Tag Archives: Hungary

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: Zoltan Lantos

Zoltan Lantos

Zoltan Lantos is a classically trained violinist from Hungary, who was drawn to experimental and eastern music and spent several years in India studying classical Indian music. Lantos’ virtuosity, warm sounds and unique way of improvising on the violin couples with his knowledge of Indian ragas and contemporary European jazz.

Lantos has shared a stage with various artists from his native Hungary, as well as from around the world. He also leads his own highly acclaimed quartet of Hungarian musicians.

Discography:

Pieces (1996)
Eclipse (1997)
Mirrorworld (1998)
Makahia (2000)
Tiptoe Ceremony (2002)

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Artist Profiles: Omar Bashir

Omar Bashir

Omar Bashir carries on the tradition of his famed father, Munir Bashir, the preeminent ‘ud (lute) player and one of the world’s most esteemed cultural ambassadors for Arab music in the second half of the 20th century.

Omar Bashir was born in 1970 in Budapest, Hungary. He started playing the ‘ud at 5, next to his father, Munir Bashir, the Iraqi virtuoso who first made the oud a solo recital instrument and popularized it in the West. At 7, Omar Bashir joined the Baghdad Music and Ballet School. He would eventually become a teacher there and set up his own band of 24 musicians specializing in traditional Iraqi music. They performed regularly across Egypt, Russia, Turkey and many Arabic countries.

Bashir returned to Budapest in 1991 where he joined the Franz Liszt Academy. Bashir has performed as a solo artist and in duets with his father until Munir Bashir died in 1997 on the eve of a tour of North America. His music mixes traditional Arabic music, flamenco, blues and other forms with a jazz-like improvisation.

Bashir currently resides in Budapest.

Discography:

Music from Iraq (1992)
Duet of the Two Bashirs: Munir and Omar (1994)
From the Euphrates to the Danube (1997)
Ashwaq (1998)
My Memories (1998)
Flamenco Night (1998)
Al Andalus (1999)
Zikrayati (1999)
Live Solo Oud Performance (2000)
Sound of Civilizations (EMI, 2001)
To My Father (2002)
Bghdadiyat, with Shara Taha (2002)
Gypsy Oud ((2003)
Latin Oud (2004)
Oud Hawl al Alam – Oud Around the World (2004)
Crazy Oud (EMI, 2010)
The Platinum Collection (EMI, 2011)
Masters of Oud (EMI, 2010)
Takasim (Inedit Records, 2012)
The Legend Live Concert (Universal, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: István Balogh

István Balogh ‘Pacala’ was born in Nagyecsed, a village in North-Eastern Hungary where Gypsy children dance and play music from their childhood. The Hungarian Gypsy community agrees that the best Gypsy dancers come from this region (Szabolcs-Szatmar-Bereg County). Pacala, who is said to be the best ‘oral bass’ performer in Hungary started his career in the famous Romany group, ‘Romanyi Rota’ and later joined ‘Romano Kokalo’ as well. He played on numerous Gypsy music albums and performed throughout Europe and the world. He joined Etnorom ensemble in 2006.

He plays the ‘milk jug’, which is a traditional percussion instrument of the Romany people, darbuka, cajon, and performs the traditional Gypsy ‘oral bass’. ‘Oral bass’ is performed mostly by men – by creating rhythms with the mouth with a special technique. From concert to concert Pacala attracts the audience with his unique personality: being an authentic, highly intensive artist with a great sense of ‘Gypsy humor’, he adds a special color to our performances.

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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: Kálmán Balogh & Gypsy Jazz

Kálmán Balogh & Gypsy Jazz

Kálmán Balogh is one of the leading Hungarian cimbalom players, descending from a famous dynasty of Hungarian Gypsy musicians. His virtuosity is matched only by his understanding and respect of his heritage. A graduate of Ferenc Listz Academy of Music of Budapest, he has completed many successful tours throughout the world with various ensembles, including three tours in North America.

The cimbalom, a sort of oversized autoharp or duclcimer played with mallets like a vibraphone, possesses piano like percussive abilities to drive a band rhythmically or take the melodic lead. In Kálmán Balogh’s expert hands, the cimbalom can do both simultaneously. His mastery of this unique and rare Hungarian folk instrument has mesmerized audiences.

Kálmán Balogh & Gypsy Jazz is the dynamic merging of music from the old and new worlds. Balogh continues a fabled European musical tradition harking back to the collaboration of masters like gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephane Grappelli, connecting the ancient folk music traditions of Central and Eastern Europe with the chord progressions and swing of jazz. With Gypsy Jazz, Balogh’s cimbalom becomes a new and compelling voice centering a band which also includes acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, trumpet, and violins. Similarities in jazz and traditional folk music, such as improvisation and a kaleidoscope of emotional expressions, are immediately evident.

Melodies which were created and transmitted in European villages for centuries are performed with great respect and understanding by Gypsy Jazz, enabling present day music lovers to experience the emotions and beauty inherent in the music of our ancestors.

In addition to concerts, Kálmán Balogh & Gypsy Jazz, conduct workshops, master classes, and teaching residencies on Gypsy Jazz and on the cimbalom.

Discography:

Roma vándor (1995)
Gypsy Music From Hungarian Villages (1996)
Gypsy Colours (1997)
The Art of The Gypsy Cimbalom (ARC Music, 1998)
Gypsy Colours, wiyth Romano Kokalo (FolkEurópa, 1999)
Gipsy Jazz (Rounder Records, 1999)
Aroma (FolkEurópa, 2003)
David Murray, Kovács Ferenc and Balogh Kálmán & Gipsy Cimbalom Band (Fonó, 2005)
Karácsonyi Örömzene (Gryllus, 2005)
Ó, szép fényes hajnalcsillag – Hungarian folksongs for Christmas, with Korpás Éva (FolkEurópa, 2005)
Gypsy Music From Hungary (ARC Music, 2007)
Aven Shavale (FolkEurópa, 2007)
Master of the Gypsy Cimbalom (ARC Music, 2008)
Live in Germany (Traditional Crossroads, 2007)
Délibáb (FolkEurópa, 2010)

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