[Another interview from frequent contributor Scott Jones. – AC]
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Inia Dinia (Orsolya Weissberger), best known as ex-keyboardist of Romanian atmospheric black metal group Negura Bunget, and now of the all-new folk metal/post-rock group The Dara Project, about her influences as a musician, Romanian folklore, as well as her first-ever visit to North America in 2012. Keep an eye out for more to come!
When it comes to metal subgenres, folk-metal hasn’t always received as much attention as more mainstream styles, such as alternative or death metal. How have you attempted to bring yours to the forefront?
I’m confident in what I do, and I’m also confident in my bandmates. Each one of them is talented and has their own musical style and personality, which in the end makes all the difference. I also like very much what we do, so the result has to be a good one.
Clearly, the brand of metal you play demands a lot of musical knowledge of centuries past. Where did you first learn of traditional folk elements in your home country?
I learned about traditional folk elements in school and also at the Gheorghe Dima Music Academy we had these optional courses and I chose the folklore area to learn more. However, most of the people are familiar with the local folklore. Romanian traditional music plays an important role in people’s lives.
Tell us about your time as a music student, then in Negura Bunget, and how these experiences helped you develop as a musician and composer.
Oh, my time as a student… it feels like it is part from another life (laughing) but that’s because I was a quite different person then; I was rebellious, “didn’t quite follow the rules” so to speak. I gave my teachers and my mother a few headaches (laughing). In my last year of high school, I knew that the next step would be the Music Conservatory, and also back then I was thinking a lot about starting a band or playing in a band, (I’d already been playing with two local bands as a keyboard player and vocalist for a short while and had a little taste of what playing in a band means) so I wanted something more challenging to dedicate myself to. A few months later I began studying the Music Conservatory and also accepted Negura Bunget’s offer. I knew the guys from the band, but I didn’t know too much about the band itself, what they do, where they play…I just knew the “OM” album and loved it big time, so it was like a honour for me to play with those guys who made that really complex and cool album. After the first European Tour, I came back as a completely different person, more mature, more serious about the music and much more open to the world.
During the seven years spent in Negura Bunget as a keyboard player, I learned a lot: how to face pressure, stress, how to be in tour for months with the same people without going nuts (laughing), to understand each one of them and take the best from everyone, how to handle good or bad situations, what to do if your keyboard goes nuts in the middle of a song and all kind of things like that, also these years helped me to form my own style as musician, keyboard player, harpist and composer. Since I was in high school, I’ve enjoyed composing music. I am a huge fan of film music; it’s the main influence in my life and in what I do, so these years in Negura Bunget helped me to develop and to create music as I feel. To explain it better, music school gave me the necessary tools to learn and understand music by learning the theory behind it and the years spent in Negura Bunget helped me to see beyond all that knowledge and to let my creativity manifest.
What is your favourite traditional musical instrument that is rarely used in metal?
The entire family of woodwind instruments is my favourite category. If we speak of Romanian traditional instruments, closest to my heart is the Caval, a woodwind instrument similar to a whistle with tones in the lower register heard across the Carpathians and the Balkans. It has a warm, endearing, deep sound.
In addition to Negura Bunget, you also worked on a more traditional folk project with their drummer Negru called Din Brad. How would you compare this kind of music with western folk music?
Folk music in general is combining simplicity, atmosphere and deep emotions. Traditional Romanian folk music combines all of these elements, but has more accents on the atmosphere and very often the transmitted emotions are sadness and melancholia. Western music has a lot of different cultures, which is a good thing. However, it’s very hard to compare it to Romanian traditional music, which is more atmospheric and mystic.. It’s also full of Balkan influences, and sometimes you can discover a lot of darkness in it. Western folk music inspires more happiness, life, which I think it comes from the Irish and English (British) influences, the most important thing about folk music is, that if you listen to it with your eyes closed, you can transpose yourself through your imagination into the landscapes and the simple people, who actually from their happiness, or sorrow, just started to sing and compose. I really appreciate that someone started to collect folk music, because this way some extraordinary songs could remain and could be listened by different people with different tastes and culture. So the fact is that they have a lot in common, like folk music generally, but also are completely different, and very hard to compare. You just have to close your eyes and listen, like I do with Western folk music.
In 2012, Negura Bunget embarked on their first-ever North American tour, travelling over 9000 miles to play across the continent. What did you learn about culture, music, as well as metal fans, on this side of the world?
Well, I’m a big fan of country music so was happy to listen to the radio on the road and discover new songs. The most important thing that I’ve learned in the North American tour was to be a more open and friendly person to help and to let others help me if needed.
I’ve met a lot of really cool people, extremely nice and friendly, which is something you don’t see very often here. In Romania for example, people are colder in interaction, preoccupied with everyday problems. So, it was quite shocking for me at first, talking to strangers in gas stations, hotels, clubs, on the street, but I got used to it very fast and I really enjoyed it. Metal fans are also different from what I was used to know, more curious, more open and friendly. So every night when we were on stage playing in front of an audience full of curiosity and faces with friendly, warm smiles it felt good and encouraging.
Staying on the topic of your North American tour, you had two Canadian black metal groups open for you, Eclipse Eternal and Wolven Ancestry. Do you feel their music connects with your own?.
Yes. I believe everything is connected, we are all connected in a way or another and so are the things which come from our hearts – including music.
Who is your favourite Canadian metal group?
I don’t have a favorite metal group, I like a lot of songs from a lot of bands, not just from the metal scene, but to answer your question, one of my favourite Canadian metal groups is Woods of Ypres.
Last year, your line-up in Negura Bunget disintegrated, but shortly after you teamed up with your guitarist Fulmineos (Emilian Matlak) to form the Dara Project. Is this collaboration similar to what you’ve worked on in the past, and what was your main motivation for wanting to start something new?
I needed a break from everything and a change, the scary kind of change, which once made really changes everything around you. So I made it. After a while, I started to work on my own project which was part of my plans for a few years already, and something made completely on my own, which for me is very challenging. I already had a few ideas put aside so I am still working on it, but hopefully it will be ready and out in this year’s fall.
About Dara Project, well…me and Fulmineos have known each other for more than 10 years now and we have played together in the past on other musical projects too, so for us it was kind of natural to continue something together and so we started as “Ysadora”, but during this last year a lot of things have changed in the band including the name, so we have now a final line-up, new name “Dara Project” and a first album “Dreptarul Viselor” which will be ready by the end of this year.
Finally, for metal fans across Canada, what is the best motivation you can give to those who have not heard of music from so far away from here?
Be curious about everything, learn about different cultures, ask questions without fear, respect and help other people, be kind to animals, step out of your comfort zone and explore the world, it’s full of wonders!
–Scott Jones ([email protected])
“Writing about music is my passion. It may sound cliché, but music really is everything to me. My collection contains more subgenres than the number of moons in our Solar System. And I’ve got something to say about all of them.”