I was born asking questions. The whys of life fascinate me: I like to know why people do what they do, why they make the choices they make, why they live where they live. My litany of questions has been likened to the relentless nature of the Spanish inquisition (without the evil intent), particularly when I have a glass of wine in hand. I’m fortunate that those who have been on the receiving end rarely if ever take exception to my curiosity. And so the questions continue.
My latest victim is Hungarian born Martón Béres-Deák. Born in the town of Gyöngyös, some 80km east of Budapest, he spent 9 years in the UK, mainly in London. He speaks his English with a British accent but strangely when he sings an Irish ballad, he sings with an Irish accent. He’s even mastered the soft ‘t’ that is so uniquely Irish.
Béres-Deák was 15 when he first picked up a guitar. And he’s been playing since. At 18, he studied classical music at Bartók Béla Music School, where he also learnt the piano and music theory. Given all that, my burning question was why Irish music? What’s the fascination?
With an Irish landlord in Crawley, UK, Béres-Deák was introduced to the craic from the outset. He played in a band doing popular Irish songs at various Irish festivals in the city. Returning to Budapest, he soon spotted that the Irish pubs in the city liked their Irish music, too. He now plays regular gigs at Jack Doyle’s and at Becketts and loves it.
For Béres-Deák, it’s all about the passion. The songs he sings, most often requested by locals and tourists alike, are full of soul. He likes that the punters get caught up in the music, too. They sing along, eyes half-shut, some inner chord striking as he plays and sings with them. He describes Irish music as a direct extension of the Irish soul.
It takes time to learn new songs, to grasp the lyrics, to mimic the speech, but he says it’s worth it for the emotional response he gets. Some songs take weeks or months to sink in and for him to truly represent their message or vibe. Some songs don’t match his style at all. Some songs he loves the audience won’t like and others that he loathes, the audience will love. Yes, Chesterton had it right when he said of the Irish that our wars are merry and our songs are sad. The songs Béres-Deák sings are very personal. The stories are easy for him to relate to, as a Hungarian for whom the fight for freedom and the story of migration has also played a huge role in his life.
Earlier this summer, a business man from Boston who heard Béres-Deák play at a gig in Budapest, invited him to play at a local festival in Ballinskelligs. He’s a little nervous about going to Ireland and playing in front of a home crowd but he has what it takes – that cheeky mix of irreverence and passion that is a winning combination. He never repeats the same set of songs. He brings his full repertoire of some 250 songs with him and then picks and chooses to suit his audience. And he makes it all look so easy.
Béres-Deák has worked many jobs – he’s laboured on the building sites, spent time as a lumberjack’s assistant, worked as a cook, drove a van, supervised a warehouse, worked in a call centre. He’s tried hard to not make music his life, but at this he has failed miserably. And rather than fight it, for the moment he’s embracing it.
Check him out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNxkwOi76vw. Catch him live at Becketts tonight, Friday, 8th July, and at Jack Doyle’s Irish Pub and Restaurant tommorrow, Saturday night, 9th July. And if you’d like to book him for a gig, contact him at [email protected]
First published in the Budapest Times 8 July 2016