It seems ages ago now, but it was only last week that I battled the rain and stood with hundreds of others, partially shielded by umbrellas, watching the wonderful Budapest Bár in action at Kobuci kert over in Buda. I’ve seen them a couple of times before, but I was still excited. And I had convinced a visiting friend to come with me, so my reputation, in a way, was on the line. I’d been banging on about them so much that they’d better be good!
When bandleader Robert Farkas put together Budapest Bár in 2007, he wanted to create a first-class ensemble that would exemplify Central European urban Gypsy music at its best, rather than what had become its commonplace kitschy-nostalgia worst. The result is a professional music group at the heart of a tight – knit collaborative miscellany of performers that transcends ethnic, musical and generational boundaries.
Budapest Bar is an intoxicating music cocktail of Gypsy virtuosity, infused with rock’n’roll energy. The wildly popular Gypsy band teams up with a rotating roster of singers drawn from the creme de la creme of the international and Hungarian rock, underground and jazz scene, swinging between the sultry and rollicking. Their repertoire stretches from Liszt through 1920s European songs to Michael Jackson covers.
We ran into a couple of other friends and spent the evening in their company. The lovely D was particularly up to date on the current happenings of the band and filled me in. Each of them plays or sings with another group and they get together on occasion for nights just like this to do the ‘oldies’ music. That must be why I like them so much.
For the seven or so years (nearly eight! where does time go?) I’ve been in Budapest, I’ve seen posters for two other groups – Quimby and Magna Cum Laude. Seeing both of them live is high up on my list of things to do this summer (as it was last year and the year before and the year before – the road to heaven is paved with unbooked concert tickets). So when Kiss Tibi (the gorgeous guy who fronts Quimby) came on stage, I swooned alongside the rest of the ladies (and a few of the men). What a bonus.
Shortly after Frenk (am a tad smitten by him, too) did his stuff, I got another surprise. Mező Misi, him who fronts Magna Cum Laude, also appeared. And at one stage, both Misi and Tibi were on stage together. So, although I haven’t seen both groups in action, I’ve seen their front men and have had a taste of what’s to come. ‘Twas well worth a schlep on the HÉV over to Buda for that particular night out.
I’m bound and determined the the summer of 2015 in Budapest will be one to remember. It looks as if I have at least two straight months in the city without a flight to anywhere else and for that I’m grateful. Already this week, I kicked off my Summer Cultural Odyssey (a joint initiative with the inimitable ZE) with a long-promised trip to the Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum (Hungarian National Museum). And I ate, not once, but twice, as a great Vietnamese place over in Buda – Hanoi Étterem (fresh spring rolls to die for). For someone whose metaphorical baggage includes a Northside/Southside discrimination, I’m spending a lot of time on the other side of the river lately but have lived to tell the tale.
So as the temperatures rise, and work continues unabated, I’m full of good intentions to see out the summer in Budapest – or the next two months at least. All it takes is a little planning. [Sweet Mother of Divine Jesus – did I use the P word? I must be growing up.]