The municipality of Timisoara, in western Romania, one of the three largest urban centres in the country, on Tuesday banned a form of ethno-pop known as manele from being aired in public. The mayor also banned barbecues in streets.
“Interpreting or playing manele is forbidden in the public domain of the Timisoara municipality,” the document signed by Mayor Nicolae Robu of the ruling National Liberal Party said. The order warns of “drastic” sanctions for those who don’t respect it.
Performed mostly by Gipsy musicians and popular among the Roma and other disadvantaged communities, especially at weddings, manele has often been a subject of controversy in Romania, where some have asked in the past for a total ban on this music from TV and radio stations.
Critics say the oriental tunes, normally accompanied by lyrics about love, quick money and material success, promote bad habits and perpetuate such social ills as consumerism, crime and the objectification of women.
Defenders attribute this hostility to elitism, racism and xenophobia, and call for equal treatment with other such mainstream genres as hip hop, reggaeton or a more recent apparition known as trap.
Timisoara’s drastic measure has drawn both positive and negative reactions in Romania. Many took to social media to praise Mayor Robu for taking action against the manele fans who fill up buses and other common spaces with loud music from street parties, cellphones or portable speakers.
Others, like veteran manele legend Nicolae Guta, complained about the effect of the ban on open-air concerts and weddings. Speaking to TV channel B1, Guta has also decried the singling out of manele. “Why is it happening only with this genre of music? Of course it’s unfair,” he said.
Mayor Robu declined to answer Guta’s concerns: “I’m not going to comment on these declarations,” he told the TV station.
According to national daily Libertatea, Robu took his decision after a series of videos showing manele songs being played and dedicated to several people, including the mayor himself, in one of the city’s public markets.
Besides manele music and barbecues, the municipal ban also forbids dedications. An integral part of the manele culture, they include the handing of cash to the musicians in exchange for the dedication of a song to a third person.