Folk music is the oldest form of Romanian musical creation, characterized by great vitality. Folk music of Romania is the defining source of the cultured musical creation. Conservation of Romanian folk music has been aided by a large and enduring audience, and by numerous performers who helped propagate and further develop the folk sound. One of them, Gheorghe Zamfir is famous throughout the world today, and helped popularization of a traditional Romanian folk instrument, the panpipes.
The religious musical creation, born under the influence of Byzantine music adjusted to the intonations of the local folk music, saw a period of glory between the 15th-17th centuries, when reputed schools of liturgical music developed within Romanian Monasteries. Russian and Western influences brought about the introduction of polyphony in religious music in the 18th century, a genre developed by a series of Romanian composers in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The doina is a lyrical, solemn chant that is improvised and spontaneous. As the essence of Romanian folklore, until 1900 it was the only musical genre in many regions of the country. The peasant doinas are mostly vocal and monophonic and are sung with some vocal peculiarities that vary from place to place: interjections, glottal clucking sounds, choked sobbing effects, etc. Instrumental doinas are played on simple instruments, usually various types of flutes, or even on rudimentary ones, such as a leaf. In 2009 the doina has been included in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
One of the greatest repositories of Romanian folklore is their traditional Christmas carols, which have been passed down through many generations. Traditional handmade crafts were not only useful but also decorative, with colorful and intricate designs. Women traditionally sewed, knitted, and crocheted, while men carved geometric designs or painted wooden articles and ceramics.
Besides the textiles and wooden articles, Romanian peasants also wove rugs with unusual designs and colorful schemes. Pottery was usually decorated with circles, spirals, stylized flowers, and other imaginative patterns. A most unusual form of Romanian folk art are icons painted on glass. The image is painted backwards on a piece of glass, so it can be seen correctly when viewed from the front side.
The earliest music was played on various pipes with rhythmical accompaniment later added by a cobza. This style can be still found in Moldavian Carpathian regions of Vrancea and Bucovina and with the Hungarian Csango minority. The Greek historians have recorded that the Dacians played guitars and priests perform songs with and guitars. The bagpipe was popular from medieval times, as it was in most European countries, but became rare in recent times before a 20th century revival. Since its introduction the violin has influenced the music in all regions by becoming the principal melody instrument. Each region has its own combination of instruments, old and new, and its own unique sound. This continues to develop to the present day with the most recent additions being electric keyboards and drum sets.
Arcanul Batrinesc is a slow Arcanul from the Moldavia region in Romania. Batrin means “ancient or “old” and it is a common “surname” to dances from all over Romania.