Voices from the Mist of Time. Interview Gabriel Mafa (Negură Bunget)

Baldo, Cultartes: Hi, Gabriel! “Tău” is a first chapter of a trilogy that seems to want to tell the story of these lands, a subject related to Romanian spirit. But can we say that is there, indeed, an authentic Romanian spirit or is more of a story, a fairy tale, which we like to connect to?

Gabriel, Negură Bunget: Hello and thank you for your interest! “Tău” is our interpretation of the places that have inspired us and we find ourselves, and the essence of it, if you like, is the personal touch that each one of us feels to the origin, whether consciously or unconsciously. Certainly there is a genuine Romanian spirit, but it was often altered (either ideologically manipulated by communism, or reduced as meaning such as anti-miorița post-communist reaction). For us, the authentic Romanian spirit stands for the simple things in landforms, customs, traditional costumes, ancient architecture, literature, folk art and, why not, the people from these places. The second part of this Transylvanian trilogy will be about the people and customs of these. The third part will be about sites and spirituality that made this place immortal. On the other hand, we wanted to show the public the Transylvanian trilogy with its lands where myths are still “alive” and the textures, shapes and colours invites you to dream. It is a personal vision, quite different from the Western one, that replete with myths about vampires and bloody rulers. Here, the people still retains unspoiled places and customs in which the relationship between humans and the universe is direct, everything having sense and a “right measure”.

Are our Romanian traditions a real source of inspiration for Negură Bunget or it just has become a habit that the band is renowned for?

We are now witnesses of an invasion of folk elements in everyday life, from fashion design, music and fine arts, to the commercials with the traditional shepherd or ads that claim the tradition. But tradition for us is our connection with what we are and what defines us, not about any fashion or any commercial concept. Of course traditions also suffer changes, sometimes the worst, but the authentic or genuine crumble, even if hidden, can still be glimpsed, and every time we discover new facets of this tradition. Ancestor’s legacy should not be ignored or forgotten in a corner, it is transmitted by obvious or hidden forms in things, gestures or forms. These are the things that fascinate and inspire us, even now more than ever.



In this metal area from our country, Negură Bunget is the name that has put pagan folk influences in the light of new insights. Between these two worlds, folk and metal, which, at first sight, seem so different in essence, it has created a connection. Where and how the idea of searching for inspiration in this unsearchable area of mind and spirit started?

I can say that for me it was a personal search, which somehow met harmoniously in a form of expression metal. I looked for authentic forms of folklore that resonate ancient elements, which highlight times and forgotten people. It is also an indirect way of protest against mainstream folklore, which splits from tradition in the unfortunate and paradoxically way by promoting media, becomes a “tradition”.

There are already groups of new troops that tend for these folkloric notes, and besides these others appear. These bands seem to lend some identity, not necessary from Negură Bunget. I think these cannot be found in this genre, although are successful bands. Is this trend a good thing for the metal scene here or it is an excesses at a time, somehow boring for everyone?

The appeal to tradition, the element that builds the cultural identity of a group, if it doesn’t come naturally as a way of personal expression or artistic, it turns into “fake” or artificial structures just because it is a “trend” and doesn’t meets its purpose. And by the end, the audience is the one who gives or refuses the artistic value. Surely anything that enriches metal scene and adds a valuable addition is welcome, and time will have its say, folklore is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, it just have to be seen in a carefully and responsibly way.



In its recent history, Negură Bunget had a number of difficult moments that brought with them a sum of changes. Did you felt, for a moment, that this brand doesn’t have the necessary strength to move forward and it is time that this Moor-White of black-metal, has to step into a myth?

I never thought Negură Bunget is a brand, but like everything in life and history of the band (this year his 19 years of existence) has ups and downs. During this time we had joy, large or small successes, but I always gave 100% in everything I could and I knew exactly which thread of things. I think we have reached a mature and balanced formula today, with many surprises which we can build. I never had doubts about the way we need to follow. When it is going to appear, or when it doesn’t we can go forth clear or it will stop by itself.

We never expected for everyone to appreciate what we do, but we stayed true to our feelings and desire to continue.

The world, in general, is open to changes and even seeks and requires different forms of it. When it comes to the style and the vision of changing this band, things are not so simple. I admit that I was one of them until recently, but I realized that, for example, Ulver are no longer Ulver, and no other bands are, so to speak. Evolution has faces and masks that wear them in an order we can’t imagine. What do you thing world except, essentially, from Negură Bunget?

Yes, eventually things find their natural track, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Negură Bunget, without its “troubled history” certainly would have been something else, all contributed to what is now. We never expected for everyone to appreciate what we do, but we stayed true to our feelings and desire to continue without any claims. I always preferred the work to speak for us. We don’t know what the world awaits from us, nor we ever put such problem, but if people come to our concerts and still supports us, and we feel good in what we do, it means that we do it well and what we do is the right way to go.



Let’s talk a bit, please, about your latest album! There are many collaborations on ‘’Tău’’ more than interesting. Would you tell us how the work went with these artists? Which of them, for example, was the most difficult?

Yes, we had a number of invited, both metal scene and not related to metal. Working with Alexandrina was friendly; we had to wait a little depending on her schedule, but in the end it worth, her voice spicing the “Împodobeala timpului” song. With Bean MC from Subcarpați and Șuie Pararude was the most interesting. We sent him a song, and even a piece of a text, suggesting an approach. Finally I got something else from him, surprisingly, but no less interesting. And our friend Gabriel Almași on theremin gave an esoteric note to “Nămetenie”. Working with Rune Eriksen was loose, we already knew each other quite well, and the combination of his guitar with Alexandrina’s voice on the same piece couldn’t be more eclectic. The vocal theme by Sakis Tolis from Rotting Christ proved that there is no language barrier when talking about music. Overall it was a new experience, but very pleasant to work with people outside the band.

Is there a place where, once entered with your mind or your human being, it brings you peace and quiet every time you get there? Whether it is a glimpse of nature or just a moment caught in your memory.

I must confess that I don’t have a particular place, there are too many I know, and probably even more I don’t know yet. But these places will make me live such an experience. Whenever I am in nature, I feel “home”, that’s why I chose the title of the first part of this Transylvanian trilogy “Tău” that yes, it is a deep mountain lake, but it hides meaning and senses which escapes us at first glance. But it is the “Tău (yours)”, your nature, your connection to the world; the universe experienced with all senses becomes yours.

Do you have something special for your promoting album tour? I am thinking here of the active participation of all the collaborators on “Tău” or some visual projections.

This year’s tournament is by far the longest tour in the band’s history and we have prepared many surprises, including an important element – the visual concept that will be completely changed. In addition to the spring European tour and we are preparing to announce a North American tour in autumn, so this year will certainly be the most intense in the history of this band.

The fact that you were born in a country that has not had the greatest openness to new and Western ideas, was a disadvantage in your formation as a person and artist or, conversely, it simulate you?

The fact that we are from Romania and I had to face prejudices was a challenge and we are not the type to give up in the face of obstacles. Finally we managed to turn it into an advantage.

What meant Din Brad or it means as a musical concept and personal artistic vision? Can we talk about this project as a still active one and left somewhat on hold or it will remain at the idea of ​​testing?

Din Brad is a personal project and is looking “at the hub,” as they say in Banat, of traditions and authentic folk music, inherited as such and dressed in a personal artistic vision. We have already had several concerts and we are working on a new album, which will be focus on the parts, let’s call them “taboo” of folklore. In fact we have presented some songs from the album at our concerts and in the near future hopefully we will complete it.

How the collaboration between Negură Bunget and the artist Daniel Dorobanțu has started? Obviously excluding Timișoara as the common denominator?

The connection between Daniel Dorobanțu and Negură Bunget dates back in 1996 years, when Daniel sang with us, at one time, on keyboards. Meanwhile things have evolved into a more mature relationship, and the fact we are still friends made us receptive to new experiences and forms of expression. The collaboration with Daniel is a complex one; he made all the videos for Negură Bunget, except „Văzduh” (which was also our first clip) and visuals for our live performances, too. In the future this visual dimension will become even stronger, thus deepening our cooperation.

Is there a special feeling that tries you every time you play along with Negură Bunget in Timișoara?

It’s a special feeling every time we’re on stage, but home is always touching. Over time I played a few times in Timișoara, which makes any event even more intense and more challenging at the same time.

Have you ever thought about writing a book when you’ll stop working on musical projects or even earlier? Maybe a book of memories…

I thought about this even several times, but it was not the music-related books, but rather of the conceptual, related to folklore, customs, traditions and how these have developed and influenced us by the course of time. Currently we are focusing very much on what we do with the trilogy. What will be after remains to be seen.

Thank you very much for sharing your time with us and our readers! Good luck and we wish you all the best!

Thank you, too! All the best!

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