If you want a musical journey to the rich diversity that Hungarian roots music has to offer: this Rough Guide is your ticket! Here are 72 minutes and 49 seconds of some of the best Hungarian music that money can buy. This CD contains music from current mainland Hungary, as well as former territories, such as Slovakia, Croatia, and Transylvania (Romania). The liner notes are extremely accurate and helpful in describing the origin and individuality of the Hungarians from a musical and historical perspective. The harmonic roots of Hungarian music go as far back as Central Asia, East of the Caucaus and Ural mountains. Furthermore, the liner notes aptly describe Hungary as "the wild and colourful alter ego of Hapsburg Austria" which essentially sums up Hungary's fierce nature to be rid of the political chains and alliances that hampered her freedom in the past ...
Quite often this yearning for freedom was summed up in songs, disguised in verse, the "verbunkos" or recruiting songs at the turn of the century, contained bittersweet prose, laments by conscripted soldiers who expressed sorrow at parting from one's home, one's family, one's sweetheart (to serve the Kaiser), perhaps never to return. Sebo Ensemble play a version from northeast Hungary, which includes the sounds of boots slapping and foot-stomping, as young men are obviously doing the "verbunkos" dance ... included too is the mellow sound of the tarogato (similar to a shawm oboe) with clarinet-like sounds.
Selection #1 sung by Iren Lovasz and played by Laszlo Hortobagyi is an example of ancient music based on the pentatonic scale, a very old folksong about a peacock. #2 is by the ever popular and internationally known Marta Sebestyen and Muzsikas, a "hajnalos" which is a "song to the dawn", meaning the last song sung after an all-night wedding celebration, when the sun was rising. This one is from Kalotaszeg (Transylvania). #3 is a modern version of a Mezosegi song (Transylvanian tune), which contains highly original violin embellishments, with an up-to-date vocal style by Szilvana. A magnificent variety of absolutely astonishing and energetic "tanc-haz" (dance house) music is included: "Round Dances" by Bogyiszlo Orchestra, "Friss Csardas" by Traditional Band from Tura feat. & Tibor Szenasi, the compelling traditional violin embellishments and stylizations by Mihaly Halmagyi from Moldavia is accompanied by his wife on the "gardon", Okros Ensemble, a very popular group, plays a series of dance tunes from the Rabakoz region (Raba is a river in NW Hungary, runs through the city of Gyor), "Dances from Lorincreve" (Transylvania) played by Zsigmond Szekely and the finale "Rakosi Indulo" (march) is played by Tukros Zenekar, who are also accompanied by the village band of Nyirmada. It signals the end of dancing for the night.
This CD contains a very special a capella solo by Juliana Gorbe which is in the old-style pentatonic scale. An instrumental version of the same song, included in a trio of tunes, played by Bogyiszlo Orchestra follows. The famous composer and folklorist Zoltan Kodaly identified this piece as representative of the ancient scale dating back to Turkic and Central Asian times.
There is a beautifully song, "Song of Mercy" ("Konyorges") presented by the Romani group, Kalyi Jag. It is a supplication to God, in essence a leap of faith, despite the misfortunes suffered by the Gypsies. Other Romani groups on this CD are:
Kampec Dolores, who sing about a buffalow ride at night, in a highly original creative verse, while retaining the essential elements of gypsy music. Romano Drom, a recent Vlach Romani group, sing a traditional song, providing the typical vocalizations and percussion that is distinctive to these gypsies. Fekete Vonat, is the most modern gypsy group. They sing about the past, when gypsy workers were brought to Budapest in a train from the East, and lived in hostels during the week. They create a "gypsy rap" that falls into place very nicely with oral percussion that has always been part of their tradition.
Last but not least, Ghymes, from Slovakia, provides the most unexpected and my favorite music on this CD: "Dance in the Snow". It sounds completely Hungarian both in theme and tune, but is played in 7/8 Balkan rhythm, complete with violin instrumentation ... a magnificent eclectic creation, that melds the best of both traditions! Anyone who saw the movie, "The English Patient", and was fascinated by the music, should buy this CD. If you love violin music ... this CD is for you! If international folk dance is your passion: you *MUST* own this CD!
Erika Borsos (erikab93)