Eurovision 2015: you win some, you lose some

The Eurovision 2015 semifinals have been held and what’s the news for my Romance language favourites?

GOOD NEWS: In semi-final one, Romania’s Voltaj got the nod to appear in the final. Here is their semifinal appearance. This song gives me goosebumps.

Great too, to see Razvan Schinteie, the boy who stars in the short film screened behind Voltaj, waving from the audience at the end. Good to see he made it safe and sound to Vienna! (In the film, he sets off on a little boat by himself going up the Danube in search of his “lost” parents, despite not knowing their address – more about that story here).

BAD NEWS: In semi-final two poor old Portugal got dumped again; pity – Leonor Andrade sang more powerfully than I expected compared to the recorded version, and unlike some Portuguese entries in previous years, I like this song. And good on Portugal for having the guts to sing in the native language.

The final will be a marathon with 27 countries participating, including Australia! How will Romance language contenders France, Spain and Italy fare?


German subtitles on Romanian Eurovision song and life in Germanic-Romanian ghost towns. What more could you want!

Hello. It’s been more than three weeks since I posted anything. Been a very busy boy. I’ll boast about that more during the week. To get back into the swing, I’m going to dabble a bit in German, a language that should get some attention next month when Vienna hosts this year’s Eurovision song contest (May 19-23)

Romanian band Voltaj have released a YouTube version with German subtitles of their Eurovision 2015 entry, De la Capăt, which is a good excuse for me to play one of my favourite songs of the moment. Here it is, German speakers sing along now:

German and Romanian are, of course, quite different, but German is a language you will hear in Romania quite often, particularly during the summer holidays in Transylvania, which was once part of the Habsburg empire. According to Wikipedia’s list of ethic minorities in Romania, though, Germans now make up only 0.2 per cent of the total population. The number was originally much higher, but due to various political circumstances since the second world war, none of them pleasant, it has fallen considerably. You can read about the overall German population here, and about the largest group, the Transylvanian Saxons, here. When I did my language course in Sibiu in 2013, I visited some of the Saxon villages not far from the city, such as Cașolț and Roșia. As you will see from my picture gallery, these villages are quaint but have a forlorn air of decay, like sad little ghost towns. Many people have left these villages to seek fortunes elsewhere, their houses stand empty; some have been taken over by gypsies or vagabonds. Yet there is still a certain beauty and serenity to the place, and the people who remain are very hospitable.

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One prominent German-Romanian is the country’s recently elected president, Klaus Iohannis. Another is the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Hertha Müller, who left Romania in 1987 after being hounded by the Communist regime’s secret police. One of her most recent books is The Hunger Angel, which graces my bookshelves, but let me tell you it is a harrowing read.

The Hunger Angel cover, Portobello Books, 2012. Shot by Bernardo on his iPhone using the Snapseed app.

The Hunger Angel, Portobello Books, 2012. Shot by Bernardo on his iPhone using the Snapseed app.

It tells the story of how Leo, a young lad from Sibiu, was sent into a Soviet forced labour camp for five years from 1944. In that year the Red Army occupied Romania and Stalin demanded that all German Romanians aged 17-45 be sent into labour camps to “rebuild” the Soviet Union. Many never came back. The war might have ended in 1945, but the atrocities continued long after that. When Leo returns home in 1949 he is still only 22 but in spirit he is a broken old man.

Later Ceausescu’s communist regime really made life hard for the ethnic minorities as policies were introduced to, let’s say, stamp out the Hungarian and German cultural identities, including clamping down on language (this is why some towns in Romania have a Romanian name, a Hungarian name and a German name). Some of the German-Romanians people I spoke to in Cașolț told me of the grievances that they or their parents had to put up with. And that, sadly, is mostly what human history is all about, really. One tribe or grouping taking advantage of, bullying, coercing or persecuting another. On that fun note, good night!

Stunning Danube scenery in short film linked to Romania’s Eurovision song

When you watch the original videoclip to Voltaj’s song De la Capăt (subsequently chosen as Romania’s Eurovision 2015 entry) you can’t help being impressed by the cinematography and the spectacular riverside setting. The imagery is taken from a short film (scurt metraj in Romanian) entitled Calea Dunarii (Way of the Danube, in English). It was filmed near Orșova, very close to the magnificent “Iron Gates” – the narrow gorge between Serbia and Romania which is probably the most striking part of a river cruise along the length of the Danube.

The film – shown here with English subtitles – is well worth a look if you have 12 minutes to spare. It features a well-known Romanian actor Constantin Dinulescu as “Bunicul” (the grandfather), while the little kid playing Ion – the local equivalent of John – Razvan Schinteie, is superb too. Great actors are those who can convey meaning and emotion when the script asks for silence.

The aim of both the film and the song is to raise awareness of the loneliness of the “orphans of the economy“. Here is the music clip.

Of course, it is easy for professional musicians to sound good on disc after hours in a recording studio, but some are caught short badly in live performances. So how do Voltaj rate? Check them out live in Radio Zu’s cramped studios.

I can’t get enough of this song, so here for good measure is another performance, this time in the studios of another popular Romanian music station, Kiss FM.

Sorry, everyone, the Eurovision 2015 winner has already been decided…

Great news! OMG! OMG! Exclamation mark extravaganza!

Much to my joy, much to my excitement, much to my exaltation, much to my relief, my favourite song of the moment is going to be in the Eurovision 2015 final!

Yes, De La Capăt by Voltaj beat 11 other contenders in the Romanian play-off, including a number of Johnny-come-lately reality TV talent show winners, to earn the well-credentialled Voltaj a spot in the final in Vienna from May 19-23. Encouragingly, the band got top points from both the musical jury and the televoting public. Incidentally, out of the 12, it and only one other song were in the local language – the rest were in English.

Let’s have a look at the winning performance.

If you were wondering why it started off strangely with a woman putting a teddy bear to bed and kissing her sleeping child goodnight (goodbye, actually) – and why the stage was covered in suitcases – it’s because the song aims to raise awareness of the loneliness of what I call the orphans of the economy.

While Voltaj will sing in Romanian in Vienna, an English version of the song, titled All Over Again, has just been released. I hope it charts somewhere in the English-speaking world. Hello, Australian music stations, put this on your playlist.


Suffer the children: Voltaj’s anthem for the orphans of the economy

I’ve just had a squizz at the Romanian Airplay Top 100 for songs to add to my playlists, favourites, memory bank, bloodstream, consciousness etc, but the chart is stuck in a post-Christmas slumber! (As I write it’s the top 100 for December 28, but maybe it will have updated by the time you click on the link.) Nevertheless, there is some great new stuff in there – I really do think the Romanian music industry is very on the ball.

Rising quickly up the chart to No. 14 is De La Capăt from Voltaj (Voltage in English), a band I’ve written about a number of times (click on Voltaj in the list of my tags to the right of the post). The song is really beautiful and what’s more it is linked to a good cause – a charitable project the band has set up is to raise awareness of the loneliness and plight of children who have had to stay behind in Romania while their parents seek employment in Western Europe. An English version of the song will be out soon, and I will look at the two versions in more depth when it does. In the meantime, just enjoy the music and the fabulous wintery scenery of the Danube gorges. De la capăt means from the beginning, although the capăt itself means an end or conclusion, but there are lots of expressions involving the word.

One spot behind at No.15 is another great band, 3 Sud Est. Like Voltaj they started out mainly as a dance/disco music act, but have branched out and blossomed with maturity. Here they are singing about freedom and liberty. The verses sound a bit “spaghetti western” to me, but the chorus has really grown on me in the past few weeks.

Now, onto a song which also has a childhood theme and which I find really interesting in parts. Îți Va Fi Dor (You Will Miss It – it’s a song about nostalgia for one’s childhood) has risen rapidly into the top 50 and I’m guessing it will go a lot higher. It’s by Doddy feat Adeline, who has a powerful voice. It reminds me a lot of Mellina and Vescan’s Poza de Album, which did very well last year as is still in the top 40.

Next, here is Dorian’s tribute to the Mare Albastre or Blue Sea. I find this has really intriguing sampling in it (I will explain where it comes from in another post), but much of the rapping part is so-so. The beard and waxed moustache are impressive though!

Finally, I am glad to see that Delia Matache is still hogging the No. 1 spot with Pe Aripi De Vant (Gone With The Wind). Since I have featured the official video and a ‘live in a radio station studio’ video clip on a previous post How good is singing judge Delia? You be the judge, I will go with a live version recorded at a concert in the main square in Sibiu, one of the most festive of Romanian cities. Delia is as theatrical as ever and her vocals are superb, but I wish the guitar riffs had been given more prominence in this mix. This makes me want to revisit Sibiu!

Soothing songs for a sore head

dentistry-316945_640Having had my cheeks, gums and other bits of the mouth stabbed and jabbed by a dentist today, followed by session with a drill that felt a little bit too close to the bone, or the nerve, or whatever the vulnerable bits are underneath the tooth, the bits that hurt, all I want to do is lie back lazily in bed, listen to calming music, not think too deeply about anything (I’m good at that) and let the painkillers do their work.

So, this is my playlist.

1) First up is Voltaj’s song about the ultimate second of the ultimate day… how would you spend that moment?

2) Next up is Akcent’s latest release, about tears flowing (having lost in love).

3) The next song is really sweet, by a former contestant on a Romanian talent show, Valentin Dinu, accompanied here by someone called Anya. It’s a song about waiting for the day when someone special comes into your life and “repairs” you. Out of the songs here, I think this one most captures the poetic potential of the Romanian language.

4) Next, an old song by some old faces on the Romanian rock scene, Compact. It’s about a symbolic star in the sky, the light of someone precious that lingers even after that someone has gone. This was probably the song that got me intrigued by the Romanian language. Without knowing the words, I could feel the melancholy and understated sadness. But also I love the guitar riffs in this.

This next one from Vama Veche has the most gorgeous piano…

Finally, to complete the all-Romanian theme, some classical music from that country’s most famous composer, George Enescu. This is very dreamy, and in the clip you can see Romania’s most notable attractions, some of which I have been to, including the Town Hall building in Brasov (a lovely place) at 1:04 to 1:20, followed immediately by an aerial shot of the very impressive Bran Castle; Peles Castle (2:48 and again at 7:40), Sibiu (8:51); Timisoara (9:07 to 9:38) plus of course parts of Bucharest, many monasteries and fortified churches, and the mountain and rural scenery that perhaps Romania is most famous for.

I hope you found the music as appealing and soothing as I do. A bit of a change from all the pop pap of Eurovision. And on that last dreamy note from Enescu, good night.


Don’t confuse your pic pics with your mic mics

Round about the time of their summer hit Pic Pic, Voltaj were also getting a lot of airplay with another song, Lumea e a mea (The world is mine). Initially I would get confused when searching for them because the “ic” sound is predominant in both, pic pic in the former and mic mic in the latter. I have already covered the song and meaning of pic pic (see Drag out your inner îndrăgostit  here), so I will focus on the mics. Here is the video to Lumea e a mea, which I initially found a bit creepy because of the stalking element, but then it takes a surprising twist, and as usual with Voltaj it is technically well made.

So, what’s the mic mic business all about? It’s in the first line of the chorus:

Sunt mic, mic, mic, dar nu-i nimic, 
Nu e totul pierdut, maine-un inceput, 
Cat de mare ar parea, lumea e a mea.
Sunt mic, mic, mic, dar nu-i nimic, 
Daca in palma mea sta inima ta, 
Lumea e a mea.

Mic means “small”, sunt mic thus “I am small”, and dar nu-i nimic means “but it’s nothing”, that is, nothing important.

The chorus to the song could thus be translated as

I am small, small, small, but it doesn’t matter,
All is not lost, tomorrow there’s a beginning,
How big it would seem, the world is mine.
I am small, small, small, but nothing,
If your heart were in my hands,
The world is mine.

I also found a “symphonic version” on YouTube but have no idea who is playing the classical instruments….

For those who prefer a mix of male and female vocals, there is also a version by Voltaj featuring a singer called Kamelia.

Incidentally, I was looking at the Romanian airplay charts this morning and noted that Belgian singer Stromae, whom I featured in the previous post, has two songs that have come into the bottom half of the Top 100, while an Australian, Faydee, is just outside the top 30 with Can’t Let Go. 

Drag out your inner îndrăgostit

Voltaj concert at Disco Ring

Voltaj in concert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the post D is for devious virgins, which I am sure many people latched on to in the hope of delving into deviousness themselves, haha, I mentioned that dragoste was the Romanian word for love. A related word, one which you will often come across in music, is îndrăgostit (îndrăgostită in the feminine form), which is an adjective meaning “in love with”. The verb is a se îndrăgosti (de cineva), “to fall in love (with someone)”. A related adjective is îndrăgit or îndrăgită in the feminine, meaning “loved, beloved”. This weekend, if you follow my instructions, you are going to use the language of love and have a nice meal to boot. Language can’t be all theoretical, it has to be put into practice.

Here are some musical examples of this word from songs that I quite like.

Flower photo

Flowers can get very perky when their mistresses have big boobs.  (Photot: @Doug88888)

The first is a recent hit, Pic Pic, by Voltaj. I find this song a little bit annoying in the verses but very catchy in the chorus, which I hum to myself quite often. I might even dance to it if no one is looking. There is a melodic la la la la-la bit near the end too. In other words, don’t judge this song by the first few (dozen) bars, let it grow on you. The chorus is simple: Sunt un pic pic, îndrăgostit  (repeated four times). Sing along with it and after playing it once or twice you will at least have thoroughly mastered four words in Romanian – un pic means “a little, a pinch, or slightly”, and sunt is “I am”. The video clip is clever in parts and has an amusing, unexpected ending. In the beginning, though, it just looks like another band is using a buxom woman to parade around in low-cut clothing to help sell the song, but if big boobs are your thing you will enjoy this part of the video too. Another verb meaning “to love” in Romanian is a iubi…in the videoclip you will see “iubi” appearing on the model’s computer and phone, which is why the pot plant gets jealous.

Moving along to the second example, a popular song from a very boyish former winner of the Romanian version of the X Factor talent contest, Andrei Leonte. I think he has a great voice. The word appears in the first line of the song: Nu pot să cred că sunt îndrăgostit (“I can’t believe I’m in love”). I have pasted two versions, the first was the original pop/dance release (nice tune, silly video though, see my comments at bottom) and the second is an acoustic version for more mature audiences haha. The song title is Te iubesc căt doi, which means something like “I love you as much as two”.

Now for the more acoustic version, which shows that he can sing really well “live” … and also that this song when pared back is so much more than just a pop ditty. The second half of this clip includes an interview with Andre in Romanian.


  1. Line up a hot date and organise a romantic, candlelit dinner.
  2. During the main course whisper Sunt  îndrăgostit (if you are a woman use the feminine form îndrăgostită). Better not say un pic îndrăgostit because that could be deemed insulting (“What do you mean – you’re just a little bit in love?” Slap!). 
  3. During dessert lick some cream off your spoon then murmur Te iubesc in your most seductive purr. This should sends shivers down your loved one’s spine. If not, it means you are not licking your spoon correctly.

Back to the real world: An English version of the Andre Leonte song was also released. The video to it is the same as the Romanian version, except instead of prancing around in the fields and miming in the latter, he mimes in the former. The video looks like it was shot at one of the more secluded spots on the Black Sea. I don’t think much of Andrei’s bush tucker scavenging skills: if I was camping with him and all he could come up with for breakfast was a few berries and leaves and a slab of honey that looks suspiciously like it had been carved from a packet, I would send him away, saying “I don’t do herbal teas, go hunt the eggs and bacon and sausages please”.

For what it’s worth, here is the English version, Love Another Day.

Finally, forgive me for harping on a bit about Romanian at the expense of the other languages. I guess I am just trying to consolidate what I learned on my summer language course there, or am trying to cling on to it before I forget it all completely. It’s scary how quickly you lose a language all once you are out of its natural environment. I will try to add a bit more linguistic variety in the coming weeks. Till then, cheers

Talk like a drunk and you’ll be fine

Picture of shampaige

Picture of shampaige (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this post we are going to encourage you to cast a few slurs.

This is why we have chosen a picture of what looks like alcohol drinks, by the way. You will have to read through to the conclusion to understand why, but you can start drinking now if you want, (but do it sensibly, s’il vous plaît).

So, amigos, having studied the verb “to be” in French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanian and discovered great musicians such as Zazie, Voltaj, Tiziano Ferro and Rebeca along the way – I must throw in some Spanish singers next – what can we say thus far about how closely connected these five Romance languages are?

As far as the subject pronouns go, look at this:

The first person singular (“I“) is the same in Portuguese and Romanianeu.

The first person singular also looks pretty much the same in Spanish and Italianyo and io.

The second person singular (“you“) informal form tu is used in all five languages, with just one slight difference in that in Spanish it has an accent – . (But remember that in Brazil tu is rarely used, use você instead.)

The third person singular (he and she) forms are pretty much an “il” or “el” sound for him and an “elle” or “ela” sound for her in all languages except in Italian, with its lui and lei. The same applies with the plural equivalents. 

The first and second person plural forms (“we” and “you“) are the same in Italian and Romaniannoi and voi.

Portuguese seems to be the only language which no longer has a second person plural that takes a second person plural verb form – the archaic vós (as in vós sois, for example,) has been ditched in the modern era and vocês (as in vocês são) has become the norm.

As far as the verb endings go, regardless of the fact that there two variants of the verb to be in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, we can say:

Portuguese and Spanish are so closely related they could be twins… with estar, for example, the endings in the second and third person singular and third person plural are exactly the same: estás, está and estamos.

In all five languages you can see that all the various verb endings sound roughly the same. Look at the first person singular sounds suis, sou, soy, sono, sunt … or the third person plurals … sont, são, son, sono, sunt …. they are all six of one and half a dozen of the other (actually, five of one and five of the other, but hey let’s not get too pedantic).

This is why, in my opinion, if you know one Romance language, communicating to people who speak another Romance language is easy; all you have got to do is mutter in your own Romance language very badlymumble a bit, disguise the exact sounds, thrown in some shhh-type hissing and some nasal twang, in short, speak your own Romance language like a drunken idiot, and the others will understand you perfectly!

Grab yourself a glass of champage or whatever your favourite tipple is (mine’s a Pernod, by the way, but I am willing to form new allegiances) and let’s toast your success! 😀 😀

Cheers till next time … Bernardo

Be a happy champion in 2013

Fireworks Over Sydney Harbor Bridge, Australia

Fireworks Over Sydney Harbor Bridge, Australia (Photo credit: DakotaPrarieNova)

Happy new year from me and My Five Romances in Sydney, Australia (hence the choice of pic). I hope you haven’t got a hangover – une gueule de bois if you are French, uma ressaca in Portuguese, una resaca if you are Spanish, postumi di una sbornia if you are Italian and o mahmureală if you have been imbibing too much in Romania.

So, how does one wish everyone a happy new year in my five Romance languages? The French might say Je vous souhaite une bonne année, the Portuguese Desejo a vocês um feliz ano novo, in Spanish you could try Les deseo un feliz año nuevo, the Italians might say Vi auguro un felice anno nuovo and the Romanians Iti doresc un an nou fericit. Or you could just use body language … grin a lot, pat everyone on the back, hug them, kiss them … body language can be a romance language too, you know 🙂

I have a hunch that 2013 will be a good year, better than its predecessors. It’s going to be great! I wanted to find an uplifting piece of music that would set the tone for the year ahead, and have opted for one by a Romanian band called Voltaj (yup, you guessed it, the Romanian word for “voltage“). Although it’s a stirring kind of anthem aimed specifically at Romanians, I like the sentiments – no more settling for second place, it’s time to step up to the winner’s podium, everyone can be a champion. The song is entitled MSD2 which, guessing by the translation of the lyrics, is short for mai sus de 2, or “above 2“.

This is taken from a YouTube posting by “SkadiSubs” and the lyrics in Romanian and English can also be found in the “info” section there. It’s very catchy, enjoy.