Some years ago I was invited to a boy’s birthday party in a Roma community in Budapest. I’ll remember that afternoon forever! After the birthday cake, the party escalated into making music, so joyful and fiery, something I’ve never experienced before, and I still remember how touching, uplifting and even enviable it was.
I still almost can’t believe that such a passionate music-making can spontaneously happen, without any rehearsal or preparation, with small children and great-grandfathers joining enthusiastically – some on guitar, some on oral bass, some on cans, some singing. What a power, what a joy is to experience music as part of a community! I remember how the music touched my body: my pulse lifted, my cheeks went rosy and I felt I wanted to dance. Others were dancing, too, enjoying the moment, life, being with their beloved ones, the magic of rhythm and music – they were singing, dancing and playing in euphoria. It was like a drug. Natural music, incredible talent and musicality.
On 1st December, Müpa will bring this magic of Roma music-making on stage. Without an audience but with a worldwide online streaming, anyone of us can listen to the concert of Mónika Lakatos and the Romengo.
Nothing has been like this before! A miracle will happen…!
– the programme description says, and if we join the free live stream, we will experience the miracle and feel a bit more cheerful when it is over. Roma music is a huge YES to life, a triumph of community. This musicality and centuries of traditions has been hugely honoured this autumn: Mónika Lakatos won the WOMEX Life Work Award, joining such artist as Buena Vista Social Club, Kronos Quartet, or the only other Hungarian band up to date: the Muzsikás.
Mónika Lakatos was born in Budapest. She was surrounded by Hungarian Roma music since her childhood which she learned in a self-taught way. She was member of a chamber theatre as a singer and dancer, this is where she met her future husband, Mihály “Mazsi” Rostás. The director of the chamber theatre, István Malgot secretly signed them up for a television talent show in 1996, where they then won first prize in the category ‘folk music’. The married couple founded the Romengo in 2004 that plays Eastern Hungarian Roma music. The band members are Misi Kovács (violin), János “Guszti” Lakatos (oral bass, can, dance), and Tibor “Tibi” Balogh (trough, cajón, oral bass, dance). Romengo has published two albums to date, and both were featured on the top 10 list of the World Music Charts Europe. They have given concerts at the Berlin Philharmonics, South Korea and Mexiko.
Romengo plays original Hungarian Roma music, but it’s not conserving anyting from the past: they are open to new inspirations, influences, thereby constantly renewing the Roma sound. They will play in the Müpa with their guests: Mihály Dresch, Csaba Novák, Miklós Lukács, Szilvia Bognár, Bea Palya, and four dancers.
Mónika Lakatos has an extraordinary personality, an incredible talent and a charming singing voice that will even have an effect on you through the screen. It will be a feast of world music, and as Hungarians, we can even hope that huge family birthday celebrations with such music can come back in the post-pandemic times soon.
Article: Zsuzsanna Deák
Translation: Zsófia Hacsek