Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hutsul Lunch: A Pál utcai fiúk

The Técsői Banda, a Hutsul folk band from the western Ukraine village of Tjaciv (Técső in Hungarian) is in Budapest again this week, playing concerts and doing the rounds of springtime folk festivals and new Budapest "ruin" bars. I'm working on a project that should see the Técsői Banda playing in New York City in September in cooperation with the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York, so I had to drop in and explain some of the visa procedures the guys will have to deal with. But first things first: lunch. When musicians are on the road, meal times are one of the few periods of normality that band members can expect. Among east European musicians, eating in restaurants is something you do when the owner throws in a meal as part of the gig, otherwise you feed yourself.
So, at two in the afternoon, Joska, Yura and Ivan lay out the Hutsul lunch spread they have brought with them from home: dark bread, Ukrainian salami, cucumbers, sheep cheese, red pepper ajvar, and home made orda - an unsweetened white sheep cheese eaten in Transylvania that I have never seen elsewhere. And of course a bottle of Ukrainian vodka. What's a light lunch without a few shots of vodka to wash it down? The French may have their wine... the Germans beer... the Hutsuls drink vodka. While staying in Budapest the Técsői Banda stays at the home of our friend Imre Keszthelyi and his family.
Imre has done the folk music show on Tilos Radio for years, and been a part of the dance house scene since its early years in the 1970s. Imre lives in the house on Pal utca in Pest that was made famous by the Ferenc Molnár novel A Pál utcai fiúk (The Boys of Pal Street.)Published in 1906, the story tells of competing groups of children fighting increasingly serious turf wars amidst the court yards and connected warrens of the building. There is even a plaque on the building and groups of tourists show up regularly with no idea that this is not some kind of memorial to Ernő Nemecsek but still a functioning place to live. A lot of the tourists are Danes and Italians: the Boys of Pal Street was adapted to film four times - as "No Greater glory" by American director Frank Borzage in 1934, as I ragazzi della via Paal, by Italian film director Alberto Mondadori and Mario Monicelli in 1935, and by Hungarian director Geza Fábri in 1969.A few years ago the entrance was switched to the Pal street side, and the courtyards are no longer connected, but the place is much the same as it was when Molnar used it as a backdrop. While it looks like a tenement from the outside, the apartments inside are huge. Imre has enough space to be able to offer the guys from the band a room when they are on tour - a rare luxury in crowded Budapest.
Tim Meyen was in Budapest on his way to Romania. Tim is an Australian who studied the traditonal music of Hungary and Romania and specializes in cimbalom. Tim specializes in finding players of the small, portable folk cimbalom that he can find, so he had some time to check out the Hutsul tsymbay and its tuning, which is markedly different than the straight Hungarian tuning.Still... you have to be careful with playing in an apartment. Since it was in the middle of the day the guys got out their instruments, but drummer Yura Chernavets chose a less booming perussion option: a chest of drawers.


Unknown said...

the cheese you mention is called 'вурда' (vurda), not 'orda'. It's a boiled, unseasoned cheese usually made from cow milk and isn't specific to Transcarpathia.

cbanfalvi said...

orda is whey cheese (like ricotta) can buy it at the markets in Budapest, and even in supermarkets, where it is sometimes labelled ricotta.

zmkc said...

Fantastic clips, thank you. Is Tim based in Canberra or somewhere else now?

Pete Rushefsky said...

Ivan seems to be using a really unique, idiosyncratic tuning for the tsymbaly-- he seems to have reset the instrument so that the left bridge is the bass bridge and the right bridge is the treble bridge. Any information on whether this was his own invention or a system in regional use? Can't wait to see them in New York! Thanks, Pete Rushefsky

dumneazu said...

It's a simple inversion of the tuning for left handed players. The late Misha Chernatvets was left handed, and so is Mihaylo, who was on this tour. Vassile Hudak plays regular hungarian tuning, but then, he's a music teacher.