On Friday I rushed to Vama Veche hungry for sunshine, good music and a horizon line uninterrupted by buildings. I had been fantasizing all week about chocolate pancakes (bye bye diet, so long calories count), swimming, drinking beer on the beach, laying on the sand at night and gazing for hours at the star-soaked sky. I was prepared for that, but nothing had announced the lessons of courage and tolerance I came back home with.
For all you non-Romanian readers, Vama Veche is an iconic summer destination on the Romanian seaside, supposedly the summer capital of all hippies, rockers, unfulfilled artists of all kinds and any other sensitive, creative souls that resiliently distance themselves - some more than others - from the modern society and all its obvious flaws. It should be noted that while this was true for a few years in the 90s, more recently the village has been taken over by the heartless, improvised business men who charge Bucharest prices in the their cotton colorful disguises. In any case, Vama Veche remains one of the few local seaside options for people young at heart, or body (if you know the other resorts available, you understand).
But I digress, this is not a touristic review.
Vama Veche hosted this weekend a folk festival creatively named…. hooold for it… Folk You! So a lot of folk (you’d figure) and rock bands were invited to participate. In an interesting experiment, artists from completely different genres were also asked to contribute, probably in an attempt to point out that values, authenticity and passion are way higher than any hair style or instrument. An experiment or demonstration, as you wish, that failed terribly on Saturday evening.
Puya is a hip-hop artist that gradually made a name for himself in a place and at a time where speaking in rhymes about political and social issues was (is?) completely unsexy. His background in a well-known but controversial rap group apparently made him very unpopular with crowds like the one in Vama Veche. The hostility this particular audience felt became quickly apparent when Puya took the stage this weekend. Boos and swear words were pouring. A compact group of long-haired, pierced, tattooed, shirtless men were standing frozen in front of the stage, with their hands raised. As I approached them, I realized they were all giving Puya the middle finger. The rapper continued his show; the public got angrier, the shouting got louder. Puya and his crew became open targets for plastic bottles thrown forcefully at them. Puya continued unfazed, and kept dropping verses while making feints to avoid projectiles. He noticed, at a certain point, that the public in Vama Veche is more about the power than the flower, and I could not help but laugh despite the tragic circumstances.
For the first time in my life, I was scared to applaud an artist, but this weekend in Vama Veche I cheered for Puya looking over my shoulder. I cried looking at the screaming men and women who did not take five minutes to listen before attacking. Puya eventually interrupted the show and left the stage, the only wise thing to do in that situation. I tried to go backstage and tell him he did the most inspirational show I had seen in a long time, but no one was allowed there. So I’m telling him here, now.
I was impressed with the courage to stand in front of thousands of furious, irrational, drunk people and risk your safety to make a point. Not any point, but a valuable one.
I admired the inner strength and deep confidence in his work one must have to take so much rejection, yet continue to perform.
I applauded the professionalism of not missing a single beat, not one word in those awful circumstances.
As of Saturday night, I am a fan.
So Puya left and several hours later Vama Veche returned to being the iconic summer residence of flower-power devotees, you know, those peaceful, tolerant people who would rather make love instead of war. Still, somehow, I could not wait to get back home.