Ann Arbor Weather:
Monday October 18, 2021
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Gypsy Spirit

Gypsy Spirit

Balogh's musical migration

by Sandor Slomovits

From the March, 2004 issue

Gypsy Spirit is a musical voyage through the history and the vast geographies traveled by the Roma, the Gypsies of Europe. Migrating from northern India about 1,000 years ago, eventually making their way into nearly every part of Europe, the Roma absorbed the music around them, often lifting it to levels of breathtaking virtuosity. Gypsy Spirit brings together many of these traditions: exotic Turkish and Macedonian melodies, Spanish flamenco, Hungarian csárdás, fiery Bulgarian tunes, French jazz Á la Django Reinhardt (himself a Gypsy), and more.

Gypsy Spirit's tour guide through this enormous musical landscape is Kálmán Balogh. His ten-piece Gypsy orchestra includes bass, guitar, accordion, trumpet, clarinet, violins, a singer, and Balogh himself on cimbalom, a stringed instrument played with mallets. Depending on the type of mallets used, it can sound like a banjo, a grand piano, or a classical harp, and it's so percussive that no cimbalom band needs a drummer.

Classical composers from Bartk to Liszt to Stravinsky have written for the instrument, and Balogh has performed their works with symphonies all over the world. He is to the cimbalom what Joshua Bell is to the violin: there may be a few others who are as good, but there is probably no one better. In addition to his technical mastery, Balogh has also studied deeply the traditional folk and Gypsy music of his native Hungary and the Balkans. He was in Ann Arbor last year accompanying Muzsikás, the Hungarian folk band, in its joint concert with the Takács Quartet.

Speaking recently from his home in Budapest, Balogh said that his Ark show on Thursday, March 25, while including some traditional folk and authentic cigány (Hungarian for Gypsy) tunes, is mostly "city entertainment." "Think of it like jazz," he said, where musicians use songs for improvisation and displays of technical brilliance - a Transylvanian folk tune with a bossa nova rhythm, a Romanian hora that medleys into a spoof of a 1950s rock 'n' roll

...continued below...


tune, the Ellington jazz standard "Caravan" played Gypsy style, or that warhorse of every Gypsy band, Monti's Csárdás - which Balogh's band takes at an even faster, string-singeing speed than you usually hear. "Each musician in the band is a virtuoso in his own right," says Balogh. The band's virtuosity is especially evident on "The Lark," a Romanian showpiece on which Balogh's mallets fly faster than a hummingbird's wings while his violinist creates the sounds of a whole forest of birds.

Balogh's orchestra, accompanied by the Budapest Ensemble folk dance troupe, also performs at EMU on Friday, March 19.     (end of article)

[Originally published in March, 2004.]

 


 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Burns Park Butterflies
Lynda Asher is raising monarchs.
Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
Nightspots: Ypsi Alehouse
Middle Eastern Restaurants
Another Opening, Another Show
Once again, stage folks can say "hello" to audiences-in person
Davi Napoleon
A Rising Tide of Homicides
Three dead in the city, ten countywide. What's behind 2021's grim milestones?
James Leonard
Remembering Professor Don Cameron, by Jeffrey A. Stacey
Sports, Dancing, Nature, & Recreation
Restaurants with Birthday Discount
A clickable zoomable map
Crime Map
A clickable, zoomable map
Jimmy Hoffa at the Law Quad
After Bobby Kennedy castigated the Teamsters' leader, students snuck him in the window.
Donnelly Wright Hadden
Observer job posting for admin assistant
a2view the Ann Arbor Observer's weekly email newsletter