Iulian is one of the first persons I’ve contacted after moving to Cluj-Napoca. I knew he was passionate about mountains and about folk music, so I went to a gig where he played with his band PICuri de folk. The atmosphere at the concert was so cool, and the boys were singing so well that we became friends.
When I started the project People of Transylvania, Iulian was one of the people I immediately put on the list because he’s a passionate, talented and positive. That’s why I’m very happy that I have the opportunity to tell you his story.
Iulian, when and how did your passion for folk music begin?
I’ve always liked music, but I cannot say that I’ve been fond of it in my childhood. I had a good voice as a child so I used to participate in the various competitions where I usually took the 1st place. When I was in the 2nd grade I went to Top Top Minitop.
In this context, my parents decided to make an intellectual and artist out of me, so they made me study the piano. I really wanted to go to carts. All the kids from the block were learning to drive carts, colleagues, friends – everyone. So while they were having fun with carts, I had to go to piano classes.
“I did not imagine I’d ever get to play and sing in a band. My passion for folk music came unexpectedly together with the love for the mountains”.
You realize how excited I was. I received some spanking from my parents because of that. I had to go to piano lessons once a week and I had to practice at home on a nasty piano – the kind where you pressed several keys at once, but only one sounded fine.
I gave up after a few months, but I was horrified by musical instruments and I kind of abandoned singing for a while. I did not imagine I’d ever get to play and sing in a band. My passion for folk music came unexpectedly together with the love for the mountains.
Throughout my life, I had some defining moments that formed and changed me. One of these happened in college when a friend invited me to a hike organized by the Dianthus Association.
“I remember the moment when we gathered around the fire for the first time. I felt so good that those moments changed my life”.
I had never hiked before, so I went completely unprepared. At the end of the day I was so tired I swore to never go to the mountains again. But in the evening we made a campfire and things took a completely unexpected turn.
Someone brought a guitar and started playing. I remember the moment when we gathered around the campfire in the middle of nature, singing together. The atmosphere in the camp was so cool, and I felt so good that those moments changed my life. This is when I fell in love with folk and the mountains.
How was the band PICuri de folk formed and where does her name come from?
The name PICuri de folk comes from the initials of the three members: Alex Petrescu known as Padre, Iulian known as Yoyo and Claudiu Aftimescu known as Afti. The story of the band goes like this. After that night around the fire, I decided to learn to play the guitar. It was tough at the beginning. My fingers hurt, it was difficult to find information, and I wasn’t able to synchronize my voice with the instrument. But I was ambitious and learned.
I used to steal some tips from here, a chord or a progression from there; I searched for tutorials on Youtube. That’s how I learned. Around the same time, I became part of crazy people with whom I started hiking.
Padre was already singing with the band Plus noi. I was their fan and I knew all their songs. I went to one of their concerts where they released an album and asked them to let me play a song, and at the end of the concert I asked for an autograph on the album. That’s how we met.
After that we met in the mountains at a contest where we were rivals in a cultural competition our team won. Padre is a very talented guy: he writes poems, songs and translates poetry. We became friends.
“The name PICuri de folk comes from the initials of the three members: Padre, Iulian and Afti. Our band is almost 5 years old”.
After a while, I met Afti who was hiking and climbing and singing like crazy. Afti finished the Military Academy in Bucharest. He comes from a family with several children where each member has a musical talent. He understands music on a different level than ordinary people. He can learn any instrument he gets his hands on. Everything makes sense for him. I think he can play pretty well about 10 instruments. In our band he plays the violin.
One evening we were having a beer in the Irish Pub on Dorobanti Street. I asked the band that was playing to let us sing during their break. The owner of the place heard us and asked us to come and sing once a week in his pub. This is when our band was formed. Since then, we’ve spent nearly five years singing together.
I understand that you’re planning to make a Youtube channel with guitar tutorials. Where did the idea come from?
I’ve never been self-conscious and I’ve always liked to sing in front of people. If I happen to know something, I usually come forward and gather people around me with my enthusiasm. I also like to pass on what I know.
This is why I want to make a Youtube channel for those who want to learn the guitar more easily, with practical tips without too much theory. It will be a dedicated channel with lessons that different from what I found on the internet where I will show personal techniques that worked very well for me and helped me a lot.
A lot of people start learning to play the guitar, but many give up in the process. I want to offer practical little tricks for those at the beginning of the journey to get them more excited and learn the guitar from 0. If I could learn, surely others can do it too!
I saw you’re passionate about photography and video. Where does this passion come from?
My grandfather was a mechanic; he used to fix airplane engines which allowed him to travel the world. When I was little, he used to show me pictures of the places he visited. “Memories are the only thing that stays with us forever and photos help you remember” – that’s what he used to say. This is when my relationship with photography began. I started taking pictures in the 4th grade.
“I began taking pictures in the 4th grade. That’s how I started making pocket money”.
When I went on school trips, my dad used to give me his camera and tell me: “This is how you take a picture, this is how you frame, and that’s how you change the film”. At that time, I had a film camera with limited frames. After the excursions, my school colleagues bought from me the photos they liked. That’s how I started making pocket money.
Later, I bought a DSLR I used to take with me when hiking, but after a while I switched to video. My intention was to capture in photos and videos the places I go through and try to convey the emotions I felt in the mountains.
That’s how I ended up buying a drone. The biggest advantage of a drone is that it gives you a perspective from the height to the area you are in, a more cinematic vision that you can only have by flying. Recently I started taking cinematography lessons.
“I want to tell stories in video format about the people who inspire me”.
My purpose is to tell stories that inspire me in video format, just like you do on this blog using text. I want to record the stories of the people I like and make a movie head-to-tail with their story. I work on scenarios, I write down ideas for films, and in the future I want to shoot artistic shorts. You can see some of the videos I made on my YouTube channel.
You are you the president of the Fun Hiking mountain club. How did it appear and what is its purpose?
I am passionate about everything that involves movement and the mountains, and I try to interest those around me to discover the beauties of nature. Nature, sport and music help me find my balance.
That’s why I created a blog where I am documenting the routes that went through with useful information, photos and videos. The blog is called funhiking.ro and it later turned into a mountain tourism club where I am president.
I was in college when I got to discover the charm of the mountains. And it resented that fact that my parents did not take me a boy scouts club. I think there are others like me who would love to discover the mountains in a group of people who can help them.
“Life gets more crowded by the day and often we tend to forget about nature. I think nature is the only one that can help us find our balance in this increasingly agitated world”.
That’s why I created this NGO. We started collecting 2% donations, we gathered what we had, and we bought equipment that would provide the minimum necessary for those who want to go hiking with us, but cannot afford or do not know what they need.
So we can offer them the necessary equipment – a headlamp, a rain jacket, an isoprene, a tent or a sleeping bag. We do this so that people do not have to give up hiking because there are lacking proper equipment. They can hike with us a few times, see if they like it and make an informed decision afterwards.
Over the years we documented routes, repaired mountain huts, organized clean up campaigns. The aim is to promote mountain excursions, mountain tourism, to organize different activities with students in thematic camps where they can learn how to make shelter, how to make the fire safely, to continue organizing clean up and planting campaigns, and promote sports in general.
Life gets more crowded by the day and often we tend to forget about nature. I think nature is the only one that can help us find our balance in this increasingly agitated world. We should take refuge in nature more often, because we were not made to live in the concrete jungle.