Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cimbaloms Attempt to Take Over My Life, part II.

It's been a cimbalom-filled week here in Budapest. For reasons I don't want to go into here... it looks like I will have to play my small cimbalom in concert in about two weeks. Let us be frank here: I do not play cimbalom. I'm a fiddler. I do not realy even want to play cimbalom. I own one because it makes touring easier when we go someplace where my cimbalom player, Feri, can't bring his eleven-ton monster cimbalom on the plane.It is one of the most difficult and devilishly tricky instruments I have ever laid hands on, and I do not want to play it in concert, but it looks like I will have to in order to save another musicians's ass. World Music... grrrr... I... want... to... kill... world... music.... So, it meant a trip down to the shop of Nagy A., the world's best cimbalom maker, who just restrung my instrument, which is a small Romanian tsambal mic... (not shown in this picture...) In the foreground is a small full size Hungarian cimbalom nearing completion.A, who is from a musician Gypsy family, is probably the world's best living cimbalom maker, and his workshop has become the main source of custom made cimbaloms in the Jewish tsimbl style for musicians in the international Klezmer scene. Here is his apprentice working on a new Jewish tsimbl for Reb Stein. Notice the steel rod running down the body - this is reinforcement so that tension from the strings of the instrument won't collapse the cimbalom in on itself. A custom made tsimbl is not a cheap instrument, and there isn't any factory churning out a student line of cimbaloms for players to try their hand on, so it takes a lot of comittment to choose to play one of these instruments. Of course, being both melodic and percussive, a cimbalom does wonderful things in a band, especially in Klezmer music. Klezmer suffers from the fact that the style - or at least the audience for the style - seems to tolerate mediocre, half-assed modernized arrangements. Luckily, there are exceptions, particularly in the New York area where musicians like Pete Rushevsky, Michael Winograd, and Jacob Shulmen-Ment have revived the old time Jewish music aesthetic. Here's a bit of video from last January's NYC Klezmer Tants Hoys... with Dr. Zev Feldman leading a workshop in Moldavian Klezmer style for freylakhs dancing.
Also this week, the Hutsul band from Tjaciv (Técső in Hungarian) was in town this week, with a new replacement cimbalom player (tsymbaly in Ukrainian/Ruthenian.) He's the music director of their local school., and his style is a bit more polished and modern than Misha Csernovec', but he's darn good nonetheless. The video is a bit shakey at the beginning, but that is because Ivan the fiddler was hitting me up for a cigarette while I was filming...
And here is Ivan Popovich from Técső at his best playing a my favorite Romanian tune from Maramures. This is a master fiddler - a primas - at his best, loud and right in your face.

3 comments:

tambalagiu said...

You've got me intrigued. What on earth would make a fiddler take up tsimbl? I want the full story, with naming and blaming.

dumneazu said...

You're from Canberra, aren't you. If so, you are partly to blame. But mainly so I can show my regular cimbalom player the patterns I would prefer to accompany certain tunes, which are often simpler than any virtuoso Hungarian cimbalom player would naturally attempt. And also, to accompany certain musicians when my own band is not on the concert bill.

Tim said...

I would be very interested in any details and contact information you can give me about Nagy A and the cymbaloms they make. Is this possible? :)