We've had a week of nasty weather in Hungary - cold, rain, tree-toppling winds, with catastrophic flooding in Northern Hungary. The weather that seems more like early March than the wonderful spring days that we have been enjoying this year. We've hardly left the house this week, so I'm happy that at least one good indoor option exists to hear good music near my Zuglo neighborhood: the Wednsday night Dance House at the Dürer-Kert. The Dürer-Kert is the coffeehouse of the ELTE University campus on Ajtosi Dürer Sor, and a couple of years ago it underwent an expansion into one of the city's better summer garden bars, but since it focused on heavy metal music and DJ sets (yawn) I never put it on my list of places to visit during our weekend nocturnal outdoor bar pub crawls.
This year I've grown fond of the Pantlika, a retro bar evocative of the 1970s in the back end of the city park. Ft 400 fröccs and Ft700 bean gulyás, and they often have wonderfully cheesy Gypsy bands playing relentlessly unfashionable violin music at night. What's not to love.If you need to know how to find a dance house, check the listings - in Hungarian - by clicking on the "FOLKNAPTÁR" tab on the on the Folk Radio website. The FolkRadio site is worth a listen in any case - 24 hour internet streaming Hungarian and Carpathian basin folk music. And if anyone is visiting during the summer months, the regular Dance Houses often close down during the summer as bands go on tour and the universities that provide the venues close down. The ones to look out for in the summer are the Dürer-Kert in Pest and the Kobuci kert, located in Obuda.
Unlike a lot of my fellow dance house enthusiasts, I actually like cheesy Gyspy orchestra nóta played with cimbalom and cheez-o-matic electric keyboards. It is pretty difficult to find anyplace in Budapest anymore where you can hear the stereotypically Hungarian Gypsy violin bands except for tourist bus events at catered goulash parties. Hungarians simply do not patronize this music anymore, to the extent that it has become something rare and "retro." The musicians are still here - its just the gigs that have dissappeared. Not so for the folk string bands, which can be found almost any night of the week playing for less formal dance houses. Soós András' band was playing at Dürer-Kert the night we went, but the last couple of weeks there were no Transylvanian bands to be heard... but that may just be temporary.The Dürer-Kert dance house is organized by the folks that used to do the big Almassy ter dances - two bands, one playing for Transylvanian style dancing in one room, another playing for Csángó dancing in the other, and no entrance fee ensures a enthusiastic - and young - crowd. Not only local students and folk dancers, either. Last time we were there we sat and had drinks with a construction crew of Csángó guys from Moldavia who come to work as laborers in Budapest because it pays better than travelling for work to Bucharest. These guys could dance up a storm.The music at Csángó dances is less self-consciously "authentic" than at most Transylvanian dances. While the instrumentation is "archaic" - flutes, drum, and koboz with fiddle - the bands allow themselves to play more modern repetoires since Moldavian music is such a mix of Romanian, Hungarian, and pan-balkan dance styles and repetoires. The music may even switch into a free form "mahalleasca" dance, the post-1990 Romanian version of a čoček or Balkan belly dance.