Romano Drom, which in Romani language means ‘gypsy road’, presents the musical tradition of the Olah Gypsies from Valachia, traditionally horse traders and traveling salesmen who entered Hungary in the middle of the 19th century.
For Romano Drom the power of the Olah Gypsies’ traditional music is in its voices and vocal games. Living in Budapest where east and west flow together, the inspirations are many and various.
The sudden death of cofounder and lead vocalist Antal Kovacs in 2005 took a toll on the band, but they have continued to play under the direction of Antal Kovacs’ son, Antal Kovacs Jr.
They use household utensils as instruments, such as a milk jug and wooden spoon, along with their unique vocal stylings to create a more modern urban sound through the introduction of guitar, double bass and drums.
Preparing to direct the 1970 film, “Little Big Man,” director Arthur Penn decided to use country blues for the soundtrack rather than Native American music. He called Columbia producer John Hammond to discuss the matter, stating that he wanted “the sound of oppression.” Hammond played him some of the music of Robert “Hellhound On My Trail” Johnson, and Penn said, according to Hammond’s autobiography, “My God, that’s just what I want. I hope we can get him.”
Hammond told him Johnson had been dead for more than thirty years, but that his son, John Paul Hammond, played just like him. That is how now-renowned slide guitarist John Hammond got his recording career off to a fantastic start, courtesy of his father, and that is also an example of how “the sound of oppression” easily crosses cultural barriers to speak to us all.
Gypsy music parallels blues in many ways. It is the music of an ethnic group stuck in interaction with a bullying mainstream culture. One does not wish persecution on any culture. Music is, however, a means of expressing deep feelings and generating solace and joy. The music of an oppressed people has the extra task of replacing words in a climate where a dominant culture frowns upon or even bans said oppressed people’s verbal observations on their plight. The listener can share the solace and joy and admire the players’ abilities all the more when the music comes from such a source, and the players are more motivated and rewarded by being able to accomplish much with a restricted set of tools. This is what Khamoro Budapest Band brings us.
There is some mournful wailing. There is reliance on sad, minor keys. Instrumentation is not always what we expect. There is also an imparting of awe; how can these people still dance and laugh with all they’re letting us know with their music that they and their families have gone through? Khamoro (“little sun” in the Romani language) plays with passion, virtuosity and the enthusiasm that comes from their desire to share the experience and exuberance of their musical tradition with the world.
There is poignancy, pride and dignity in “Rovan More Jahka,” humor in other pieces, and beautifully supported celebration throughout the release.
They have done their homework and selected pieces from specific regions in which gypsy culture has bloomed best. As a plant grows tallest above the soil when its roots run deepest beneath it, their take on the music shares it articulately because of the study underlying their familiarity with the form. When one acquires this CD, one acquires not only the joy and strength inherent in the music, but also a deeper insight into the tradition that built it.
Péter Éri was born in 1953 in Budapest, Hungary. As a ten-year old child he won the first prize of a dance competition with dancing the Lads’ Dance of Kalotaszeg, accompanied by his schoolmate Andras Schiff, who is currently a world famous pianist.
His stepfather, Dr György Martin, a well-known ethnographer, brought young Éri to his trips where he collected Hungarian traditional dances and instrumental music and consequentially Éri as a child made his first connections with living musical and dance traditions.
At 14, Éri became the dancer of the Bartók Dance Ensamble where he was an active dancer for six years. His interest in the music continued. He became the bass player of the first Hungarian folk revival band, the Sebő Group. At that time the singer of this band was a young woman called Marta Sebestyen.
Meanwhile when the band Muzsikas was formed in 1973, Éri became the guest musician of the band. In 1978 he became a full member.
Éri graduated from Eötvös University of Budapest as an ethnographer and philologist of Romanian language and literature.
He plays the viola, the three-string “kontra”, mandolin and different types of flutes.
During the last decades the name of Parno Graszt (White Horse in the Roma language) became the equivalent of authentic Hungarian Gypsy music.
The band is based in Paszab, in northeastern Hungary. During social ceremonies music is shared between each one of the community: instruments are passed from one hand to another and practically everyone is a dance master. There is no band and there is no audience. There is one unified festive gathering. Whether they play in their backyard or on a festival stage for 10,000 people, the same spirit of cheerful delight vibrates in the air.
The sound of Parno Graszt is rooted in the traditional Gypsy songs of northeastern Hungary, representing a specific local dialect of Roma music. Their instruments are acoustic guitars, double bass, tambura, accordion, spoons, milk jug and ‘oral bass’ which is a continuous vocal improvisation made by the percussionist. Occasionally, the 10-piece group takes the audience for a time journey where the dancers, using an archive video projection, are performing parallel with their grandparents on stage.
World music radio stations discovered Parno Graszt after the breakthrough of Hit the piano (Rávágok a zongorára) in 2002, which was the first Hungarian record in history reaching the Tot 10 of World Music Charts Europe. The much anticipated second album In my world (2004) featured Kalman Balogh, a world-class Hungarian Gypsy cymbalist.
Since then Parno Graszt has played throughout Europe in venues and festivals like Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Couleur Café Festival (Belgium), Paleo Festival (Switzerland), Tribu Festival (France) and Sziget Festival (Hungary).
As a recognition for their work in preserving Romani culture and heritage, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the BBC produced a music documentary about Parno Graszt. The movie was selected for the Official Film Screening at WOMEX 2008 and was screened worldwide via IMZ World Music Films on Tour.
In 2007, the band celebrated its 20th anniversary. On that occasion, DJ Gaetano Fabri (remixer of Taraf de Haidouks, Kocani Orkestar, Mahala Rai Banda) made his debut remix for Parno Graszt’s Gelem Gelem.
In 2008, the Paszabi Gypsies were invited to India where they spent two weeks in Rajasthan, the alleged motherland of the Roma people, meeting and playing with local musicians, tracing their roots, looking for familiar faces, customs and melodies. The result of this unique musical exploration was a DVD.
Band Members: Jozsef Olah on vocals, guitar, tambura; Viktor Olah on vocals, guitar, dance; Sandor Horvath on vocals, spoons, dance; Janos Jakocska on vocals, guitar; Maria Varadi on vocals, dance; Maria Balogh on vocals, dance; Krisztian Olah on accordion; Janos Olah on double bass; and Istvan Nemeth on oral bass, milk jug.
The Now Sound of Budapest will showcase some of the new talent in Hungary’s capital tomorrow, on Thursday, January 5 at Drom in New York City. The showcase will coincide with the influential international performing arts presenters’ conference APAP.
The lineup includes world music act Meszecsinka (“Little Moon”), described as Eastern European Psychedelic ethnic fusion; the tango-influenced improvisations of Armenian-born Hungarian musician David Yengibarian; and the folk and world jazz sounds of Mihály Borbély’s Polygon trio.
8:00 p.m. David Yengibarian
8:45 p.m. Borbély Mihály Polygon
9:30 p.m. Meszecsinka
Méra, the World Music Festival of Transylvania will take place July 29–31 2016 in Méra – Szarka-Farm. The Méra World Music Festival will be the very first international world music festival held in the Kalotaszeg region, and will take place in the village of Méra, in the estate known locally as Szarka-telek. Behind Méra’s carved-wood gates, barn-stages will host orchestras familiar with the world’s most famous venues.
For this first edition of the festival, organizers have invited Central Europe’s internationally famous folk and world music orchestras to its barn-stage. The musical program was composed in accordance with two major principles: maximum diversity and the highest possible musical level.
Artists include Góbé Orchestra, János Csík and the Esszencia Orchestra, the Tárkány művek, Nikola Parov, Ágnes Herczku, Tcha Limberger, the Buda Folk Band, Nadara, the Palatka Gypsy Band, the Szászcsávás Gypsy Band, the Kalotaszeg folk-musicians, and the dance and music show of the ‘Fölszállott a Páva’ TV show.
There will be a ’Barn Studio’ for movie and theater fans, a ’Small Barn’ for kids, and round table discussions for the critical minds.
July 15, 8 Pm, Gyerőmonostor, Protestant Church-Yard
For Starters: The Góbé Orchestra In Gyerőmonostor
The introductory concert of the festival will take place in the neighboring village of Gyerőmonostor/Mănăstireni, where, parallel to the festival, a folk dance summer camp will be organized for local children. The six musicians of the Góbé orchestra from Budapest will present free variations of the folk-music traditions of the Carpathian Basin combined with elements of jazz, blues, reggae and classical music.
July 29, All Day, Méra – Szarka-Farm
First Meetup of Kalotaszeg Folk Musicians
This year marks the very first edition of the General Meeting of Kalotaszeg Folk-Musicians. No formal concerts are on the agenda of the meeting, but a lot of improvised playing and dancing are to be expected. Admission is entrance fee.
July 30, 6 Pm, Méra – Szarka-Farm
Fölszállott A Páva Show
The Méra barn-stage will then host the most memorable dancers, singers, musicians and orchestras made famous by the Hungarian TV show Fölszállott a Páva. Adult and young performers will be coming from nearby regions as well as from the most far-away corners of the Carpathian Basin.
July 30, 7.30 Pm, Méra – Szarka-Farm
Tárkány Művek Concert
Tárkány Művek has its own sound-world, the secret of which is to be found partly in the combination of dulcimer, saxophone, viola, flute, gardon, clarinet and contrabass, and partly in the unique voice of its female singer. Updating old folk-songs with their own lyrics, they also associate archaic texts with modern sounds, achieving in both cases a surprising recontextualization of the traditional pieces.
July 30, 9 Pm, Méra – Szarka-Farm
Ágnes Herczku & Nikola Parov Quartet Concert
Ágnes Herczku and Nikola Parov became unavoidable figures of the Hungarian folk-music and world-music stage. Their concert combines songs from Ágnes Herczku’s folk-song albums Bandázom and Tüzet viszek with the common world-music compositions of the artistic couple Herczku-Parov, who have been awarded the Hungarian Golden Disk and several Fonogram prizes.
July 31, 5 Pm, Méra – Szarka-Farm
Without contest Nadara is today one of the best gypsy band from Transylvania. As the taraf of haidouks, the group Nadara was discovered thanks to Tony Gatlif’s movie Transylvania (Cannes 2006) the soundtrack of which they realized. The director again appealed to them for the soundtrack of his last movie Liberté (2010) where “Tocila” the leader of Nadara holds the role of 1st violin.
July 31, 6.30 Pm, Méra – Szarka-Farm
Buda Folk Band Concert
Since the members of the Buda Folk Band literally grew up surrounded by the musical traditions of Hungary and other Central European nations, to them, the presence of authentic folk-music within urban culture is only natural. In addition to folk-music, they also gleefully find inspiration in other musical genres, thus creating a unique and exceptionally colorful musical cocktail.
July 31, 8 Pm, Méra – Szarka-Farm
Tcha Limberger & Benjamin Clement Concert
Tcha Limberger could be described as a genial loner of the international world-music stage. Born in Bruges in a family of Sinthi Gypsy musicians, this 38 year-old fiddler, violinist, guitar-player and singer developed strong affection for Hungarian folk-music in general, and the Kalotaszeg repertoire in particular.
July 31, 9.30 Pm, Méra – Szarka-Farm
Esszencia is one of the youngest formations of the musical scene in Hungary, though its members are already individually famous in different musical fields (folk-music, jazz, classical music): János Csík (fiddle, voice), Mihály Dresch (sax, fuhun), Kálmán Balogh (dulcimer), András Bognár (contrabass), Tamás Kunos (bratsch), Róbert Lakatos (alto violin, violin), Borbála Kacsó Hanga (voice).
Kalotaszeg is a region of inner-Transylvania uniting 42 villages and a small town, characterized by the centuries-old, multi-ethnic culture of neighboring Hungarian, Romanian, and Gypsy communities. Thanks to major professional and amateur ethnographers like Mrs. Zsiga Gyarmathy, Denis Galloway, Károly Kós or György Martin, Kalotaszeg is nowadays a well-known name from the USA to Japan, as an epitome of folk-music, folk-dance, folk-costume, and vernacular architecture.
Buda Folk Band demonstrates that it’s one of the finest Hungarian contemporary folk music bands. The string ensemble creates captivating music rooted in Hungarian folk music.
Saját gyujtés (Own Collection Work) includes slow tempo beauties like the opening track ‘Var meg’ where the musicians use the plucked string technique. At various times throughout the album, they increase the pace to breakneck fiddling speed, delivering virtuosic performances.
Although the members of Buda Folk Band grew up in cities, they have captured the essence of Hungary’s rural tradition very nicely. The young musicians grew up in a musical environment. Their parents and teachers belong to the generation that initiated the dance house movement (referring to folk dance revival, not electronic music) in the mid-1970s.
The lineup includes Andor Maruzsenszki on violin and vocals; Ádám Takács on violin and vocals; Sándor ‘Sündi’ Csoóri on contra (3-stringed viola), Bulgarian tambura and vocals; Márton Éri on viola, contra, and vocals; Soma Salamon on accordion, recorder, kaval (Balkan flute), furulyak (shepherd flutes), vocals; Gergő Szabó Csobán on bass, guitar, cello, chorus. Guest: Anna ‘Tücsi’ Márczi on vocals, chorus.
The attractively packaged CD booklet includes Hungarian-language lyrics, bilingual credits and artist photos.
On Saját gyujtés, Buda Folk Band delivers an outstanding collection of modern Hungarian folk songs and musical pieces featuring tight ensemble interplay and some spectacular individual playing.