Zmei3 (pronounced zmay-tray) consists of immigrants whose beautiful and heartfelt music rose from the harsh realities of life in post-Communist Romania.
The powerhouse voice of Zmei3 is Paula Turcas, a soprano opera singer who gave up on classical music in the pursuit of a more truthful artistry, rooted in the struggles of everyday life. The leader of the band is guitarist Mihai Victor Iliescu, who created Zmei3's concept and genre. Thanks to vibraphone virtuoso, Oli Bott, the band sounds even more unique.
Zmei3's name was inspired by an ancient Romanian anti-hero, misfit and dragon—a rebellious figure who remained committed to his ideals. Their debut album Rough Romanian Soul (2016) was produced by Grammy award-winner, Ian Brennan, known for his work with Tinariwen and the Malawi Mouse Boys. The album was recorded in August 2015, live, without overdubs, in the Transylvanian mountains. It is an ode to Romanian music, the region's history of blues and soul, and the inherent spirituality of the band's work. But the album was also influenced by jazz, avant-garde and folk and contains introspective topics and psychedelic soundscapes. The songs cover themes of resistance, immigration, oppression, love, death, pride, loneliness, and strength.