Great radio music stations give or sell rankings to the large music producers (the assholes who want to control internet traffic and what you store on your computer). These producers use radio rankings, like “Top 40” in their approval mechanisms, giving album deals only to bands which sound like the ones in the top rankings; it could almost be done by a computer algorithm. So it’s a vicious spiral which leads to more and more commercial music (it has been done for decades).

    The smaller radio stations just mimic what the bigger ones are doing to attract the same large masses of uncultured listeners. That is the competitiveness level…

    This also sets a “culture” trend: anyone who wants to make money from music has to produce the same sounding crap, so in the end the record companies always have a large pool to choose from, and we get stuck listening to the a long and continuously remixed monosong.

    The same music plays all over the World because the same huge international corporations are selling that music all over the World, repeating their business model in each country.

    This phenomenon is specifically how “manele” grow. Each singer (loosely defined) just imitates the “best off” of the year/month/weak, so there is very little difference between individual manele songs, even across the entire country. 0% creativity, because when they don’t have anything local of rip off, they just find some popular international hit song, probably from the techno domain, and rip off that.


    1. It is scarry, but I guess when you live in it, it becomes trivial. Like growing up in near a nuclear waste dump or in a war zone.

      Some people can avoid it, but if you want to be a social person, it’s best to take an anthropological stand, like Jane Goodall who studied primates by living with them for many years :))


  3. BTW true story, a couple of weeks ago at a party we were listening to a laptop, which was tuned into “Los Cuarenta Principales” or the “Top 40” hits from Spain. The funniest comment I heard from one young woman there was “it’s the same as what’s on Romanian radio!” hehe… funny but true but creepy :P


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