The Ökrös Ensemble, with Sandor Fodor "Neti" and Ági Szalóki
Transylvanian Village Music from Gypsy, Hungarian and Romanian Tradition
Rounder

Kálmán Balogh and the Gypsy Cimbalom Band
Gypsy Jazz
Rounder (www.rounder.com)

Transylvania spans the political border between eastern Hungary and northwestern Romania, long a cultural crossroads whose discordant ethnic history gave rise to an entwined set of regional string-band traditions. The Ökrös Ensemble formed from a cluster of Hungarian classical music students who discovered a shared interest in the region's folk
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"Szaloki Agi Keservese"
songs, once a perilous, inherently political pastime in the jaundiced view of a vigilant state apparatus. However, Transylvania's emergence from Soviet-era isolation rewards the covert folkloric investigations of that unsettled era, bringing Ökrös to new international audiences seeking initiation in the cross-cutting nuances of Hungarian, Romanian and Gypsy musical strains. Guest violinist Sandor Fodor "Neti" is pushing 80, a fact belied by a nimbly resonant, ever-melancholy style. Ági Szalóki adds a prematurely weary maiden's voice on two laments and a rippling dance medley. The ensemble itself comprises two violins, two violas and double bass, joined on two tracks by cimbalom ace Kálmán Balogh. Their repertoire is traditional, and they play it straight, to sublime effect.

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"Gypsy Colours"
Classically trained in Budapest but deeply rooted in native gypsy traditions, Kálmán Balogh communes with the hovering spirits of Romanian cimbalom virtuoso Joseph Moskowitz and le hot jazz duo of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. The cimbalom derives from the Persian santur, a hammered dulcimer rooted in the popular musics of southwest Asia and the Middle East (variants include the Jewish tsimbl, the Ukrainian cymbal, the Greek santouri, and the hackbrett of Czech, Slovakian, Bavarian and Swiss folk music). In 19th-century Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, the concert cimbalom was central to the popular csárdás ensembles, which covered the range of Rom, Klezmer, Turkish, Greek, Macedonian, Transylvanian and Ukranian song. The ensemble complements Balogh's fluidly inventive mallet work with guitar, trumpet, violins, electric bass, double bass and debouka. The haunting result is an agile contemporary fusion of Eastern European folk and Western jazz influences, revealing the dynamic continuity of the region's spirited gypsy repertoire. - Michael Stone

Songs:
"Gypsy Colours" trad., arr Kalman Balogh
"Szaloki Agi Keservese" trad., arr Okros Ensemble
both © 1999 Rounder Records, used by permission

From cdroots.com:
The Ökrös Ensemble
Kálmán Balogh

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