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AGGI rocks!!!

The world has gone off kilter. We’re in the midst of a big family feud that is pitting sister against brother, spreading to neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend. Our politics are polarising. Opinions are expected. It’s not fashionable to simply not know, to be neutral, to admit to being unqualified to decide. Sides must be taken.  And as we become increasingly quick to point out how others are different, consumerism is wielding its sameness over the world. Ikea-furnished flats, be they in Budapest or Adelaide or Dubai, lend a stagnancy to travel. Chain restaurants like TGI Fridays, with a presence on all five continents, are serving up the same fare. Clothing stores like Zara are dressing up the sameness from Albania to Vietnam and everywhere in between. Is it any wonder we’re confused?

I’ve noticed lately that I’m drawn to the odd, the peculiar. I’m craving the remarkable, the unusual. I’m sick of more of the same. My faith in tomorrow is weakening. I’ve been out and about, talking to people of all ages, from all walks of life, and were I to invent a new word to describe the mood in my tangential world, it would be ‘saimless’.

People are treading water waiting to see what will happen next, forgetting that life waits for no man. Plans have been derailed by various elections and failing pension funds. There’s an uncertainty in the 20-somethings, and indeed the 30-somethings, who seem directionless, flitting from one job to another, from one career to another, if they’re lucky enough to have either. Even the attractiveness of the much-touted nomadic lifestyle made possible by the Internet is wearing thin. Decisions are being postponed. Life is being put on hold.  Wait and see is what it’s about.

Yep, I’d made myself pretty miserable thinking of the perceived futility of it all. I wanted to take the world by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake. Yell at it to wake up, to take charge, to get out there and make it happen. And then I met AGGI – her of the all caps.

(c) Paul Mc

The 22-year-old from Gyomaendrőd in Békés county moved to Budapest about six years ago. She’s studying English Literature and American Studies at Károli Gáspár University and plans to graduate early next year. Her dissertation focus is on Stephen King’s novel, Rose Madder, in which he deals with the bruising issue of domestic violence. She has a keen interest in gender issues and woman power and is determined her voice will be heard. Although born in Hungary, AGGI feels very much a citizen of the world and wishes that we’d all simply just get along. The concept of being foreign is one she abhors.

Most of all though, what AGGI wants is to be herself. Not a carbon copy of some other 22-year-old, pressurized by expectations to fit someone else’s preconception of who she should be. She doesn’t want to be told what she should or should not do with her life. She has a plan. She knows what she wants. And she’s making it happen.

A few months ago, AGGI teamed up with songwriters and fellow musicians Terry Etheridge (Tuesday Night Rodeo) and Joey MacOnkay (Paddy and the Rats). Introduced by mutual friends, the lads discovered in AGGI a unique voice, a quiet certainty of her worth, and a determination to make life happen. They’d been on the look-out for new talent, someone who stood out from the sameness that pervades the Hungarian music scene (and so much of the world).  Things are going well; they’ve already recorded six songs and are working on an album and they’re actively seeking band members. So, if you’re interested, get in touch.

AGGI splits her time between university, her part-time job as a cashier, and the recording studio. I was curious to know if the stage version of herself is very different to the one I was having coffee with. I noticed a little of the rock-chick going on, but hers is more of an understated style than her idol Pink. Yet the individuality is definitely there. When I listened to her music, I could hear strains of Debbie Harry in her voice and perhaps a tinge of Transvision Vamp in her music, but show me an artist anywhere who hasn’t been influenced by another and I’ll jog all the way to next Tuesday.

Her focus in high school was on business and economics. Today she’s studying English. Both will serve her well when she hits the market and the world opens up to her music. She writes and sings in English because it travels better. She graduates next year, but her career as a musician already takes centre stage. She’s lucky in that she has a supportive family who believe in her and what she’s doing. There’s no pattern set, no script for her to follow.  She gets to write it as she lives it. They’re happy for her to be the best that she can be. And she’s happy making it happen.

Ours wasn’t a long conversation. She was rushing to work, I was already late for a meeting. But in the time we did get to chat, AGGI did more to ease my angst than a week on valium. In her, I can hope. In her, I can believe. And I don’t doubt for a minute that she will make it happen.

Rock on, sister. Rock on.

First published in the Budapest Times 1 June 2017.

 

Tuesday Night Rodeo

Is it my imagination or are more and more people talking about emigrating or going home? Earlier this summer, a local web portal ran an article by a Norwegian chap who’d been living here since 2008. He was returning to Oslo and had written up his reasons for leaving. Others chimed in with theirs. Apparently, the list of reasons to leave ran longer than the list of reasons to stay.

I’m not an optimist. I could never be accused of suffering from too much positivity.  But I firmly believe that how we react to a situation is our choice. Being open to opportunity and seizing the moment when it presents itself, that’s the secret.

Out and about last week, I ran into Terry V. This is his story.

tnrSitting in the Scottish Caledonia pub one Tuesday night with some musician mates, someone suggested that they start a band – do something different, something a little off kilter for Hungary. They decided on Country Rock. It was accessible, they thought: traditional instruments with a rock and roll format and pop melody lines – a winning formula. They’d jammed together before; they’d had fun; they knew they’d work. So, unlike many great ideas borne out of a bottle of whisky and destined to come to nothing, this one survived the vapours and was christened Tuesday Night Rodeo.

You might recognise some of the faces. Joey and Sam from Paddy and the Rats and Zsolti from the Hooligans. Steven who found fame with a Budapest-based Guns and Roses tribute band. Add Terry (ex-London) to this Hungarian mix and you get the band.

Their single, Stranger (in a Strange Town), was picked up by Radio Rock (95.8 FM). And then a German station, Country 108, got in on the act. Next thing you know, the lads have a record deal with an album due to be completed in October and released before the end of the year

Stranger was picked up and given daily rotation on Radio Rock. Tilos Radio was listening in and the following day, they picked it up and added an early morning interview with Joey for good measure.

So what, you say? This sort of stuff is commonplace. No biggie. Well, I think it is. These lads ain’t in their teens or their twenties or their thirties. In the music world, they’re positively ancient.

When he was 10, Terry saw Marc Bolan from T-Rex on TV. He immediately asked his dad for a guitar – glam rock was his future.  Back in the mid-1980s, he did get a record deal in Japan and then in the UK. He was doing well. He ran a club in London’s Covent Garden for a few years. When he moved into the admin side and they downsized, he had the chance to work from anywhere. He chose Budapest. He’d first been here about 14 years ago on a boys’ weekend; he loved it so much he kept coming back. Last year he was working on a website to help musicians find their lost/stolen instruments. He still played music but thought, at 55, that he was a bit long in the tooth to get any airplay.

And therein lies the beauty of it all.

Hungary, and Budapest in particular, has an energy about it that fosters opportunity. With a musical legacy that holds its own on the world stage, there’s a lot more going on here music-wise than in London. Yes, a lot of the smaller clubs are seriously underfunded, but there’s talent and there’s space and there’s an audience hungry for something new. And there’s guys like Tuesday Night Rodeo who dream the dreams down the pub on a Tuesday night but then do something to make those dreams happen. And when the opportunity knocks, they’re ready. This is Budapest. This is Hungary. This is a reason to stay.

First published in the Budapest Times 9 September 2016