Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Di Nayes and Técsői Banda at the Budapest Palace of Arts: Thursday October 1

On Thursday, October 1, Di Naye Kapelye plays a concert with the Técsői Banda at the Budapest Palace of Artists. This is a pretty rare event - due to the arcane atmosphere surrounding anything involving Jewish music in Hungary, we rarely give public performances in Budapest. Our last formal concert was, I believe, in 1998. We tour all over Europe, we play for local Jewish community events (Hassidic weddings, brisses, call for special rates!) and we sometimes play the unadvertised Budapest seventh district underground club networks. We do play an occasional festival or concert gig outside of Budapest. But Budapest itself... well due to circumstances far beyond our control, is kind of off limits to us. Buy me a beer sometime and I can explain it in person. It's... Hungary... It is a surprising and convoluted tale. So this particular concert - at the grand and fancy "MuPa" - is a welcome chance to play for our home town fans and friends who otherwise only know us from our packaged digital CD selves. Yes: we actually do exist on an analog plane. It is kind of neat to walk around town and see your face on a poster on every downtown street corner - sort of a minor rock star moment. Very minor. A little unnerving too - Budapest is not a place I want to be seen as a celebrity. Anytime I show up on some recycled TV folk music show taped a decade ago my whole neighborhood goes into ga-ga celebrity mode and suddenly i walk into the butcher shop or try and buy asparagus and I get confronted with "Mr. Artist! (yes, this is how they address you, without any sense of irony and with full celebrity awe) I saw you on the TV last night!" I cherish my local anonymity. But standing in front of paying audiences playing fiddle is what I've done my whole life. People keep asking if I get nervous playing concert halls. My usual answer is: no - stick me behind a fiddle and I am fine - but if you ask me to take the controls of a small airplane and land it after the pilot has had a heart attack, that's where I would get nervous. Playing rural Moldavian Jewish fiddle is what I do, whether in my living room or in front of six thousand screaming drunk Belgian folk music hippies (a distraction factor equivalent to playing for twenty talkative and drunk Vizhnitzer Hasids.)Playing with the Técsői Banda is a thrill - these are traditional musicians who still play in a context in which their music isn't "folkorized." I have to mash the two ensembles together at a rehearsal tomorrow night and fine tune the beast, but it should be noisy and ragged but right. When we recorded the newest CD, "Traktorist" I had the idea of using a couple of the Carpathian Jewish tunes that I had learned from the Técsői Banda, and then suddenly they showed up in Budapest so I took them into the old Hungarian Army Choir studios and we recorded the pieces that are used on the CD. It was the last time I played with the tsymbaly/cimbalom player Misha Csernovec, who passed away a few months later. The band has been working as a trio ever since, but will be using our cimbalom player a bit at the thursday concert. But Misha is sorely missed - he was one of the best traditional hutsul tsymbaly players, and they aren't making them like they used to any more.I have to run out and pick up Jack "Yankl" Falk at the airport in the morning. Yankl lives in Oregon, in the far distant USA, and when we have a major gig we fly him in. He's been busy the last two weeks - as a freelance hazan, a cantor specialized in singing Jewish liturgical music - he usually travels to sing at Jewish congregations for the high holidays of Rosh Hoshanna and Yom Kippur. This year he just finished a gig in Indiana, and in the past he conducted services for the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland: Anchors OyVey! Yom Kippur ended yesterday, so Yankl first flew back to Oregon and then hops on a plane to Budapest. I expect he's gonna be run ragged by erev shabbes. And what do you feed an observant Jew? Kosher cold cuts and sausage from the Orthodox Kosher butcher on Dob utca, of course. Having traveled all over Europe on tour with Yankl, you eventually get the knack of feeding your furry frum friends. We have made pit stops at virtually every kosher food shop in Europe during our many tours, and even fended off the dreaded "kolbász Maasai" in the town of Gouda, in Holland. (It was actually Árpi Bácsi, our 73 year old guest cimbalom player from Transylvania. The nomadic Maasai of Kenya believe that all the cattle in the world belong to them and that by raiding other tribes' cattle, they are simply reclaiming what is already rightfully theirs. Uncle Árpi felt the same way about kolbász. Any and all kolbász.)I found this little video on Youtube lately - a bit that wasn't used in the final cut of the film "The Last Kolomeyke" - me and the Técsői Banda singing Michael Alpert's song "Chernobyl" together at the Castro bar a few years ago. This was in a bar late at night. Now you can see why I never, ever allow myself or any of my band members to step onto a formal stage after having had anything to drink. It really doesn't make the musical experience noticeably better... A little bit of the film - which has aired on Hungarian TV and is actually a very well done documentary, is the cut below:


Sandor said...

Hi Bob!

As I am watching this Kolomeyke film bit and under the influence, I must say it does releases a certain "fluid" in the mind.
It is probably the same "fluid" that keeps you under the influence as well, but constantly and a lot more.
My grandparents, long dead, used to talk about and hum some these melodies and I myself have seen the villages some forty-fifty years ago laike the ones in this clip.
I have the hazy stories of the Satmarek Rabbi and the song, my grand father's favourite, Ayayay, lingering in my mind.
Is tis nostalgia?
I don't think so. I don't have the actual experience to yearn for and there is no nostalgia that would yearn for an unknown experience. Nor can it be a genetically inherited enui, because my parents wanted nothing less than this: they were urban city slickers, as am I.
And yet, there is no defense and no denying the incredible effect of this whole thing.
I am writing this under my first impressions and refuse to speculate any further.
Nevertheless, that Maramaros, there is more than I thought before.
Probably it is the reckoning that a once gorgeous world is about to be extinct.
See you


Studiolum said...

The concert was great! At once I discovered how many of my friends are N.K. fans – a lot. I’m still humming the melodies. I wish to hear them again soon.

dumneazu said...

Sandor: Maramures is still there, less full of jews but still full of good people and cultural memories. not to mention some of europe's most stunning natural scenery, and a well developed and affordable system of village tourism. By all means, go there for an unforgetable vacation.

Studolium: Wonderful that you could be at the concert. Due to the formalized nature of MuPa concerts I could not run out to the lobby to meet and greet with friends... someday soon at a less formal gig, perhaps.