I was very sad to learn this week that the singer Denisa Emilia Raducu, often referred to as Denisa Manelista, has died from liver disease.
As the nickname “Manelista” suggests, Denisa was primarily a singer of manele, a musical genre often ridiculed and unappreciated by most Romanians. But Denisa was truly special.
Born on December 13, 1989, Denisa began her singing career as a young child. At age 14, she recorded her first manele duet with Florin Peste. By the time she was 18, she had worked with all of the greats in the manele world, including Adrian “Copilul Minune”, Liviu Mititelu, Florin “Salam”, Liviu “Pustiu”, and Nicolae Guta.
I first heard of her when I fell in love with her song O fi bine n-o fi bine, a song that makes me cry today because I miss her but also laugh at the same time. The lyrics are so ridiculous and yet Denisa’s voice rings out strong and true that it humbles you just to listen to it.
Denisa’s voice always demonstrated a great deal of power underneath the high-pitched sweetness, and she had a dedicated group of fans, including Yours Truly.
But she didn’t only sing manele. Sometimes, she lent her simple yet crystal clear voice style to traditional folklore songs like this one about marriage:
Vorba dulce mult aduce
si raul departe-l duce.
Dar cuvintele la cearta
nu fac doar sa te desparta lume.
Si dupa atatia ani
ne purtam ca doi pustani.
Hai saruta-ma sa fie bine.
It’s hard to translate the purity of these words, but here’s my modest effort:
Sweet/kind words work wonders
while simultaneously keeping evil at bay.
But harsh words when you’re arguing
do nothing but push people away.
I can’t believe after all these years
we’re acting like two dumb kids.
Come on and kiss me to make it all better.
But probably what I love about Denisa the most was her constant support and dedication to the millions of Romanians abroad. She played concerts ranging from thousands of fans in stadiums to small parties with just a hundred people, helping to ease the pain of homesick Romanians.
And Denisa always brought her A game. She never “phoned it in” with some cheap lip synching and a quick repertoire. No. She was always dressed to the nines, singing powerfully, smiling, and giving it her all. And her fans loved her for it. There’s not a single online video of her performances where you won’t find comment after comment from Romanians who love her and appreciate everything she did.
Never married and with no children, Denisa often seemed to struggle with personal relationships, but she never waivered in her optimism, always sharing a warm smile with everyone.
In her final days, Denisa lived a very painful existence. She was a skeletal 23 kilograms and was regularly vomiting blood, but she remained herself right until the end. Her last words to those around her were, “I love you all.”
On July 25, 2017, Denisa was laid to rest in her native village of Stefanesti de Dragasani in Valcea County.
REST IN PEACE, DENISA. AND THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU.