Margaret Beissinger

Florin Salam – Manele Vocal Performance

Florin Salam (Salam is an Arabic greeting meaning ‘Peace’) is the most prominent vocalist of manele in Romania today.

He was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1979 into a family of lăutari (professional Romani musicians) as Florin Stoian. In his teens, he was both accordionist and vocalist in an ensemble with his father and uncle and specialised in lăutar repertoire (urban Romani song and dance music).

He adopted the stage name ‘Florin Fermecătorul[Charming] when he turned exclusively to manele singing. After his first recorded song had become a huge hit in 2002, he became rapidly renowned and assumed the moniker ‘Florin Salam’.

Salam records countless hits every year, tours abroad regularly and is in great demand in his native country. His style of singing has influenced manelişti (singers of manele) profoundly. Young urban singers born after the collapse of Communism – for example, Sorin Copilul de Aur [the Golden Child] as well as rural and small-town lăutari throughout Romania – continue to imitate Bucharest-based celebrities, especially Salam.

Florin Salam. Bucharest, Romania, 2014. Sala Palatului.
Credit: Daniel Robert Dinu. Used with permission of Marian Colcea.

Rights held by: Daniel Robert Dinu | Licensed by: Marian Colcea | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International | Provided by: Daniel Robert Dinu – Private Archive

Contemporary manele sometimes begin with a free-rhythm introduction in which a singer displays his vocal virtuosity and technical command of melismatic ornamentation; Salam, in particular, developed this convention. In the metered sections, backup singers sometimes harmonise with manelişti and repeat verses.


Constantine, Constantine [O Constantin, Constantin]. Florin Salam (vocals). Traditional Romanian lyric song in manele style, including free-rhythm introduction. Live at Outernational Days 2 Music Festival. Bucharest, Romania, 2017.
Credit: Dragoş Rusu.

Most manele lyrics are rendered in the first person, from a male point of view (singers are typically male), and contain declarations of erotic love and passion as well as devotion to the family.


A ieşit soarele din nori [The sun has come out from behind the clouds]. Florin Salam (vocals). Live at Outernational Days 2 Music Festival. Bucharest, Romania, 2017.
Credit: Dragoş Rusu.

Others boastfully invoke wealth, power and machismo (money, opulent homes, expensive cars, luxury travel, and gorgeous women). The enemy (duşman) is habitually mentioned because, according to this ethos, envy and enmity provoked in others are proof of personal success and worth. Lyrics are in Romanian.

Music videos reinforce manele themes through imagery in which the male manelişti dominate and are often surrounded by sexy women and other emblems of status.

Poza ta nu mă sărută [Your photo doesn’t kiss me]. Florin Salam (vocals). Commercial recording. Bucharest, Romania, 2015.
Credit: Big Man Romania/Marian Colcea.

Rights held by: Florin Salam (song/performance) — Big Man Romania (recording) | Licensed by: Marian Colcea (song/performance/recording) | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International | Provided by: Dragoş Nicolae Rusu – Private Archive

Embedded in this discursive style is the tradition of dedications at weddings or clubs: guests offer money to manelişti for songs ostentatiously ‘dedicated’ to others who are present. Songs extolling prestige, fortune, achievement, a beautiful wife or love for a son speak, through the vocalist, for the person being celebrated.


Nuntă împărătească [Imperial wedding]. Florin Salam (vocals). Romani wedding, Buzescu, Romania, 2013. Free-rhythm introduction; twice the groom’s father hands Salam €50 asking him to dedicate this song to his beloved son.
Credit: Marian Colcea

Manele create imagined universes that appeal to the poor and downtrodden, but they also reinforce a sense of cachet and entitlement among rich, powerful and criminal members of Romanian society.

Rights held by: Margaret Beissinger | Licensed by: Margaret Beissinger | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International | Provided by: RomArchive