May The Soil Lie Lightly Upon You, Gabriel “Negru” Mafa

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On the 27th of October, 2006, a Romanian band that went by the name of Negura Bunget left their indelible mark on the world with Om. Unfortunately their thread soon began to unravel and members Sol Faur and Hupogrammos left to forge their own path. Negru, born Gabriel Mafa, was left own his own to rally new men under his flag, to create new music and to bring his art to new corners of the world.
On the 30th of September, 2016, the second part of what was to be a “Transylvanian trilogy” – titled Zi – was released. I briefly previewed this record in last July, but I never followed-up with a review. The reasons are simple, I only acquired the record much later on, and it wasn’t available on my preferred streaming service, Spotify, until December. Though it’s style was reminiscent of it’s predecessor, Tau, a somewhat maligned record – though I liked it, if mostly for the folk music, not so much the metal – it’s quality hearkens to the band’s classic years. The folk, the black, the prog and the post became better blended as opposed to Tau’s rather separated approach.

Soon after Negura Bunget embarked on a tour that did not only celebrate the release of their new album, but also the tenth anniversary of Om, and the 20th of Negura Bunget itself. This tour, among other countries, was to extend all the way to Bangladesh in December – a first for the band, a show to be hosted by our friend Zoheb Mahmud. On 21st of March, 2017, the dream was shattered. Gabriel Mafa passed away at the age of 42. No official statement has been made, but it seems a heart failure claimed his life.

One country that the tour did have time to extend it’s long arm to was Finland. But I am a poor man with an addiction to buying records. I spend much too much money on them, and have had to relent lately. So it was with a heavy heart I decided to skip this tour. Until a show was announced in my hometown, in the middle of nowhere, a bar in the middle of an industrial (read: tire shop) complex that no person on Earth could accidentally wander into, or intentionally find without hours of prolonged search. I hesitated still, until a friend/bandmate’s band was announced the opener. I decided to take advantage of this cheaper opportunity, and I could not be more glad I did.

Though the place was odd, even unsavoury for such an event – the creepy atmosphere enhanced by the lack of music before the first band began. There were only about a dozen of us in the audience for most of the night, and that’s counting the band members’ girlfriends. But the band was on fire. Their performance beastly, though with the necessary touch of gentle when required. A night to cherish for years to come. It was all the more shocking to learn of Negru’s passing as he was all kinds of fine that night, not a thing seemed to trouble the man – physically, or otherwise.

Gabriel Mafa was not a man without controversy. But today is not the day to discuss such matters. Today is a day to celebrate his art, to celebrate a man “who dedicated his life to the sacred side of our [Romanian] culture, bringing it to life through music and transmitting it to various generations from all over the world.” If you’ve managed to miss Om, listen to it and acquire it through Bandcamp. Give Zi a fair chance as well. Familiarize yourself with the neofolk of Dor and the progressive death/doom of Makrothumia, or the Offer your condolences to the band or as it seems customary in situations like this, visit Prophecy and drown your tears in his music. Or if you feel capitalizing on his death would be ethically wrong, as you didn’t desire to own his art when he lived – do nothing of the sort. It is for you to decide how to, if at all, mourn his passing.

I know I do. You were loved. You are missed.

“Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever”


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