MUSIC Taraf de Haidouks Barbican, London

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Someone who toured with this band of Romanian gypsies told me they sing and play the same way at breakfast. It would be too much for any ordinary mortal, for their show at the Barbican on Bank Holiday Monday evening was utterly delirious. Fiddlers, accordion-players, cimbaloms (zithers played with mallets), and double bass split into small groups for several numbers at a stretch and eventually all came together for a manic finale, which also included, for the first time, a guitar. They didn't just play, they also sang, or yelled sweetly, in throaty tenor voices, and sometimes they danced, old as well as young, with short, rapid steps, twisting this way and that. One of the older men showed that it's no disgrace to wiggle your bum even if your waistline isn't quite what it was.

Everyone was a star, and had a solo at some point, but the stars that shone most constantly were the fiddlers, playing without shoulder rests, some without chin rests. Their bowing was phenomenally fast, and one held his instrument upwards at an angle you would have thought painful. Their sounds varied, but all were piercing and wiry especially with the loud amplification - and without vibrato. Instead, they would approach certain notes from below, then bend the pitch, so weirdly sometimes, you wondered where the harmony could be going. And the harmony occasionally modulated alarmingly. A trick not used too often was to replace the bow with a wire that was pulled at right angles to the strings, and vibrated with the fingers while the left hand changed the pitch. One of the cimbalom players also turned his instrument upside down and struck it like an unpitched percussion instrument.

The sung numbers seemed to be narrative ballads, and the names caught from one suggested it recorded recent history, but unfortunately there was no programme, no documentary back-up, so we were left in the dark. The evening went at such a pace that it would have dispelled momentum to have explanatory introductions, but still, it was a pity not to have anything to take home and check up on.

The energy and panache of the group was amazing - opening their arms to us, grinning both to each other and the audience, they really invited us to enjoy ourselves. Yet virtually all the music, however fast and furious, was in what we would call the minor mode, which could either prove that minor may equal ecstatic joy, or that the harsh realities of the gypsies' lives have ingrained a deep melancholy even in their most abandoned styles of expression. There lies their allure, for the rich moodiness of their harmonies equals their rhythmic drive and the constant variety of their tempi. Above all, they seem like a band of individuals, not disciplined exactly, but fused by a common fire.

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