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"Artist of the People" Lache Cercel embraces his musical roots

Burnaby-based Lache Cercel will perform with his Roma Jazz Ensemble at Jaz'N'theViolin Concert Series in Vancouver on March 19.
Master Violinist Lache Cercel shared the importance of maintaining his roots in music in a conversation with the NOW.

As Lache Cercel (virtually) takes me through his room adorned with prestigious music awards, gold plaques and berets, I am curious about this musician, who was deemed “artist of the people” by the Romanian government.

“It was my grandpa who put the violin in my hands,” said the Burnaby-based Cercel, who was born into a musical family in Bucharest, Romania. His grandfather was a respected artist in multiple genres of music — classical, Roma and folk — and Cercel credits him with much of his early musical education.

Cercel later trained at Romania’s prestigious Academy of Arts to become one of that country's top musicians before leaving his homeland to come to Canada. Cercel spent his early days in this country as a musical exchange student in Ottawa. He then travelled to B.C. and spent years on Vancouver Island, where he would meet musicians like Diana Krall and Salvador Ferreras.

Cercel’s own music borrows from his Romani roots. He traces the origins of the style to music that emerged from Rajasthan in India. He described Roma music as a musical genre, similar to Indian classical music, which for centuries was passed down through generations without being written down.

Cercel expressed the desire to keep his musical roots alive through Roma jazz — a genre made famous in the last century by French Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt — with his band members in the Roma Jazz Ensemble. He has wholly embraced the style, which merges eastern and western influences.

When he plays, he said, he hears echoes of the long history of the Romani people, who for centuries have travelled the world, seeking better lives and along the way enduring and overcoming slavery and persecution.

“It gives me that happiness in my heart because every time I hear something about what we [have gone] through ... what people used to sing when we were slaves in a field, and putting all our brains together and become something using the best of what we got.”

Our roots are a crucial part of our identities and our lives and how we express ourselves, he said. “Once we respect our customs ... and tradition, we all can live in a really beautiful world,” he said. “And my responsibility and my meaning as a musician and an artist is to bring ... people together."

Cercel will be joined by his Roma Jazz Ensemble (with guitarists Don Ogilvie and Stephen Nikleva, bassists Sam Soichet and Kyle Hagen and drummer Paul Townsend, along with vocalist Laura Crema) to perform at Jaz'N'theViolin Concert Series at Pyatt Hall in Vancouver on Sunday, March 19.

Single concert tickets are priced at $35 for students/seniors and $40 for general admission. For more information, visit