Oana Cătălina Chițu was born in famous writer Ion Creangă’s Humulești Village, by the bank of the Ozana, right at the foot of Cetatea Neamțului (Neamț Citadel). Among Northern Moldavians it is said that the folk of Humulești have a great sense of humor and pride, which is quite apparent when one watches Oana perform on stage.
In 1991 she packed her bags and exchanged Humulești for Berlin, going on an adventure that was to turn her into what she had always dreamt to be: an artist. She settled in a city which she loved and understood in no time at all, a melting pot of people and cultures that inspired her and convinced her to stay.
But music had always been by her side and within her heart, ever since she was in her birthplace, Humulești, where her father would sing at parties, where there were weddings with musicians that were famous for their fiddle and accordion work when playing fast-paced Moldavian sirbas. There used to be a lot of singing and playing in Oana’s childhood: in the church choir, the holy psalms; in the school choir, patriotic songs; even solos, played by ear, arias by Verdi that one learnt from TV or Marylin Monroe’s songs, much too risque for the final years of Romanian communism.
In Berlin, Oana Cătălina Chițu read African Studies at Humboldt University and also started piano classes at the Schoneberg music school, as well as bel canto classes with Verena Rein. While still a student, she met Dejan Jovanovic, a Serbian who had come to study classic accordion at the famous conservatory Hans Eissler. Two people from the Balkans come to the West, crazy for music, who decided to start a band: Romenca. All the sensitivity of the world where they came from, all its passion that was at times difficult to understand for people from abroad were poured in the Balkan songs which they chose for the German audience. Gradually, the band started growing: the Greek Dimitris Christidis played the drums, the Bulgarian Vladimir Karparov played sax, the Russian Alexej Wagner was the guitar player, the Siberian Alexander Franz played bass.
An album, Verka, followed, as well as tours through Europe, concerts that opened for the public those exotic Balkans, full of rhythm, which one might think from afar that are not for real, that they are but a figment of some directors’ or some writers’ imagination, stuff you only read in books.
One night at Neukölner Oper cut a new path in Oana’s and Dejan’s lives. The Moldavian cimbalom player, Valeriu Cașcaval, who was there to play in a series of concerts, got together with the two artists for a performance with Romanian Interwar Music, at ICR Berlin. To Oana, the songs of Old Bucharest, their sweet cadence, their sometimes devastating sadness, were something she knew very well. She had many times heard those songs played by their father, when she was a child, so she decided to bring them back to life for the public from all over the world. This is how Bucharest Tango was born, a CD and a music project by Romenca and Bessarabian musicians Valeriu Cașcaval (cimbalom) and Anton Slavici (violin), who took them to the stages of Singapore, Lithuania, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium and Germany, where they created an atmosphere of an Interwar Bucharest sprung from Oana’s imagination: cosmopolitan, open, charming by its zest for life and its diverse culture. They signed a record deal with Asphalt Tango (which is also the label of Fanfara Ciocârlia, among others) and, in 2013, the same eight musicians continued to tell a Romanian nostalgic story in their album, Divine, dedicated to the great interwar singer Maria Tănase. When the album was launched, it was 100 years since the birth of the great singer. The album was meant to value the heritage of a singer who used to be called Romania’s Edith Piaf.
As a matter of fact, Maria Tănase, the real person, as well as her music, were a true revelation for nowadays’ audience. Oana Cătălina Chițu brought these ‘songs from the slum’ in West European concert halls, those heart-rending doinas, which resulted in a show in which one could understand the extravagant personality of Maria Tănase.
Starting with 2015 Oana, together with Valeriu Cascaval and Dejan Jovanovic, have been working at a new music project: Romanian carols, old Christmas songs about nature, life, prosperity. These songs are played in a personal manner, meant to preserve the original melody and, at the same time, to reveal an immaculate world, a dream winter landscape, such as the one at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. These songs will most likely be recorded into a new album next year.