A Hungarian and an Italian singer: Evelin Tóth and Maria Mazzotta. They are going to stand on the same stage on 18 February, one as the front person of a band, the other as a soloist. Where did the organisers of the concert get the idea from putting them next to each other? It is easy to understand if we get a glimpse on their works, interviews, lists of songs and albums…
On the side of masters
“I was never attracted to institutional forms of learning; I rather chose masters”
– this is how Evelin Tóth remembers the winding road that made her a singer from a student in art history and Hungarian literature. Even herself was surprised by the strong and uncontrollable impulse to get on a stage. As the quote shows, her main goal was never to get certificates, so she could choose the most diverse sources for her knowledge. One chosen master led to the other, and soon she was a member of the Bladder Circus by Szabolcs Szőke, recommended by famous Hungarian singer Bea Palya who was at that time leaving the group. Some years later, renowned jazz percussionist Hamid Drake also noticed the talent of Evelin Tóth…
Maria Mazzotta was born in Apulia, South Italy, and just like Evelin, she started playing music quite early in her life. She played the piano for seven years, then the harp for three, and then joined a band with which she travelled to the most important international world music festivals. Then many workshops and master courses came, so that she can develop her voice and technique. That is how her cooperation with Sayeeduddin Dagar, one of the most famous dhrupad-singer, started. Bobby McFerrin worked with Maria as well: for instance, they sang a duet at the Bari in Jazz festival in 2008.
The teamwork albums
Both singers have been active since decades, so their discography is quite long. Maria Mazzotta has published 15 albums since 2001, six with her early band Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, and the others with other bands, duos or as a collaborator. The only exception is her 2021 album Amoreamaro which was published solely under her name and to which we will get back later. And Evelin Tóth, not surprisingly, can be heard on several albums by Szabolcs Szőke, and she also worked with Erikk McKenzie, Orsolya Karafiáth, or Zoltán Lantos, just to name a few.
Looking towards each other
As world music interpreters, it is no surprise how sensitively they can absorb all the cultural and musical influences, be it faraway countries like India, Iran or Portugal, or the authentic folk music of their own countries. What is more interesting is the Italian connection of the works of Evelin Tóth: in the Müpa she will play with the band Ewiva! with Kornél Mogyoró and Frankie Látó. ‘Ewiva!’ means ‘Hurray!’ in Italian, and the members chose it partly from Evelin’s nickname and her attachment to Italy.
And Maria Mazzotta is knocking on the doors of Hungary, because she has been passionate about Balkan music since she was 21 – which is no surprise if we consider that Apulia is only detached from these territories by the Adriatic sea. Her first approach to folk music consisted of Greek, Albanian, Macedonian, Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Roma musicians to work with, followed by more ideas and joint works. This is how she found Albanian cellist Redi Hasa with whom she published albums as the duo Hasa-Mazzotta. On one of them, Ederlezi, a song also popular in Hungary, can be heard.
Let Him Kiss Me… with Bitter Love
But what is most important: both of them represent such a grade of passion on stage that not many people would dare. Before we can get to the concert, it is worth checking one album by each of them which shows that clearly. Evelin Tóth created her first album with Hamid Drake, Mihály Dresch, Róbert Benkő and Zoltán Lantos, and they bring together all kinds of kisses, from the text of the Song of Songs through Sufi tradition to Indian influences. The result is a steamy, sensual, insatiable musical world which is summarised by the album title: Let Him Kiss Me…
Maria Mazzotta, as mentioned before, has the album Amoreamaro (Bitter Love) which she describes as her personal project. Here she really brings together the cream of her knowledge and interest, as there is music on it from the Balkan, Iran, and various Italian regions. The link between them is passion, with its two sides: one is romantic love that lifts you up and makes you a better person, the other is the desire to possess which can reveal our darkest side and bring destruction and sorrow. Maria is not only a sensitive artist but also courageous and outspoken enough to dare to tematise violence against women, so Amoreamaro delivers a strong feminist message aside the great music. The album was published in early 2020, but due to the pandemic, all album release concerts needed to be cancelled.
Fortunately, many things changed ever since, and on 18 February both of them will be there on the stage of the Müpa with “the guys” – Frankie Látó, Kornél Mogyorósi, and accordion player Antonio de Luca. Go, see and hear them if you can!