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Dance music unplugged

By Mu Qian (China Daily)

08:26, June 11, 2012

Parno Graszt ("White Horse"), from the village of Paszab, has made its name known internationally as an authentic Hungarian Gypsy music ensemble.

Hungary's Dance House Movement is recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. It impressed Mu Qian, in Budapest, who was there to visit a festival, and prompted him to reflect on China's musical traditions.

It is a typical Friday night at the Fono music club in Budapest. A traditional band plays with violin, koboz (lute) and flute, as hundreds of young Hungarians dance the evening away to quick beats, whirling and perspiring. "Hungarian people keep their traditional folk music and dance well," says Laszlo Horvath, director of Fono club. "Although many young people like to dance to electronic music, as elsewhere in the world, there are also many who really enjoy this kind of dance house."

Tanchaz, which literally means "dance house" in Hungarian, is a casual folk dance event that has been popular in Hungarian cities since the 1970s.

Tanchaz draws on traditional folk music and dance from across Hungary and Transylvania (a region of Romania), and was recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage in 2011.

"The Dance House Movement played an important role in the acceptance of village folk music in the urban environment," says Soma Salamon, a 22-year-old musician with the Fanfara Complexa band, which plays at many dance houses in Budapest.

"It's very important that our parents' generation learned folk music in the '70s and '80s. We learned from them, and now we can make our music."

Using a variety of traditional instruments, like the shepherd's flute, Jew's harp and bagpipes, Fanfara Complexa plays folk music from the Carpathian basin, which is centered in Hungary but also encompasses parts of Serbia, Slovakia and Romania. Some of their works also have Balkan influences.

"My generation is more open, and we adopt different elements in our music, but it's not possible without knowledge of the authentic styles," Salamon says.

Fanfara Complexa and Buda Folk, another band that Salamon plays in, were both featured at From the Rill to the Ocean: Hungarian Folk and World Music Flow, a recent showcase festival in Budapest that presented 23 Hungarian acts.

Among them were not only traditional musicians but also bands like psychedelic rock group Fokatelep, Gypsy folk band Parno Graszt, DJ Suefo and the Dresch jazz quartet. All fuse roots music into their language.

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