Hora fetelor – or: Green Leaf of the Olive Tree

We are well aware of the fact that folk dance names often differ from names of the music they use. This often happens with dances to songs, such as Dramskoto (Dujni mi, dujni, bel vetrec), Krušarski danec (Sjala e moma), Dâlgata (Na sârce mi leži).  But even instrumental dance music occasionally gets a new name as a dance; we have already described the example of Frunză (two varieties: Sîrba de la Bacău and Sîrba de la Cotnari).

If a dance is called „Hora fetelor“ (“girls’ dance”), it can be assumed that the music originally had been named differently. This is especially the case with newly choreographed dances on existing music, which already had a name when the dance was created.

Four recordings of the melody on which we dance the Hora fetelor (according to Alexandru David) are well known among dancers:

1. the „original“ Hora fetelor on A. David’s LP „Gypsy Camp vol. 1“, played by Damian Luca with the orchestra Nicu Stănescu (published in 1970 under the title „Foaie verde untdelemn“ (i.e. „Green olive leaf“) on the LP „L’éblouissante flûte de pan roumaine“ by Pathé C 054-11362) (1)

Hora fetelor on A. David’s LP „Gypsy Camp vol. 1”

2. the Hora fetelor on Michel Hepp’s „Tänze im Kreis 2“ (Fidula CD 552), licence Electrecord, but no indication of the musicians (2),

3. a Frunză verde untdelemn with the same melody on the CD „Legenda Românească“, soloist Gheorghe Zamfir with Orchestra „Lăutarii“ from Chişinău, conductor Nicolae Botgros,

„Frunză verde untdelemn“ by Gheorghe Zamfir & Orchestra “Lăutarii”

4. the Hora fetelor on the CD „Haj la Hora“ by Bärbel and Jacques Loneux (Label Danses et Folklore No. BJL 001), unfortunately without referring to the musicians. This recording resembles No. 1 almost exactly. (3)

Whether the title is called „Foaie verde …“ or „Frunză verde …“ does not really matter, because foaie means the same as frunză.

Very interesting is the multitude of titles under which this melody is also known outside the folk dance scene. Another recording with pan flute by Radu Simion: „Neică, ce dragoste-avem„, LP Radu Simion – Un virtuose de la flûte de pan vol. IV“, Electrecord STM-EPE 01394 (1978).

An arrangement by Toni Iordache worth hearing: „Variatiuni pe tema Foaie verde şi-o crăiţa‘”. LP „Toni Iordache – Un virtuose du cymbalum“, Electrecord EPE 0591 (1971).

The violinist Nicu Stănescu called his variation „Supărată mi-ești puicuță„, LP Electrecord EPD 1110 (1966).

Ultimately, all of these recordings are based on a song whose best-known variant today is „Picături de untdelemn„,  (engl: „drops of oil“). There are dozens of versions of it on Youtube, most notably the one by Maria Dragomiroiu.

All this is almost certainly based on „Tabacheră cu tabac„, an arrangement of an old Bucharest lăutari melody with a song text from the novel „Groapa“ by Eugen Barbu (1957); first recorded by Bela Chitaristul in 1960 (unfortunately the record needle keeps jumping during the recording – but at least you get an impression). The text begins with the lines „Foaie verde untdelemn, / Neică, ce dragoste-avem!„. 

Another and probably erroneous variety of the title leads us to understand it: „Frunză verde unt de lemn“ – written apart, or, even worse, all capitalised: „Frunză Verde Unt De Lemn“. The separate spelling turns out to be less absurd than it seems at first, even if „untdelemn“ – in one word – means „oil“. The word „frunză“ means „leaf“ and is often found as „frunză verde“ or „foaie verde“ (green leaf) at the beginning of the first line of lyrics of many Romanian songs; „unt“ (from lat. unctum) is „fat“ or „oil“, „lemn“ (from lat. lignum) „wood“ or „tree“. So „unt de lemn“ literally means <wood butter> (or fat, or <tree oil>) – actually: olive oil.

(1) See https://www.discogs.com
Thanks to Radboud Koop, we now know that
”Damian Luca played the same tune on at least two other recordings under different titles:
(1978) Damian Luca – Trésors folkloriques Roumains – A virtuoso of the Panpipe, Electrecord ST-EPE 01479, side B, track 5, title: Lele ce dragoste avem
(1964) Danses de Roumanie, Le Chant du Monde LDX-S-4307, side A, track 2a, title: Doina (chant d’amour: Feuille verte mon amour quel bel amour nous avons).” (e-mail on eefc listserve 27.09. 2021)

(2) We found that this is Radu Simion’s recording, see a few paragraphs below.

(3) Also published on EP ”6 danses de Roumanie avec Benone Damian et Nicolae Pîrvu”, La Ronde 4530153 (ca. 1970). Notification by Radboud Koop 30.09.2021.