When my mother's grandfather came to Canada in the 19th century from Bucharest, Romania, (according to family legend he knifed a Cossack during a pogrom and had to leave in a hurry) they chose Quebec because they were fluent in French. Bucharest, along with a couple other cities, considered itself the Paris of the Danube. It was common for educated Romanians to be bilingual, and even favour French over their native tongue as a sign of their cultural refinement.
While this influence waned in the twentieth century, especially after Romania was "protected" from the corrupting influences of the West by the Iron Curtain, French cultural influences could still be found in certain areas. At the same time, while Romania's gypsy population had suffered horrible deprivations in World War Two due to being one of the Nazi's targeted inferior races, the influence of that culture on popular music that was performed in clubs in the cities, or community events like weddings in the country, was undeniable.
While the music was undeniably gypsy, with the familiar sounds of the tzimbal, violin, and accordion leading the way, and the language being sung was Romanian, the first time I heard Gabi Lunca sing I was reminded of Edith Piaf and others of the great French chanteuse tradition. Perhaps it's because I wasn't paying any attention to the lyrics, as I don't speak any Romanian, but only listening to the sound of the singer's voice, that I made the connection. Whatever the reason, there was no denying to my ears the connection between the two singers.
I only heard of Gabi Lunca because of the German record label Asphalt Tango that specializes in recordings of Russian and Eastern European music with an emphasis on the music of the Roma or gypsies. Not only have they been responsible for bringing some of the best in contemporary gypsy music to Western Europe and beyond, but they have produced a series of CDs featuring the music of performers from the Communist era who were largely unknown in the West.
Like the majority of the series, the music on Gabi Lunca: Sounds From A Bygone Age - Vol.5 has been culled from the archives of the former Romanian State Radio in Bucharest and re-mastered for CD. On this disc they have been able to find music that spans the years that Gabi Lunca was in her prime as a vocalist, 1956 to 1978. Lunca was considered one of the "grande dames" of the Romanian music world and performed with some of the premier musicians of her time so what you're hearing on Gabi Lunca: Sounds From A Bygone Age - Vol.5 is representative of the best of the popular music of the time.