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No world music without folk music

By Mu Qian  (China Daily)

10:18, June 08, 2012

Hungarians are proud of their music - and for good reason. The country has rich and diverse music traditions that are still very much alive today.

In Budapest last week, I was invited to a performance by the Buda Folk band in a cafe. It is a traditional folk band that plays with the violin, viola, double bass, accordion and cimbalom.

The show started at about 9 pm and the program finished in about two hours, but then different musicians joined in and jammed together. They played one song after another, as audience members sang and danced along. When I left, it was almost 4 am, and they were still jamming.

Folk music in Hungary is very much dance music, and the best place to appreciate it is in the tanchaz, or dance houses, where folk music and dance are a vital part of the social life of young people.

The Fono music club in Budapest is the coolest club I've ever been to. As most clubs around the world play the same kind of electronic music today for people to shake their bodies to, Fono retains an old rural atmosphere in a 21-century metropolis with a full house of young people dancing in traditional ways.

I tried to search in my mind for a similar place in China but failed. In Beijing, there are concert halls for formal concerts, or clubs for rock gigs, but there's no place where traditional folk music is taken as such an enjoyable and fashionable thing.

Tanchaz originated in the countryside, but functions well in the urban environment, thanks to Hungarian musicians who went to villages to collect folk music and instigated the dance house movement in Hungarian cities in the 1970s.

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