Folk music celebration in the Müpa: 6 formations in 2 hours

I trust that when we talk about the world of Hungarian folk music, the reader will no longer see the well-known archive recordings of Bartók and Kodály travelling the countryside with their huge gramophones collecting the varied folk songs of Hungarian culture. While it is true that much of it began here, our folk music and the platforms for bringing it to audiences have changed a lot since then. One thing remains unchanged: whatever the form and performance, folk music helps us to learn about and carry on our traditions and roots, and if listened to with an open ear, it reveals a lot about our Hungarian heritage. Müpa’s folk music gala show on 29 January will contribute to this, featuring the cream of Hungarian folk music with a line-up of performers.

If you take the time to get to know today’s ensembles, folk singers and musicians who cover Hungarian folk music traditions in a wide variety of forms, you will find an inexhaustible treasure trove. We may even find ourselves putting songs by a great folk music group into our player as a musical accompaniment to the next birthday party or family gathering. If you’re looking for inspiration, then it’s definitely worth buying a ticket to Müpa Budapest’s Celebration of Folk Music – From Dance House to World Music, which offers a very wide range of Hungarian folk musicians.

Today, I listened to them all, and not only did I manage to write this in a good mood, but I discovered treasures that I will certainly listen to a number of times. Let’s take the performers in turn!

I started the day with the Zűrös Banda, who mix Balkan music that is particularly close to my heart with Hungarian folk tunes. It was easy to get ready in the morning, to concentrate, this is not music for background music, it sets the rhythm and the tone for the day. If I hadn’t listened to them, I wouldn’t have even realise how well these seemingly musically distant worlds can fit together. Don’t miss the good stuff, here’s a video recording:

Their music finished at #10 on the international world music charts in 2021, and they released a new album last year. The members of the band are members of prominent Hungarian folk and world music bands, and they also perform their own compositions on the new record.

The exotically named Bohemian Betyars regularly kicked the door down for the rest of the day with their music. They will be playing with Parno Graszt at the show, but more on them later. I’m not surprised that these energetic young men label their own music as “speed-folk feak-punk from Hungary”, and I have full faith in their website, which says that they have made audiences dance from the Baltic to the Atlantic some 1,000 times in the last few years. It is certain that no foot will be left unmoved when listening to their music, which combines rocking punk with bouncy ska, upbeat psychedelia, melodic themes, all spiced up with Hungarian, Balkan and Gypsy elements. How? Like this:

What is certain is that the music of the violin band, which was formed in 2009, carries on folk music elements with a very unique sound.

The former band will be joined on stage by the authentic gypsy band Parno Graszt, who will sing their catchy, clear melodies in Hungarian and Romanian. Their choice of name is no coincidence, the name meaning white horse conveys the symbol and feeling of freedom through their music. Formed in ’87, the band is widely known, and you won’t be able to sit still when you hear this song, for example:

If you’re talking about gypsy music, you can’t leave out the internationally renowned face and voice of Oláh gypsy music, Mónika Lakatos, one of the stars of world music, who received the WOMEX (Worldwide Music Expo) lifetime achievement award in 2020. The formation, called Lakatos Mónika and the Gypsy Voices, aims to present a fast, pulsating form of Ola Gipsy music, which kept me going even in the afternoon, only my legs were getting tired as I followed the many fast beats with them. You’ll get the feel of it when you listen to this recording:

I continued my exploration with the music of the Erdőfű Folk Chamber Orchestra, a formation formed by a collaboration of Hungarian dance musicians, they are also a musical workshop, their members are characterized by in-depth professional knowledge and specific instrument skills. They take us all over the Carpathian Basin with their music, we can’t help but follow them, just listen:

The female a cappella ensemble Napfonat, five different personalities and voices, performing their own lyrics, poems, Hungarian and other folk songs in great harmony, promises to be quite special. The five ladies take us into a special world, the genre is hard to name, but their mystical world is a perfect blend of folk music traditions.

You will leave the Müpa concert sad – but only because it is over. Otherwise, the two and a half hour energy blast is guaranteed!

Article: Anna Rácz

Translation: Nóra Fehér