The Hungarian folk music ensemble is the winner of the WOMEX Award 2008 for World Music. After more than 40 years of their unrivaled career, MUZSIKÁS is the most renowned and popular Hungarian folk music ensemble worldwide and in their home-country as well. MUZSIKÁS pioneered the global acceptance of Hungarian folk music that is now equal with all the other styles of music. Due to their unique musical skills, instrumental knowledge and musical versatility, they can cope with playing on different music scenes, collaborating with various noted musicians and groups, from folk and world-music to classical and jazz, and even to alternative rock music (they played in live with Woven Hand in 2008). They have toured all over the world including nearly every European country, in addition to North-America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. They have already presented their exceptional live performances at the greatest festivals and in the most significant concert halls, such as the Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Barbican Center and Queen Elisabeth Hall in London, Théatre de la Ville and Cité de la Music in Paris, Santa Cecila Academy in Rome, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and Carnegie Hall in New York.
As the first Hungarian folk ensemble accepted by the classical music scene, they combined traditional music with the classical compositions of Bartok, Kodaly, Kurtag and Ligeti. They achieved to fuse 20th century Hungarian classical and traditional Hungarian folk music, hereby, saved for the future generations, the heritage of Béla Bartók, the greatest Hungarian composer and collector of traditional music. Their long-lasting partner musicians were a viola-player, bagpiper, vocalist-violinist, Sándor Csoóri Jr., one of the founders of the group, and a female folk vocalist Marta Sebestyen. Nowadays, they perform together with a fabulous female vocalist, Maria Petras and a folk dance couple, Zoltan Farkas and Ildiko Toth. MUZSIKÁS‘ musical collaborations include soloists like Alexander Balanescu, Roel Dieltiens, Jenő Jandó, Mihály Dresch, András Schiff, string quartets chamber like Takacs Quartet, Keller Quartet, Bartók Quartet; choirs and symphonic orchestras such as the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, The London Sinfonietta Orchestra, Concerto Budapest, The Danubia Symphony Orchestra. MUZSIKÁS’ music appears in the film of the Oscar winner director Costa Gavras, “Music Box” that also received the first prize at the Berlin film festival in 1989. They have provided the music for a contemporary dance piece titled “Dancing Room” which was performed in several theaters in England and filmed by BBC. Amongst various prizes, they were awarded the most respected Hungarian State award for artists, the Kossuth Prize, the Prima Primissima Award and in 2008 they received the most prestigious award for world music, the WOMEX Award.
MUZSIKÁS is a name given to musicians playing traditional folk music in Hungarian villages. Their performance is an exciting musical experience where the audience is transferred back to the remote Hungarian village atmosphere where traditions survived through the centuries. Members of the group play and improvise in the style of the old traditional Hungarian folk bands in which the solo violin and the song typically were accompanied by the three-stringed viola and the contrabass. The music of MUZSIKÁS can be characterized as the traditional arrangements of authentic Hungarian folk music featuring a style that is typical of the best village musicians. It has nothing in common stylistically with the Gypsy-Hungarian style, but is rather the true folk music of Hungary, the most beautiful melodies of which were considered by Béla Bartók to be equal with the greatest works of music. MUZSIKÁS’ new dvd “Allegro Barbaro” released in December 2008.
The musicians of Muzsikás
Mihály Sipos – violin
Sipos was born in 1948 in Budapest, Hungary. His ancestors from his father’s side were shepherds, his grandmother knew their old songs and dances. The grandfather of Sipos on his mother’s side was a great singer and the lover of the classical music, the first violin was given to the little child Sipos by him. Sipos’s mother learned piano in the Liszt Music Academy, so he growned up in a musical surrounding. Sipos became a pupil of one of the famous music schools established by Zoltán Kodály where he started to play the violin at his age of seven. He studied the classical violin for 11 years. He started to be involved in the traditional music since 1972. In 1973 he founded the group Muzsikas with his two friends, Dániel Hamar and Sándor Csoóri. He became the “primás” of the band. Beside of the violin he plays the “citera” in Muzsikás. He is the artistic director of most of the concerts and ensembles recordings and he is the coordinator between the Muzsikás and the guest classical musicians.
László Porteleki – violin, koboz
Porteleki was born in Budapest, but grown up in a little Transdanubian village, named Ozora, where his grandfather was a village musician, playing “citera”. The child Porteleki learned this insrument and played together with his grandfather in different village feasts. When he was 12 his family moved to Budapest where he satrted learning the classical violin. He regularly visited the Muzsikás “dance hose” and started to be interested in the traditional music. He formed his first group in 1975 and a year later he founded the folk music group TÉKA, where he was the violinist and the solo singer. With the Téka ensemble he released 4 albums and besides the Muzsikas, Téka run the most popular “tanchaz” club in Budapest of those years. From the beginning he collected folk music for the Academy of Science of Hungary, meanwhile he played together with the local folk musicians. Porteleki regards them as his musical masters. He left Téka in 1991 and became the professional musician of the Honvéd Art Ensemble. In 1996 he became the member of the Muzsikas, he plays the violin, the lute and he sings there, as well.
Péter Éri – viola, kontra, mandolin, flutes
Éri was born in 1953 in Budapest, Hungary. As a ten-year old child he won the first prize of a dance competition with dancing the Lads’s Dance of Kalotaszeg, accompanied by his school-fellow Andras Schiff, the world-famous pianist of today. His step-father, Dr György Martin, the famous etnographer brought the child Éri to his trips where he collected the Hungarian traditional dances and instrumental music and consequentially Éri as a child made his first connections with living musical and dance traditions. When he was 14, he became the dancer of the Bartók Dance Ensamble where he was an active dancer for six years. His interest in the music was continuous, he became the bass-player of the first Hungarian revival band, the Sebő Group. In this time the singer of this band was Márta Sebestyén, as a young girl. Meanwhile when the Muzsikás was established in 1973, Éri became the guest-musician of the band, from 1978 he became the full member. Éri graduated in the Eötvös University of Budapest as an etnographer and philologist of Rumanian language and literature. He plays the viola, the three-string “kontra”, mandolin and different kind of flutes.
Dániel Hamar – contrabass, gardon, drum
Hamar was born in 1951 in Budapest, Hungary. He started to play the piano when he was seven and took up the classical double-bass at fifteen. He became a member of the Symphony Orchestra of St. Stephan Grammar School, and although this orchestra was considered to be amateur, the best Hungarian soloists and conductors performed with them, and many of its young musicians became professionals. Hamar started to play traditional Hungarian music when he was 22. As was the case with almost all classically- trained musicians, Hamar knew little about traditional Hungarian music until he began to play it. He visited remote Hungarian villages to learn the old techniques of playing, and established the group Muzsikás with his friends Sándor Csoóri and Mihály Sipos in 1973. Hamar plays double-bass and percussion instruments in the band. He is the spokesman for Muzsikás and the official leader of the band. Dániel Hamar graduated as a geophysicist from the Eötvös University in1974 and earned a Ph.D in 1994. He is a senior research fellow of the Space Research Group of Eötvös University, Budapest.
Mária Petrás – traditional singer, Moldva
Petrás was born in a small “csángó”-Hungarian village named Diószén in Rumania, in the region of Moldva. She spent her childhood first here then she moved to an other village, Klézse. She grown up in an untuched traditional surrounding. As a mother tounge she has learned all the traditional songs, ballads and all the Gregorian songs of the latin-language mass of the csángó’s with the authentic way of presentation. Her way of singing follows the rich, colorful style of the best village singers of this region which admired several folklorists and musicians, like Béla Bartók. Her singing is fully genuine, she is one of the master of the best Hungarian revivalists. Mária Petrás studied graphic, she lives in Hungary since 1990 where she graduated as ceramist and sculptor. Her works are regularly appear in famous European art exhibitions. As a singer she performs as soloist or with music groups like Muzsikás. With them she performed in several concerts in Hungary, Belgium, France, Holland and Japan.