November 9, 2011

Ando Drom - Phari Mamo - Magnificent Gypsy Music From Budapest

1. Zsa Mo (Zsa Mo, Rumelaj, Akhardemla)
2. Na Kamel Ma
3. Sza Tele Zsav
4. Phergyi E Bar
5. Matyilem
6. Le Shavore
7. Me Te Merav (Avtar Manca, Zug Mar A Malom, Me Te Merav)
8. Kado Gyesz
9. O Nanasi
10. Rodel Ma Muri Dej
11. Phari Mamo
12. Csi Lav Tu
13. Ho Bo Bo

JENÖ ZSIGÓ: leader, vocals, guitar, mandolin, tambura, kanna (nin pan), spoons, oral hass, udu, talking drum and other percussions
MÓNIKA "MITSOU" JUHÁSZ MICZURA: vocals, oral hass, percussions
ANTAL "GOIMA" KOVÁCS: vocals, oral bass, percussions
ANTAL "ANTI" KOVÁCS IFJ.: guitar, vocals, oral hass, percussions
JÁNOS "GUSTI" LAKATOS: vocals, kanna Ottlik pan), oral bass, percussions
Special guests:
MÓNIKA HORVÁTH: vocals os tracks 3, 5, 7, 11
FRANCOIS CASTIELLO from BRATSCWParis: accordios os tracks 1, 2, 7 ami 12
BRUNO GIRARD front BRATSCIVI>aris: violin os tracks 1, 2, 7 ami 12
LÁJOS KATHY HORVÁTH: vidin os tracks 5 ami 6

Duiring our first visit to Budapest, while researching for our "Road of the Gypsies" project, we had been warned by various musi-cologists: "just like with us, you will find it extremely difficult to differentiate between genuine Gypsy music and Hungarian music played by Gypsies". But nods of approval followed each time we reported that we were primarily interested in the Ando Drum group. At our first meeting with them, however, we were confronted with a certain scepticism that was quickly explained: past promises and projects with some western promoters and producers never concretised — and the fear that the group would be expected to play the hackneyed music and trashy clichés so prevalent in the cafés and restaurants.
Our second meeting took place in more intimate surroundings. With plenty to drink and even more to eat, we got down to planning the project. Closely adhering to the style of the group's current repertoire, and featuring several guest nuisicians, we would create an atmosphere in the studio, allowing enough space for the creativity of all the musicians concerned, as well as for the major improvised sections to unfold. And we talked a lot about Gypsy music and the group's history.
Originally a music theatre group, Ando Drom ("(in the road") emerged in the early 80's, from a Gypsy children's summer camp, run annually in close co-operation with the Romano Kher (a Gypsy cultural institution). The present group members, Anti and Gusti, taught to dance by their parents as toddlers, were already actively involved at the age of 10. Jenii is still the group's leader. Their performances moved audiences to tears and the group won press acclaim. Goima, Anti's father, already a magnificent child dancer, did his first performances at weddings. Ile recalls: "My grandfather, a famous dancer, discovered my talent when I was only three. His trick was to withhold my favourite food until I had mastered all the tasks he had set me to his satisfaction. Later, I tried to broaden the spectrum of song and vocal bass.
I ask Mitsou about the origins of her extra-ordinary voice. I had noticed the longing in her eyes whenever I spoke of my forthcoming journey to Rajasthan. She enlightened me: "When I first heard a cassette of Rajasthani music, I was very moved. Since then, I have been dreaming of the place. You see, we Gypsies originally came somehow from there — and I must have an unusual amount of Rajasthani blood in my veins." She, too, comes from a musical family. She told me of her mother, whose voice was celebrated in her native village on the Rumanian border. Having already won many prizes, she should have gone to Budapest to seek her fortune, "But we were very poor. She didn't even own a pair of shoes and was too ashamed to go to the big city. Many of her songs still live inside me." Shortly before my trip to Budapest, the group Bratsch offered me the then recently released book entitled, "Les Tsiganes de Ilongrie et leers musiques". I confronted the group with a brief summary of its contents: Patrick Williams divides traditional Hungarian Gypsy music into two distinct categories. Firstic the pure instrumental music, integrated into Hungarian folk music very early on. In the 15th Century, Gypsy musicians were engaged to entertain the court and in the decades, or even centuries, to follow, were frequently used to recruit soldiers for the army. The initial musical line-up was violin, cymbalon and double-bass, later, on occasions, to be joined by the gaida (bagpipes), bratsche, and piano. From the very beginning, these groups owed their immense popularity to the somewhat exotic style in which they played their chosen repertoire, as well as the emotional intensity of their interpretations. During the course of centuries it turned into urban music, mainly to entertain in restaurants and coffee houses. Vocals are only seldom incorporated in the music played by such groups. Or, as Patrick Williams, describes it, "when they play Hungarian music, they lose their tongues."

The music of the wandering Gypsies, on the other hand, is purely vocal. They travelled in small groups, working as tinkers and peddlers, their possessions few. As a consequence, there were no extravagant instruments. The voice was the focal point, accompanied by everyday objects and utensils, like milk cans, pots, or spoons. The music is not intended for others, as a performance for strangers, but serves their own social gathering. Personal experiences and events are at the heart of their songs, references to far away places or others not connected with their lives -tire irrelevant. The singing begins — whenever people gather to eat, drink and tell stories — mainly with pure vocal rhythms whereby vocal bass plays a significant role. Thereafter the pieces alternate between soft, often tragic ballads, to others played at a very fast tempo, sometimes with surprising sudden instants of quiet calm and pathos: despite incredible vitality and euphoria often leading to sacred moments of deep ecstasy, a deep regard and respect for the musicians always prevails. It is not unknown for a singer who is interrupted mid-song to draw a knife, or, depending on the location, throw the unlucky perpetrator over a fence, or out of a window
This music was first discovered in the 70's by intellectuals who while researching Gypsy culture hoping to make it socially more acceptable, investigated it in more detail. But the ethno-musi-cologists' early recordings focused too exclusively on the individual voices, "Call-and-Response" vocalisations were hardly ever recorded, "the voices lack the polyphonies of brotherliness". Lent) smiles before saying, "Gypsies live their music — others write about it. It is typified, romanticised. Our history is only passed down by word of mouth, anyway The division of the music into instrumental and vocal is correct: there are, in fact, various subcultures, which almost never touch each other — but I don't like it when one part of it is praised and the other devalued." And he tells of his father, who played in a group, entertaining non-Gypsies. "Ile played everything, from classic and every possible variation of Hungarian folk music, to popular songs from other lands. Playing musical requests demands an amazingly broad repertoire. Despite that. he retained his identity as a Gypsy musician with his own individual style, a specific virtuosity, unique form of presentation and Gypsy way of embellishing the pieces he played." But Ando Drom chose a different path. The instrumental style adapting the most diverse music directions, they characterise as "Playing in the Waxworks". Right front the beginning, Ando Drom found it essential to trace the traditions of the "pure" vocal music of the Gypsies and combine it with the way they feel today In so doing, the group takes care that for every musical theme, each of them "delves deeply within himself, to invest the whole of his personality in the interpretation. Unfortunately, in today's popular music form is everything. But stereotypes have no musical value; they are sterile and mechanical. With us, it's the other way round: we try to personalise the harmonies by living out many musical forms in close conjunction with the emotional depth of each individual musician." They characterise this path as an attempt to break out, but which brings conflicts of its own. Particularly within the Gypsy community, stereo-typed expectations prevail, making it very difficult for them to accept any deviations front the norm. "You have to have a very strong identity and belief in yourself to endure being rejected by many of your own people. That is why so many talented young Gypsy musicians so rarely get into new syntheses, which they often deeply desire, and are more than able to perform. It's a freedom we have to fight for." Once in the studio, it did not take long, to understand what Ando Drom meant with "the fight for freedom". There are set thematic guidelines for the old songs, each of which the members of the group approach with their own individual inter-pretation and emotional intensity; they rehearse, become inspired, improvise, dance, discuss, often quarrelling about the tiniest detail, and listen carefully — until each piece unfolds into its own ecstatic experience. They tell me about the songs, their lyrical content and their meaning and association to their daily lives.

the word to get the job done


  1. The download link has been 'temporarily unavailable' for 2 days now. Bummer!

  2. Sorry to hear that, mega is misbehaving, again, but works fine here for me.