Today marks the 21st anniversary of Moldova's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. What better way to celebrate independence than with pop music and rock 'n' roll? Here are 8 of Moldova's most popular musical acts.
"Dragostea Din Tei" (a.k.a. "the Numa Numa song")
"Dragostea Din Tei" is far and away O-Zone's most popular song, with the official music video from Ultra Records accruing more than 23 million YouTube views in 5 years. (You may know the song better from the "Numa Numa" viral video.) The group, originally a duo, formed in 1999 and hit it big with "Despre tine" in 2002. They disbanded in 2005, less than a year after "Dragostea Din Tei" made it into many countries' top 10 charts. That same year, a Japanese record company obtained Japan distribution rights for O-Zone, and the group became a Japanese sensation, with the DiscO-Zone album selling more than 1 million copies.
2. Zdob ?i Zdub (a.k.a. Zdob shi Zdub)
"So Lucky" (Performed live)
Zdob ?i Zdub, which formed in 1994, fuses traditional Romanian folk music with more modern musical genres, including punk, ska, and hip-hop. They were the first band to represent Moldova at a Eurovision contest, in 2005, placing sixth with their song "Bunika Bate Toba." They represented Moldova again at Eurovision in 2011, finishing 12th that year with "So Lucky." (The video above is a live recording used as a promotional video for Eurovision 2011, and not their actual performance from the contest.) They have released 10 albums, toured in at least 10 countries, warmed up for Rage Against the Machine, and performed at a Russian MTV-Party. There's even a YouTube video in which Zdob ?i Zdub's "DJ Vasile" is mashed-up with the Black Eyed Peas "Don't Phunk With My Heart."
3. SunStroke Project & Olia Tira
"Run Away" (Performed for Eurovision 2010)
SunStroke Project's Anton Ragoza (the violinist and composer) and Sergey Stepanov (the saxophonist) served in the Army together, during which time Sergey got the inspiration for the band's name. The group formed in 2007 and currently consists of Anton, Sergey, and Sergei Yalovitsky (vocals). They competed to represent Moldova for Eurovision 2009, but came in third in the pre-selection; they succeeded the next year, when they were chosen along with German-born, Moldova-based pop singer Olia Tira to represent Moldova. At Eurovision 2010, SunStroke Project and Olia Tira performed "Run Away," reaching 22nd place among 39 competitors. Both the band and Olia Tira are probably more well-known for their Eurovision competition than their other songs, especially after Sergey Stepanov's saxophone solo in "Run Away" became a meme known as "Epic Sax Guy." The band has capitalized on the meme, releasing an official "Epic Sax Guy" video and incorporating the phrase into their song "Superman," which they and Olia Tira used as a bid to represent Moldova for Eurovision 2012. (They weren't chosen.)
4. Pasha Parfeny
"L?utar" (Performed live)
Pasha Parfeny (also sometimes spelled Parfeni) was a member of SunStroke Project when it competed to represent Moldova at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest; he wrote "No Crime," the song they performed for the national selection contest. In 2010, both SunStroke Project (with Olia Tira) and Parfeny were again in the running to represent Moldova for Eurovision, but that year they were competing against each other, Parfeny having entered as a solo act. Parfeny failed to earn the bid in both 2010 and 2011, but succeeded in 2012 with his song "L?utar." (The video above is the preview video for the contest, and not the performance from Eurovision.) He placed 11th in the final. Although he's been active as a singer since 2002, he has not yet released any albums (as far as we can tell).
"Muta" (Performed live, 2011)
This alternative rock band was formed in December 1998 by two high school friends. The line-up has changed a bit over the years, with only two original members--Marcel Bostan and Marin Nicoar?--remaining; the rest of the current members are Sergiu Aladin, Eugen Berdea, and Victor "Vikosh" Co?parmac. They've released two albums--Ora?ul 511 (2005) and Visatori cu Plumb în Ochi (2007)--as well as an EP, Flori din Groapa Marianelor (2008). Ora?ul 511 was named after the garage where the band rehearsed for years.
6. Natalia Barbu
"Do That Thing"
Natalia Barbu hit it big when her single, "Îngerul meu," spent 11 weeks in the #1 slot on the Romanian Top 100 chart and received frequent play on MTV Romania. In 2007, she was selected to represent Moldova at the Eurovision Song Contest, beating out Zdob ?i Zdub. She finished 10th out of 24 finalists. She has released three albums: Între ieri ?i azi (2001), Zbor De Dor (2003), Sunt fata de maritat (2009), and Fight (2009).
7. Familia Stratan
"Numar Pan La Unu" by Cleopatra Stratan
Familia Stratan patriarch Pavel graduated from the Academy of Music, Theatre and Plastic Arts in Moldova. He released his first album, Amintiri din copil?rie (Memories of Childhood), in 2002, followed by volumes 2, 3, and 4 in 2004, 2008, and 2011, respectively. Cleopatra Stratan, Pavel's daughter with his wife, engineer Rodica, released her own album in 2006, at the tender age of 3. With La vârsta de trei ani, Cleopatra reportedly became the youngest artist to achieve commercial success; she also was the youngest artist to perform live for two hours in front of a large audience, the highest paid young artist, the youngest artist to receive an MTV award, and the youngest artist to score a #1 hit (which she did in Romania with "Ghi??"). La vârsta de trei ani went double platinum in 2006 in Romania, where the family now lives. Cleopatra has released three more albums: La vârsta de 5 ani (2008), Cr?ciun Magic (2009), and Melodii Pentru Copii (2012). The youngest Stratan, Cezar, was born in 2008; he now joins Pavel and Cleopatra in many of their YouTube videos.
8. Nelly Ciobanu
"Hora Din Moldova" (Dance of Moldova)
Nelly Ciobanu has been performing since age 19 (in 1993), when she won first prize at the "Morning Star" competition. She has continued to do well in competitions throughout the Eurasian region; the fact that she sings in 11 languages, including Romanian, Russian, and English, surely doesn't hurt. In 2009, she represented Moldova at Eurovision, where she came in 14th with "Hora Din Moldova." (The video above is the promotional video, not her Eurovision performance.) For the last five years, she has been hosting a music TV program called "Vedete la bis," or Stars Encore, in Moldova.