Like so many other artists, the words enigmatic is the perfect way to describe Rodion Rosca. He was born in Romania and is half-Romanian and half-Hungarian. Rodion grew up in Romania during the open period between 1965 and 1972. During this time, Rodion was exposed to an eclectic selection of musical influences, he heard on the radio. This included everything from rock, pop and jazz music. While the music he heard on the radio was primarily English and American, the city of Cluj, on the border with Hungary, had a healthy musical scene.
Among Cluj’s lead bands were prog rock groups like Cromatic and Experimental Quintet. Soon, Rodion had immersed himself in the local music scene and had established a reputation as a prolific collector of vinyl, including the classic rock of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Rodion didn’t restrict himself to classic rock. He was also interested in the more progressive, electronic bands of the era, including groups from Eastern and Western Europe. This included Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes, plus West Germany’s Kraftwerk, East Germany’s Karat, Czechoslovakia’s Matador and Hungary’s Skorpio. These eclectic influences would influence Rodion Rosca’s musical career.
From the late sixties, it became apparent that Rodion was going to make a career out of music. To do this, he had to forge his own unique sound. Rock music dominated Romanian music during this period. However, the music Rodion would create was very different from rock music. Using reel-to-reel tape recorders and built around just vocals, guitars and drums. The result was music that was understated, sparse and simple. Sometimes, the music could be describes as improvisational, experimental and haunting. Having made his first step into the world of music, three years later, Rodion would form Rodion G.A.
In 1975, Rodion joined with Gicu Farcas and Adrian Caparu to complete the lineup of Rodion G.A. Gicu and Adrian provided the G.A. in Rodion G.A. For his part, Rodion contributed a myriad of studio equipment. By 1975, Rodion had amassed an eclectic selection of equipment and established a reputation as a D.I.Y. tech wizard. He created his own unique way of creating music on reel-to-reel tape recorders, using the various tape machines to multitrack. His nascent studio included several Tesia tape recorders, drum machines, phasers, flangers and fuzz pedals. Then there were a toy Casio VL Tone and a Soviet made Faemi organ. Like the music Rodion G.A. were making, the equipment they were using was leftfield and eclectic.
Although Rodion G.A. were producing music during music this period, they weren’t releasing music. After all, this was the communist era and the state dominated countries like Romania and there was only one Romanian record label. This was the state-owned Electrecord label. During their first session, two tracks which can be found on the Formatti Rock Volume 5 compilation were recorded. Then at a second session, five other tracks were recorded. Sadly, they were never released. However, the recording engineer allowed Rodion to record the five tracks onto his own tape machine from the studio’s main mixing desk. This allowed Rodion G.A. to use these tracks to build new tracks. Some of these new tracks were played on Romanian radio stations and reached the top of the Romanian charts. That was the extent of Rodion G.A’s recordings. Without further recordings and more publicity and exposure, they weren’t going to achieve a higher profile. Despite this, Rodion G.A. didn’t give up. Instead, they embarked upon a series of extensive tours during the eighties.
During Rodion G.A’s tours, the band played through a custom-made P.A. Amps and speaker cabinets proudly bore the Rodion G.A. logo. This resulted in Rodion G.A. having a totally unique sound, one that bore no similarities to other Romanian groups. Best described as dense, raw, complicated and complex, veering into the realms of classical and prog rock, Rodion G.A’s music was unique and inimitable. They became a favorite at festivals throughout Romania, which since 1972, had become a much harsher regime. Rodion G.A. toured Romania, playing everywhere from festivals to restaurants. Bands had to be on their guard. They never knew when the state censors would arrive at concerts. Luckily, Rodion G.A. became expert at avoiding the state censors, who were known to chastise a group for singing: “yeah, yeah, yeah.” It seemed that for a Romanian band, like Rodion G.A, trying to make a commercial breakthrough during the communist era was almost impossible. After all, they couldn’t release albums, and touring was the only way to lift their profile. However, by the early eighties, other opportunities were coming Rodion’s way.
Away from touring, Rodion contributed the soundtrack to the movie Delta Space Mission during the mid-eighties. Unfortunately, the music Rodion had provided was turned down, and Adrian Enescu was given the job. Then Rodion contributed the soundtracks to plays, ballet and gymnastics exhibitions. Despite being well received, none of these projects provided a lasting legacy for Rodion G.A. By now, the end was almost nigh for one of Romanian music’s great innovators.
What proved to be Rodion G.A’s final concert took place at Mangalia Festival in 1987. It was around this time that Rodion’s mother had died. This resulted in Rodion walking away from music for twenty-five years.
Nothing further was heard from Rodion for twenty-five years. Then Luca Sorin, a blogger and filmmaker became interested in the mythology that surrounds Rodion. After months of researching Luca discovered a handful of tracks by Rodion and footage of their 1980 New Year’s Eve concert. He posted this online. This came to the attention of Future Nuggets. They’re a collective of musicians and producers who are determined to preserve Romania’s musical heritage. They also are seeking to forge new alliances within the country’s musical community. Then in 2012, Rodion G.A. made their comeback, after twenty-five years away from music. Then a year later, Rodion G.A. who were formed nearly four decades ago, will release their debut album The Lost Tapes, on Strut Records.
The Lost Tapes was released to critical acclaim in May 2013. At last, the wider world were introduced to the enigmatic genius that is Rodion Rosca. Since then, Rodion G.A. have played at a series of concerts and workshops. Berlin, Bucharest and Moscow are just three of the cities to be won over by a musical innovator and maverick, Rodion G.A. Then in April this year, another Rodion G.A. release hit the shops.
This was none other than Rodion G.A’s soundtrack Delta Space Mission. It was released to celebrate Record Store Day. Fans worldwide were determined to get a copy of this previously unreleased musical Magnus Opus. The lucky ones weren’t disappointed. Far from it. It was a tantalising taste of a mercurial musical genius. However, there’s more to come from Rodion G.A.
Recently, Rodion G.A. signed a new recording contract with the prestigious British independent label, BBE Music. The first release is Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. It features 12 tracks which were recorded in Romania during the Communist era. During this period, musicians and artists were persecuted. They were perceived wrongly, as radicals. As a result, Rodion Rosca had to make music underground. He wrote and recorded the twelve tracks on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album in his basement, safe from the prying eyes of the censors. Then when it came to recording Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, the songs were recorded using instruments Rodion built himself.
Rodion Rosca is more than a musician. He’s an inventor, philosopher, poet and dreamer. He invented many of the instruments that feature on Behind The Curtain – The Lost Album. Other instruments he rescued and modified. His genius extends to transforming everyday devices into musical instruments. Using these musical instruments, Rodion Rosca’s talents as a composer, philosopher, poet and writer shine through. The result was an album of innovative and groundbreaking music. It was intended to be Rodion G.A’s debut album. Sadly, fate intervened and the album was never released.
During the Communist era, there was only one Romanian record label. This was the state-owned Electrecord label. Releasing an album on the Electrecord label wasn’t exactly going to be a profitable enterprise. Rodion wasn’t going to become a rich man. Then fate robbed Rodion of the opportunity of releasing his debut album.
The tapes of Rodion G.A’s debut album went missing. Nobody knew where they were. Rumours surrounded their whereabouts. Had they fallen into the hands of the state censor? Other rumours were that the music had been stolen by a jealous rival musician and that he’d burnt the tapes. There was even the rumour that Rodion G.A’s debut album had been smuggled out of Romania. Over the years, rumours grew surrounding the mystery over what many people referred to as The Lost Album. Then last year, the mystery was solved.
Rodion found himself living in a cottage in rural Romania. Apart from the occasional concert, Rodion was no longer involved in music. His musical career was another country. He still had the remnants of his makeshift studio. They were now akin to museum pieces. They were a connection to his pass. So were the pile of boxes and packing cases. One day, Rodion decided to start sorting through their contents. This was no easy task. It took several weeks. Towards the end of this journey through Rodion’s past, Rodion found some old reel-to-reel tapes in amongst some old photos.
He’d no idea what was on them. Fortunately, Rodion still had his beloved reel-to-reel tape recorder. With some TLC, he had the reel-to-reel tape recorder up and running. He started spending time listening to the old tapes. Some were just ideas for tracks, other recordings of rehearsals. Then Rodion hit pay-dirt. He found the long lost album. The album that had long been lost, was now found. It had never left Rodion’s possession. All the time, it had been amongst the photos that will feature in the sleeve-notes to Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album. However, that wasn’t the end of Rodion’s discoveries.
No. On some of the other tapes, were a number of other tracks. They’re a tantalising taste of a pioneering band at the peak of their power. The two bonus tracks are just a sneak preview of Rodion G.A. in full flight. It’s a joy to behold. That’s what I thought when I first heard what became Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album.
At last, over six months after Rodion first mentioned these tracks, Behind The Curtain – The Lost Album is on its way to finding the wider audience the music deserves. That’s thanks to Lee Bright at BBE Music, who has signed Rodion G.A. Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album should have been the start of what will be a long and fruitful relationship between Rodion G.A. and BBE Music.
This should have been a joyous time, and a cause for celebration has been. The music that was for so long lost, has been found and will be issued as Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album on BBE Music. Sadly, all joy is tempered. Tragically, Rodion Ladislau Rosca is dying from liver cancer and Hepatitis B and C. This means that music on Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, could be the last Rodion G.A. album released during Rodion’s lifetime. That will not be the end of Rodion G.A.
Rodion G.A’s music will forever live on, in the memories of music lovers everywhere. They will continue to cherish the music of a mercurial and enigmatic musical genius, Rodion Ladislau Rosca who I have been fortunate to call my friend. His parting gift to music lovers everywhere is Behind The Curtain-The Lost Album, which features Rodion G.A. doing what they do best, creating innovative and groundbreaking music.
Words by Derek Anderson LLB(Hons).
Rodion Ladislau Rosca grew up and got his musical education in Cluj, the third biggest city in Romania, during the relatively ‘open’ years of 1965-1972, before Ceacescu’s regime cracked down viciously on the cultural opportunities (and freedoms generally) available to…