Wednesday, 29 June 2011

At Paszab with Parno Graszt 2

The car works its way through one relatively prosperous small town, then the buildings thin out. Fields of maize. Apple orchards. Signs for Sós Tó (the Salt Lake). We record a couple of links on the way, then reach Paszab and turn up of small dead end road to reach the family home, or rather one of several family homes since some two-hundred members of the family live in the village. Réka and József usher us in. We are immediately welcomed and offered a small glass of pálinka. I go around introducing myself and shaking hands. Some of the band are already there but the small house is soon filled up with old and young. It's a poor basic house but richly decorated. One of the men talks to me and tells me about my lost bag. It must be the work of God, he says.

Where is the music to take place? Right where we are in the kitchen. Parno Graszt (White Horse) is a nine-piece band. Trying to set up a complex recording with nine microphones in a smallish room filled with some twenty people is not easy but Martin, who has recorded in many distant and exotic places, gets on with it. While he does so Elizabeth and I move to another house with Jozsef and Réka to do an interview. The interview, like all the interviews, is terrific. When we return the band is almost ready.

I have seen the faces already on film and here they are, some smartly, almost dandily dressed, some in normal everyday wear. The eyes are beautiful, quick, intense and deep. One of the women, wife to one of the band and herself part of the band, is everything we imagine fiery gypsy women to be: beautiful bone structure, deep, gorgeous lively eyes. A flashing white smile. We are waiting for two more people, one of them the family elder, Uncle Gyuszi, a frail eighty-two year old, wearing a fancy waistcoat.

The music is as wild as on the discs, and exactly as on the discs. The man next to me is doing beatbox while his hands are playing the milk-churns. The young lad on accordion also sings. The beautiful gypsy woman sings and the fat man who greeted me with pálinka is playing bass in the background. József sings and plays a kind of mandolin. The rest is guitars. Then Uncle Gyuszi comes to the front and sings, his eyes fixed on Elizabeth. He sings and half dances. He then does a second number, and we finish with another fast one from the band. Then there is revelry, meaning drinks and food. We pack away. I am talking to a member of the family who asks about working in England. He has turned his hand to everything and in many countries. He is desperate for work. He shows me his two horses, a black mare and a pony and a field ruined by rain. Then we drive off.

Our driver Attila is similarly depressed about job prospects. He wife has a baby coming. He is working at two jobs. He has some qualifications.

And soon we are on the train.

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