Oaș country, Satu Mare County – Romania Update

Oaș, Geography

Wikipedia says, “Oaș Country (Romanian: Țara Oașului, Hungarian: Avasság) is an ethnographic and historical region of Romania located in the North-East part of Satu Mare County, 50 km from the city of Satu Mare, 75 km from the city of Baia Mare. The capital of Oaș Country is Negrești-Oaș town. [1]

Satu Mare County in Romania, with Oaș Mountains and Gutin Mountains located on the northern and eastern borders.
Oaș portion of Satu Mare county

When Oaș & Satu Mare were in Hungary

Maps Above and below: Hungary (grey above, yellow & orange below) before 1918. Romanian Satu-Mare was Hungarian Szatmár. The Transylvanian population was majority Romanian. After losing WW1, Transylvania including Szatmar, was transferred from Hungary to Romania.

Traditional Clothing, Customs of Oaș

The culture and customs of Oaș are similar to its county on the east, Maramureș. See https://folkdancefootnotes.org/culture/ethnicity-history-geography/maramures-romania/. Like Maramureș, Oaș is known for its preservation of traditional cultural practices, some of which are still living. Below are scenes from a wedding done in the traditional way, including the assemblage of the amazing bridal dress and crown (starting at 5:22).

2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WFhfXtQ-t0
A longer documentary on the preservation of traditional ways, with scenes of shepherding, cheesemaking, assemblage of another bridal crown (4:55 – 6:49), wedding customs, dancing, and beginning 23:52, a scene remarkably similar to a Bulgarian sedyanka, with the boys observing through the window. Too bad the extensive Romanian commentary doesn’t have captions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_9Amj8bkNU

Music of Oaș

John Uhlemann says “The high pitched violin music typical of Oaș comes from actually tuning the instrument up to a 4th above “concert pitch” – how they do that without snapping the strings or ruining the instrument, I do not know, but it does make the instrument easier to hear out of doors.”

Roata feciorilor” performed by Vasile Canalaș (1st violin) & Gheorghe Balog (2nd violin), field recording from 1960’s. Romanian traditional folk song from Transylvania, Oaș area, Târșolț village. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8JGLuW2PPchttps://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=bSkG1SDn9jg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSkG1SDn9jg
“By the way, the Frații Pițigoi in the last video are a great group; some of my most cherished recordings are 45 rpm discs of them from the 1990s.” John Uhlemann. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSkG1SDn9jg

COMMENTS:

John Uhlemann wrote:

“Thanks for bringing the music and culture of Oaș into the light. Their music and dance are often parodied by southern Romanians and most of your videos are true to life. There are 2 that are not from Oaș: the grupul Iza with Ioan Pop is a venerable and highly respected preservation group from neighboring Maramureș, and plays in that style, not that of Oaș. The following video of a Roată is from several hundred kilometers to the south and southwest, in the Bihor ethnographic zone. One of the pieces is from Micherichi (Mékerék), a Romanian enclave in Hungary (the dances from there are so difficult they have never been taught to recreational folk dance groups in the US).

The high pitched violin music typical of Oaș comes from actually tuning the instrument up to a 4th above “concert pitch” – how they do that without snapping the strings or ruining the instrument, I do not know, but it does make the instrument easier to hear out of doors.

The costumes are almost the same as what I saw back in the 1970s. I was told girls would get together and decide on what new variation they would create during the winter to get ready for spring dances. In 1973 folks mostly lived in stuccoed wattle and daub houses or log houses with plastered exteriors. It was the Europe of the 18th century. They were strong, independant people who cherished their identity. By the 90s, all this was gone, but now I see from your videos that they are bringing it all back. The new houses featured in the video are because the men, who always would go away to the mountains with the sheep in Spring, have, instead, gone away in recent years to Germany to become gastarbeiten.

By the way, the Frații Pițigoi in the last video are a great group; some of my most cherished recordings are 45 rpm discs of them from the 1990s.”

Don replies: Thanks, John for your usual authoritative comments. I’ve removed the grupul Iza YouTube and placed it in my post on Maramureș. I’ve also removed the Roată from Bihor, and will use it in a future post on Roată.

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