Why Romania still doesn’t have a democracy

Photo credits: Bogdan Duna

With a strong communist past that officially ended almost 30 years ago, the young Romanian democracy still does not show any signs of maturing. The current government, the Social Democratic party (PSD) is the only established self-declared left-wing force, having a convicted and sentenced leader (Liviu Dragnea) and a long recent history of defying the Romanian justice system by passing legislation aiding corruption. This corruption is making the poor, whom they are supposed to represent, even poorer – with lack of education, healthcare and equal opportunities being common, it will not be surprising if the turnout on the elections day will be low. How can these people make their way to vote when they fight for survival daily? And it is not just the poor – how could citizens make an informed choice, rather than a manipulated one, when the national press is mostly very biased and does not shy away from fabricating facts?

Many gave up on democracy, feeling like old politicians who were found to have been guilty of being unethical are still being recycled into new parties nowadays. The President of Pro Romania, a social-liberal party founded last year, is Victor Ponta, who came under immense criticism in 2015, when he was part of PSD and acted as Prime Minister. During his time as a PM, 64 people died and several others were wounded in the Colectiv nightclub fire, caused by poor safety regulations and endemic corruption, leading to fireworks being displayed indoors at a highly inflammable concert venue.

New parties have emerged since the last EP election, from the widely announced desire to offer better political alternatives. But most of these alternatives will not appear on the ballot paper, with Romania having the most stringent regulations with regard to running in the elections. With 200,000 signatures from supporters needed for political parties to run in the first place, and 100,000 signatures for independent candidates, the portrait of the country’s political spectrum looks rather undemocratic, with old, established parties having an obvious advantage in gaining access to the elections, while new alternatives are impeded through lacking enough popularity among citizens. The lack of transparency in checking the veracity of the signatures makes the legislation even more questionable.

The Democracy and Solidarity Party (DEMOS), on one hand, is a new party bringing a progressive left-wing alternative in Romania, much more popular in other parts of Europe, but still lacking supporters in the Eastern European country. With views such as protecting the environment, LGBT rights and gender equality (it is the only Romanian party with a female majority on the candidates list), DEMOS could have been a strong alternative to PSD (which, despite having a self-proclaimed left-wing identity, supported a referendum aiming to ban same-sex marriage on a constitutional level). At the other end of the spectrum, there is another new party which did not gather enough signatures, called the Alternative Right, which could easily pass as having a clerical fascism ideology, having previously expressed strong views against the LGBT community in the name of Christianity. A more balanced right-wing alternative until recently is the alliance between Save Romania Union (USR) and the Freedom, Unity and Solidarity Party (PLUS), an alliance formed by relatively new parties, which managed to gather enough support to run in the EP elections. These parties supported civic initiatives such as Fara Penali in Functii Publice (No Convicts in Public Roles), thus increasing political debate and engagement, while building the union’s identity as an anti-corruption movement. However, except for the anti-corruption discourse, which quickly became a populist one, the parties did not offer details on values they believe in and policies they will be fighting for if elected, which allowed for very contrasting views within the alliance, further confusing the electorate. Moreover, the latest project of USR involves up to ten years of prison for promoting communist ideas – therefore threatening social democracy promoted by new left-wing alternatives such as DEMOS, which could be subjectively misinterpreted based on right-wing values.

Examining the realistic options Romanians who have democratic values and ethics have at the fast-approaching EP elections, they can easily think of a question famously asked in a 1884 play written by Caragiale (Romanian playwright), by a character known as ‘a drunk citizen’, portraying how confusing the nation’s politics is: “Who am I voting for?”

New song by Naked Canvases coming soon! Live teaser and interview for Forge TV’s On the Beat

Naked Canvases came all the way to Sheffield to talk to me and perform a teaser of their next song, “Songs Apart”. Enjoy!


Naked Canvases are “painting” their first Official Video

It is happening tonight. Tonight, between 9 and 10pm, Naked Canvases will be releasing their first official video for “Insane (Hey Now)” – after having launched their audio version less than four months ago.

The event is going take place at Cogs Pub in Birmingham, but Andrei Tiu said the venue choice for tonight is not arbitrary: “The venue is modern and the standard of performance there can be pretty high. So we want it to be a very good performance, good sound, we have the means of exposing the video on  high-quality screens and it’s also in a very good area of the city, so it kind of helps our brand in this way and we can also bring the kind of people that the club would like there. So it’s not just a pub – it’s a higher quality pub! And this is why we try to be a high-quality band and want to have high-quality material…”; “…we are aiming for what we are supposed to”, added Andrei Dutu.

They didn’t want to give me a lot of details about the video and, of course, I wouldn’t want to give you too many spoilers either. But what they did give me was a special kind of enthusiasm for what is coming and a lot of inspiration – and through this exclusive interview, I am hoping to make you as excited as I am now about the first canvas they are painting tonight.

Andrei Tiu, lead guitarist, PR, manager, co-songwriter and co-founder of Naked Canvases said the video director “had the musical knowledge of how music videos should be done, as well as the film knowledge to make it cinematic and the approach of making it commercially appealing as well”.

The band takes pride in managing to achieve the highest level they could possibly reach at this point in their career. They say they are very pleased with what they call a high-quality final product and said the director was able to put into images exactly what they want to express through their music video. The live show taking place in Birmingham tonight will not only mark the launch of their music video, but will also be broadcast through Facebook live so that their family, friends and fans can watch them from whatever part of the world they are in.

The other Naked Canvases member, Andrei Dutu, who is the singer and rhythm guitarist of the band, as well as co-songwriter and co-founder, said the video captured exactly the way they see music videos but also their energy as a new band and their indie approach towards music: “I can’t wait to actually release it”.

The video shows two different timeframes in parallel, telling a love story which is relevant to both  past and present. Their favourite part of the video is the bridge which, they say, looks really good.

While only giving out the fact that the video shows a couple wandering around London, Andrei Dutu explains the story behind it: “There is this couple and they live close by when they are kids, then they become teenagers and fall in love, but at some point one family moves away and they lose connection. And the idea of the song is that they meet up when they are a bit older, more mature, they experience life, and there’s this question there, ‘we’re back in this situation again, but it feels INSANE, I am not sure that we can do this’ ”


“Naked Canvases” was formed in October 2016 with only two members, but a lot of motivation to work hard and give music a meaning they believe in.  Andrei Tiu (23) and Andrei Dutu (22) are both from Bucharest, Romania.

Andrei Dutu grew up in a family with a strong focus on classical music, as his mother used to be an opera singer. He studied Drama at an arts school in Bucharest and then started studying music as well, having performed pop, jazz and even opera. When he first moved to the UK, he went to a music college in Wigan, he did a lot of auditioning for musicals but at the same time started gigging on his own. Moving to London, he said, was a life-changing decision – everything felt as if it suddenly evolved, as there he met Andrei Tiu and they decided they wanted to do music professionally together.


Andrei Tiu had already been part of a few bands by then, one of his bands back in Bucharest having been quite successful and making it hard for him to leave: “I felt attached to it so I thought if I am leaving this here I want to make sure I am going to do something better”.

Tiu studied an undergraduate degree in Marketing and although it is currently helping him promote Naked Canvases, he admits his decision was also influenced by his parents’ distrust in whether music would work or not as a career path: “Sometimes it’s hard to tell parents ‘Oh mum, you know what? I think I am going to study Music in London for four years, 2000 miles away from home and, you know what? I can’t work for a few months, maybe one year, so I am going to ask you for the money. Is that okay?’ Probably not.”

Their first song, “Insane” (Hey Now)” was launched at the National Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, where they had their first concert and ever since they’ve been gigging in London and Coventry. After their launch in Birmingham today, they are planning on gigging in many other cities across the UK.


Naked Canvases is open to everyone who want to give variety a go. It ranges from pop and a pinch of rock to soul and even R&B but, as lead singer Andrei Dutu said: “We kind of approach a folk genre, but in an indie way”. Errr, they already got my interest!

Being open to exploring a variety of styles is one approach they take, as Dutu added: “We are not shy about exploring music. Because creation is about exploring and we are trying to incorporate a lot of ideas from any genre that we feel that would fit and would tell our story better.” The golden rule is trying to put feelings into every sound they produce and translating them into something the audience can relate to.

They think Naked Canvases has an advantage in being international, as that means having been part of a variety of societies and countries makes it easier to approach an international audience.


One of the first things that got my attention about this band was their name – and, as I thought, the guys chose it after careful consideration. Dutu confessed there was an interesting debate around their band name. While trying to suggest an artistic perspective on music, the band name was also received with funny reactions by some: “We decided we want to become a mirror image in an artistic way. We try to show people pure emotion. So we started thinking about how we actually write music and we’ve noticed that both of us are using images when we’re trying to write music. From images, we went to painting and then I ended up thinking ‘what about canvas?’ and then the idea of Naked Canvases just came into my mind! We had a lot of comments like ‘What is this naked word, is it supposed to be dirty?’”


Andrei Tiu added that “painting on naked canvases” is what they based their band name on because they hope the audience will picture the stories that they are telling while immersing themselves into the music.  What is more, it directly reveals what their target audience is: “We are appealing to everybody that really is a bit artsy and tries to see a bit further down in what music is and how to experience a live performance.”


When I asked them to tell me the top three things that make Naked Canvases stand out from other bands, Dutu pointed at himself and Tiu and said laughing “One, two…”. He then enumerated imagination, mindset and charisma, which Tiu translated as being their love for connecting with people and living and breathing their passion.

“Success means doing something that you love every day and getting better and better every day and I think that our journey goes on this path” said Tiu, while Dutu thinks that, besides this, success means becoming so influential that you get to change people’s lives.

When you first see them, you might wonder how they can deliver the unique performances they are claiming since there are only the two of them. But Andrei Dutu said it is not all about friendship: “We are two minds but we have the same goal. Starting from this, we have so much opportunity of having a certain direction and we are going to follow it without hesitation.” What’s more, even though they do consider gigging as a bigger band in the future (providing they find people as committed to their aspirations as they are and with a similar approach), they find it easier to agree on things in the current formation. They do admit having more people helping them in the studio, but they also think moving around for concerts would be more difficult if all of them were to attend live performances.  Many artists, such as John Mayer, were more efficient when not everybody was taking the decisions, but focused instead on a nucleus and had other people enhancing it. Naked Canvases aim to follow a similar pattern in their musical activity.


Another thing that caught my eye about Naked Canvases was the photoshooting they have done to promote their band, as this photograph seemed to stand out:


It creates a visual illusion in the way that Andrei Tiu looks like he is sitting, but he is actually laying on the ground and the photo was simply rotated. As expected, it is all part of their artsy approach and, as Tiu said, the twisted buildings’ perspective puts a further emphasis on thinking outside the box.

They also explained the #UKNakedHideAndSeek hashtag they have been posting on social media, which stands not only for the name of their summer tour, but also suggests that they are hiding surprises for their supporters and fans, who can only find out about them if they follow the band’s activity.

They haven’t announced this yet, but good news for those of you who are already interested in their activity or will be after tonight’s launch: they started recording more songs last Friday and they have an idea of what they want to put out next!