16 October 1938
2 April 2021 (aged 82)
Gabi Luncă (born in 1938) is a Roma (or "gypsy") Lăutari singer from Romania, born in Vărbilău (Prahova County). She is a very charming performer and became a favourite of Romania's communist ruler Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena. She is also known to be a committed Christian, in a place and a time where this was a difficult position to take.
Visitors to Bucharest in the grey 1980s could witness two different worlds: Official state folklore with songs of the golden era proclaimed by Ceausescu and lively suburban music (muzica de mahala), which at that time was played at private parties. Gabi Luncă also spent many years singing at weddings, and although from the beginning of the 1990s her only performances were in Pentecostal churches, her voice remains unforgotten in Romania. Her songs are the quiet, melancholic songs of passion and yearning for one's home, mother, or sweetheart; songs to lift the weight from one's soul. Included among Gabi Luncă's greatest hits are: "Omul Bun n-are noroc" (The good have no luck) and "Superata sint pe lume" (I am sad in this world). Gabi Luncă's silvery, lightly strained singing was often copied, but never equalled, although as the accordion player Victor Gore remembers, she "always sang slightly out of time". Alongside Romica Puceanu, Gabi Luncă was the most valued performer of Romanian muzica lautareasca. Yet unlike her sensuous and hard-drinking rival, Gabi Luncă's life, partly because of the four children she had with the accordion player Ion Onoriu, was spent in familiar seclusion and without excess. Not only for this reason, but also because of her carefully selected stage clothes and her great professionalism, she was also referred to as the Tziganca de matase, the silken Gypsy woman.
Gabi Luncă played with Aurel and Victor Gore's taraf until her marriage to Ion Onoriu. Later she worked with the trumpeter Costel Vasilescu, the tzimbal god Toni Iordache and other big names from the Bucharest Lautari scene in the state-owned Electrecord studio. In the final years of the Ceausescu regime her urbane repertoire was only played on the radio early in the morning. Back then her real fans would set their watches by the radio programme and at five o'clock, before they left for the factory, they would listen to the sparkling voice of this singer with a mug of cold cafe.
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