Tag Archives: Hungarian music

Artist Profiles: Okrös Ensemble

Okrös Ensemble

The Ökrös Ensemble, the leading folk revival band in Hungary, is a special treat for music lovers. They have the marvelous ability to present the soul of their music, performing on authentic instruments. Csaba Ökrös, the leader of the Ensemble, is one of the most respected revival violinists in Hungary. Before he started the ensemble, Csaba Ökrös had performed with the Uistilus Ensemble, the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, the Kodaly Folk Dance Theater, and Muzsikas.

Csaba Ökrös teams up with other excellent musicians to present authentic and unique Hungarian folk music, elevating it to a high level of artistry. Members include Miklós Molnár, László Mester, László Kelemen and Robert Doór who are considered the best folk musicians in Hungary with impressive global recording and performance backgrounds. Members of the Ensemble are also Rounder Records recording artists.

Ökrös Ensemble has collaborated with violinist Sandor Fodor “Neti” and the renowned singer Marta Sebestyen.

There is a special relationship between Gypsy fiddler Aladár Csízsár and the Ökrös Ensemble. A CD was recorded which examines an documents the versatile and exciting music of Székelyföld, allowing centuries old traditions to survive. Live, the whole group performs virtuosic renditions of Hungarian and Transylvanian music with full accompaniment of the rarely heard cimbalom and female vocal.

Discography:

Transylvanian Portraits – Hungarian Village Music From Transylvania, with Márta Sebestyén (Koch World, 1992)
Hippoglassus (Around Sound Studios, 1994)
Hungarian Folk Music From Rábaköz & Kutasföld, Mezoség, Transylvania (Hungária Records, 1994)
Koszorú (Sonophil Records, 1994)
Kalotaszegi Mulató Énekek – The Blues At Dawn In Kalotaszeg (ABT Budapest, 1996)
Búsulni Sohasem Tudtam – Hungarian Folk Music From Transylvania (Fonó Records, 1997)
Transylvanian Village Music From Gypsy, Hungarian And Romanian Tradition (Rounder Records, 1999)
Elindultam Szép Hazámból I Left My Sweet Homeland (ABT Budapest, 2001)

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Artist Profiles: Miklos Balogh

Miklos Balogh ‘the Eared’ grew up with music. Amongst Hungarian musicians he is called ‘the Eared’ because of his sharp hearing and exceptional musical sensitivity. Many gypsy and folk groups invite him to collaborate as guest artist on their concerts and CDs. He started playing the keyboard when he was ten years old.

His real world is Romanian gypsy music, he plays the Romanian tunes and rhythms with special taste and style. Since 2005 he is a member of Etnorom ensemble.

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Artist Profiles: Muzsikás

Muzsikás in 2009 at the Rainforest World Music Festival – Photo by Angel Romero

Muzsikás delves deep into the roots of central European history by combining Jewish, Ottoman, Hapsburg, and Gypsy influences to bring the world a rich, complex and mysterious Transylvanian tradition. As part of the folk revival that swept Hungary two decades ago, in response to the straitjacketed approach of Russian state-sponsored folklore, Muzsikás played tanchez when it was dangerous to do so.

Now an even broader audience has discovered the talents of their stellar vocalist, Marta Sebestyén through her work on the soundtrack to the Oscar-winning film, The English Patient and the Grammy winning Boheme by Deep Forest. Exhilarating audiences with their outstanding musicianship and their devotion to seeking out obscure and interesting music, Muzsikás has become one of the world’s top performing ensembles.

Read: Interview with Muzsikas, Hungary’s Renowned Folk Music Group

Discography:

Living Hungarian Folk Music I (Hungaroton Gong)
Márta Sebestyén and Muzsikás (Hannibal, 1991)
The Prisoner’s Song (Hannibal, 1991)
Blues for Transylvania (Hannibal, 1991)
Maramaros, the Lost Jewish Music (Hannibal, 1993)
Ketto (Munich Records, 1995)
It is not like it used to be (Hungaroton Gong, 2001)
Morning Star (Hannibal, 2003)
The Bartók Album (Hannibal, 2004)
Live at the Liszt Academy (Muzsikás)

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Artist Profiles: László Major

László Major decided to become a violinist when he was five years old. After studying classical music he specialized in the music of the Balkans and became an internationally acknowledged virtuoso of the styles of the region. He played in Hungary’s famous folk groups such as Zalka Dance Ensemble (1976-1978) and the Hungarian National Folk Ensemble (1986-1988).

Since 1997 he has been working with Joel Rubin Jewish Music Ensemble. He joined Etnorom in 2005.

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Artist Profiles: Martá Sebestyén

Martá Sebestyén

The voice that wraps around the audience during the initial credits of the movie The English Patient have become well known to worldwide audiences. Behind that voice is Martá Sebestyén, who began to perform traditional Hungarian songs in Budapest when she was a little girl.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1961, Marta grew up surrounded by music. Her mother, a music teacher, studied with Zoltan Kodaly, a famous composer and a great scholar specialized in his country’s traditional music.

Martá learned how to sing before even she knew how to speak. At a very young age, she took part in festivals, concerts, TV and radio shows and countless recordings. At 12 years of age, she already knew that her life would be bound to music.

At the same time that she attended school, Marta began to sing at the Houses of Dance. Around that time, the movement of the Houses of Dance was at its peak and was used as a form of protest against the cultural uniformity proposed by the Communist government. Students and scholars, musicians and dancers, began the exploration of the musical roots of their country and of Hungarian culture, mainly of the agricultural region of Transylvania, which had become part of Romania after World War II.

The dances and traditional songs became familiar to a whole generation of students and intellectuals of Budapest, and Martá was the center of that movement from its very tender childhood.

In 1975 she joined the group Sabö and Halmos, and from 1980 she leads Muzsikás. In addition, she has collaborated with a good number of Hungarian bands like Vujicsics. In the decade of the 1980s, Muzsikás, with Martá Sebestyén, toured throughout Europe, as well as Australia.

In 1984 she took part in the musical dedicated King Stephan, a popular Hungarian legend. Thanks to this work she was given an award as Best Female Singer of the Year in Hungary. In 1991 she became the first Hungarian singer to receive the noted Liszt Prize.

After the birth of her two children, at the beginning of the 1990s, she gave worldwide tours with the group Muzsikás. She has recorded with Peter Gabriel and Deep Forest. Her collaboration with the latter, “Martá’s Song,” on the Bohéme CD, became an international hit. In the 90s the group’s audience was expanded to Japan and the United States.

Béla Bartók said once that it would be impossible sing in the purest Hungarian style unless one had been raised in a village. Martá is the exception to this rule. She has developed an immense repertoire of traditional Hungarian and Transylvanian songs to which she contributes technical purity and tone color, managing in this way to capture a large audience beyond the borders of the Hungarian villages. With her gifts as a singer, musician and musicologist, she adapts and arranges a repertoire rarely heard outside of Transylvania.

Although the world audiences have opened up to the sounds of other cultures, very few singers have been able to overcome the barrier of curiosity by communicating with urban music fans. Today Martá is recognized as a skilled performer of a beautiful tradition.

Upon hearing Martá use any of the seven languages that she speaks fluently, one is aware that she has finer hearing than most of the polyglots in order to capture words and sounds. She jokes and laughs at this presumption in many languages and she sings in many more.

Gabriel Yared and Anthony Minghella, composer and director of The English Patient, respectively, were followers of Martá, and many of those who worked in the production of the movie in Berkeley went to her concert when she played there with Muzsikás. Her voice and the link that she had with the mysterious Count Almasy seemed perfect for the soundtrack. It is a beautiful and exotic voice that intrigues most of who listen to it.

The English Patient, produced by Saul Zaentz, meant the definitive international recognition of Martá.

In 1996, Martá collaborated as artistic director of the Euromusica Festival that takes place in Székesfehérvár (Hungary).

On June 1st, 2010, Sebestyén was given the UNESCO Artist for Peace title

Discography:

Karácsonyi Magyar Népdalok (Bravo, 1984)
Szerelmeslemez (Favorit, 1985)
Márta Sebestyén Sings (Hungaroton, 1987)
Hungarian And Romanian Folk Music From Transylvania ‎(Hungaroton, 1988)
Kivándorlás / Emigration (Hungaroton, 1989)
Apocrypha (Hannibal Records, 1992)
EastWind, with Andy Irvine and Davy Spillane (Tara, 1992)
Transylvanian Portraits – Hungarian Village Music From Transylvania ‎(Koch World, 1992)
Kismet (Hannibal Records, 1996)
Morning Star, with Muzsikás (Hannibal Records, 1997)
Bartók Album, with Muzsikás and Alexander Balanescu (Muzsikás, 1998)
Szárnyakon Fekszem ‎(Gramy Records, 1999)
Altatódalok (Hungaroton Classic, 2000)
Meeting Point, with Róbert Erdész ‎(Solaris Music Productions, 2000)
Inspirations (Periferic Records, 2001)
A Zeneakadémián, with Muzsikás (Muzsikás, 2003)
Angyalok És Pásztorok – Christmas Songs ‎(Gryllus, 2006)
I Can See The Gates Of Heaven… (World Village, 2008)
Halld Meg Szavaimat Isten! ‎(Gryllus, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Kerekes Band

Kerekes Band

Kerekes Band was formed in 1995 in Hungary, and they became a well-known group in dance-houses. Their aim is to perform folk music from Moldova (a special mixture of Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish folk music) and their own arrangements are based on these authentic tunes with a high standard.

The band started to play authentic folk music from Gyimes and Moldova. They became Young Masters of Folk Art in 1998, Award of the Ministry of National Cultural Heritage. After that period they discovered and accepted the influences of other music genres. In this way Kerekes created a brand new, free-style performance of this basically lively folk music. Although the group could be considered a world music act, the musicians prefer the term ethno-funk. There are influences from the freedom of jazz, the explosive rhythm of funk, the melodiousness of Balkan music and the pure beauty of folk in it.

Their original concerts appeal to a wide audience. The performances of Kerekes at The Academy of Music, in the Budapest Arena, at the Milleneris Park, and other venues are all very popular. They are frequently invited to foreign countries like Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Poland or Russia.

Musicians: Fehér Zsombor on furulya (shepherd’s flute), kaval; Námor Csaba on koboz; Csarnó Ákos on brácsa (viola) and jew’s harp; Fehér Viktor on drums; and Kónya Csaba on bass.

Discography:

Hungarian Folk Music From Gyimes and Moldva (Periferic Records, 2001)
Fütyül a Masina (Periferic Records, 2003)
Pimasz (Kerekes Band, 2006)
Fel a Kalappal! (Kerekes Band, 2008)
What the folk? (Kerekes Band, 2011)
Folklore Man (Kerekes Band, 2013)
Live at A38 (Kerekes Band, 2014)
Argo 2 Soundtrack Album (2015)
Back to Følk (Music from Følkland) (2016)

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Artist Profiles: Dűvő

Dűvő

Dűvő Együttes (Dűvő Ensemble) was formed in 1976 by a few folk music and dance enthusiasts in Salgotarjan, a northern Hungarian city known for its rich Palic folk tradition, which is carried on even today. The Palic people are a group of Hungarians with a peculiar dialect and a strong attachment to traditional values. The original members of Duvo initially wanted to preserve their own local folk music traditions. However, as they established themselves as excellent musicians, they began to learn and collect folk music from all areas where Hungarian folk music could be found. They befriended and learned music from the best Hungarian folk musicians from Hungary, Slovakia and Transylvania. They treasure these friendships, which have brought them their most important and pleasurable musical experiences.

A Duvo performance is versatile and colorful. The band’s members each play on several folk instruments including violin, 3 stringed viola (bracsa), bass, cimbalom, duda (the Hungarian bagpipe), koboz (a type of lute), and furulya, a Hungarian folk flute.

Duvo has toured many European and Scandinavian countries and is the regular band of one of the longest running and excellent folklore camps in Seattle. In 1983 they received the Hungarian national Excellent Ensemble rating. In 1993, the Young Master of Folk Art award was bestowed upon them.

The band: Dénes Hrúz on violin, bagpipe; Szabolcs Hrúz on bracsa, koboz; István Nagy on bass, furulya; Gergely Toth on violin, bracsa; and Ferenc Andrássy on cimbalom.

Discography:

Dűvő 1 – Hungarian Folk Music (Periferic Records)
Dűvő 2 – Hungarian Folk Music (Periferic Records)
Dűvő 3 – Hungarian Folk Music (Periferic Records)
Duvo 4 – Hungarian Folk Music (Periferic Records)
Dűvő 5 – Hungarian Folk Music (2003)
Dűvő 6 – 25 Év Legnépszerubb Dallamai / The Best Of Dűvő – The First 25 Years (2004)
Dűvő 7 (2005)
Rimóci Énekek És Táncok – Songs and Dances from Rimos, with Istvánné Holecz, Margit Kanyó (2006)
Somogyi Táncok (2007)
Magyarszováti Tánczene (2007)
Hungarian Village Music (2008)
Elore, Csak Elore (2009)
Live in Holland (2010)
Határtalan Muzsika (2010)
Van Még Benne! (2012)
Duvölet – Pillanatképek / Snapshots (2014)
Magam Járom, with Kubinyi Júlia (2015)
Hátra Van Még A Java – Hungarian Village Music (2017)

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Artist Profiles: Edina Szirtes “Mókus”

Edina Szirtes “Mókus” – Photo by Gábor Nagy

As a virtuoso musician, Edina Szirtes Mókus is familiar with a variety of styles, still she has managed to develop her own, special sound both in singing and on violin. She has composed music for exhibitions and dramatic performances (Szeged Contemporary Ballet). These compositions merge classical, world music (ethno) and jazz styles. She has contributed in numerous well-known Hungarian groups and performers ((Muddy Shoes, TNT, Nyers, Rakonczai Viktor, etc.).

She is also regularly on tour in Europe with her own bands (Blues B.R.Others, Dafina, Hajnal, Ex-tri, Alex Paid Holiday, etc). A distinctive talent within Nomada, she plays the violin on a wide scale, without any stylistic boundaries, and she performs the Gypsy songs with deep feeling and emotion.

Discography:

És A Fabula Rasa – Tesséklássék ‎(Sony Music, 2009)
Szerelmesezos (2012)
Ki Viszi Át – Who Carries Love Over (Magneoton, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Aladár Csiszár

Aladár Csiszár

Aladár Csiszár is one of the last great gypsy fiddlers from an area of Transylvania called Székelyföld [Land of the Secklers]. He is the most important informance from this region where folk music was preserved throughout the centuries. He was born into a Gypsy dynasty of musicians and has played all his life for communities surrounding his birthplace. His playing may be characterized by wild improvisations, commendable musicianship and charismatic style.

Discography:

Marosszéki Muzsika – Dance Music From Marosszék, Válogatás Vavrinecz András Gyűjtéseiből – A Selection Of Tunes Collected By András Vavrinecz ‎(Hagyományok Háza, 2007)
Original Village Music From Transylvania’s Upper Mureș Region ‎(Fonó Records, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Ágnes Künstler

Ágnes Künstler had been singing and dancing in Wild Roses folk group for 18 years. In 1984 she joined the Hungarian gypsy folk ensemble Kalyi Jag (Black Fire) and achieved world-wide fame as their soloist. She also wrote lyrics and worked as a composer on the group’s albums that were accompanied by great international success. She worked as a composer and vocalist in collaboration with Szilveszter Jeney on the album called ‘Gypsy Bethlehem’. She performed throughout Europe, Japan, India,South Korea, the United States and Brazil. She was also invited to sing her songs in films produced in Hungary and abroad.

In 2005 she founded Etnorom ensemble with Jozsef Balog. Also in 2005 she worked as a composer and vocalist on the theatre play called ‘Nomad Passion – Ballad of the Snake’. The play presents pieces of gypsy life with traditional music and dance. The premiere took place 9th December 2005, in the National Dance Theatre in Budapest and was followed by several performances in Budapest and other cities of Hungary with great success.

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