Music from Hungary
Various Artists Music from Hungary LP (Argo, 1971)
While, I supposed that someone among Crud Crud's readers is a big enough a freak that he's written down every one of my rules about record buying, it is doubtful that such a compilation exists other than in a hundred different posts. I certainly don't remember my dictates and I am not going to comb through my words to create a list of them. I might be known to close friends as "The Littlest Dictator", but by tyranny is tempered by a lazy streak. What that means is that not only is my throne an easy chair but I'd much rather create new rules than remember what law I laid down yesterday. One thing I do recall is that many of my record buying rules have to do with judging a record by it's cover. I know that we are told that beauty is what lies under the skin, covers, or dust jacket, but forget that. There are record covers you simply cannot pass up, such as one of a bare backed woman standing between two reclining Filipino men or one that pictures an elephant wearing bell bottoms, floating in space, playing a guitar and singing to a love struck ant. So here is Soriano's Rule of Record Grubbing No. 2312: Do not pass up a record cover on which a man is playing a flute to a couple of pigs.
I'd be a liar if I claimed that the sow serenade was the sole reason I was taken by Music from Hungary. A few months prior to picking this one up, I had found and fell for Music From Turkey. Both are part of Argo Records' The Living Tradition series, a run of records probably common to the British vinyl hound, as these pups were made on Monkey Island. Since finding Music from Hungary, I've added Music from Romania and Music from Yugoslavia to my collection and am happy to report that both are fine records.
One thing that knits all these records together is that they are from the "Other Europe", that of the Eastern Europeans and Turkey, you know, where the low-brow and slack-jaw live - or at least that was once the thinking. The East and Turkey might have pretended to be Euros but to the Northern and Western European, they were primitive people bound by peasant culture and their "Living Traditions". I am laying on the cynicism a bit thick, but not among this series are songs of Northern England or a volume dedicated to clogging . And now that I've condemned pre-multiculturalist ethnomusicology, let me state that Thank God It Exists. I very much prefer the way International Music are presented, as opposed to how World Music laid out for us. International Music records, say those documenting music of cultures other than Anglo/Western European, tend to look at the world as a collection of different sounds made by different people, people "not like you and I". While some have a chauvinistic take (usually the cheapo labels like Olympus or Everest), outfits like Folkways and Nonesuch (and I'd include Argo) made some fantastic records, documents that stand as examples of What Records Should Be. The World Music approach is seemingly more sensitive to cultures, in that it doesn't treat them as "the other", but it does so with an embrace that we are all brothers & sisters and really not that much different. The hopeful side of me says, Sure, I can dig that. Then I look around me and see people retreating to tribes. Maybe what makes us similar is that we are all "the other". I dunno and I didn't mean to stumble into the sociological or philosophic, or to riff on some half assed rant, so I'll just state for the record that International Music rules and World Music sucks.
Ditching all the What Makes a Culture Sound a Certain Way gab, I'd like to remind us why we are all here today and that is because we dig cool and unusual sounds. Thus Music from Hungary, because this could be the most important record of Martian music ever made but if it sounded like Kenny Chesney, who would give a fuck? Nothing on this collection of late Sixties music from the villages and cities of Hungary blows and, while dude on the cover is playing music for pigs, these are real oink oink kind of pigs, not the kind that are jammin' to The Chez in their SUV on the way to the Mall.
No need to tell you what is great about this record - the songs can tell you that - however I will give you a little rundown on what you are gonna hear: First off is a love song by Toth Janos recorded in the village of Szebeny in 1965. Janos is follow by the Csaba Palfi group of musicians and dancers. Their two mildly fucked up sounding instrumentals were recorded in Budapest 1967.
A group of anonymous gypsy musicians do a very cool instrumental to an audience at the Szeged Restaurant in Budapest. This recorded in 1967. Gusa Pal from Egyhazaskozar then plays a terrific short tune on a pair of green pear leaves! Also from Eghazaskozar (and recorded in '67) is Gyurka Mihalyne. She does a lullaby, complete with a bit of "mouth music". And what a crime would it be to pimp a record with a guy playing a flute for some hogs and not include a flute song? Not a crime I would commit! Gusa Pal is back playing a Goat Dance with a furulya, a notched flute.
As someone who listened to both Fela and The Ramones, Tito Puente and Public Enemy, I loved the idea of World Music and rushed out to buy it. But it dumbs down the rhythms and loses the exciting energy, leaving me w/unwanted recordings by Deep Forest, Transglobal Underground, Enigma, etc. Anyone want 'em?
World Music? What music isn't of the world, I have always wondered. Oh, and I hate David Byrne.
The Csaba Palfi Fergeteges track is weird—the percussion sounds a lot like a someone doing one fo the many traditional Hungarian folk dances that involve stomping and slapping your legs and all that. Google tells me there was a famous folk dancer named Csaba Palfi, which might bear this out . . .