Somogy Tales: Hungarian band Holdviola plays tonight in Marcali

Holdviola mixes performance art with folk music on Friday night at the Marcali Eurofolk Festival. Photo via Holdviola’s website.

Tonight, the first headlining act of the 8th Annual Marcali Eurofolk Festival will be Holdviola. If you aren’t from Hungary, you can perhaps forgive yourself for not having heard of this group. Their music, and even their website is in Hungarian, a language unrelated to any of its neighbors, and almost unique in all the world. Like the folk music that their work is based on, the band themselves are as much a mystery to foreigners.

However, if one wants to live in a particular area, even for a short length of time, and get any benefit from the experience, getting to know these sorts of mysteries pays. This is true particularly if you are looking at buying property in Hungary.

So, to help those from outside the country get to know the soul of the people here, and to preview tonight’s show (which you should come see if you are going out to view certain farming properties to invest in, hint, hint) I’ve tried to clean up the Google translation of their biography, and this article is what I was able to come up with. View the original here.

Holdviola formed in the spring of 2006 in Miskolc. Members include Zsofia Barta (vocals), Peter Farkas (drums, hangszerek, vocals), and Lajos Gal (guitar). Their music is a modern musical form that extends the life of beautiful Hungarian folk songs. They style themselves as an electro-folk band, but they perform songs in rock, pop, and alternative music formats.  They modify the original folk works they play to make them interesting, but their works still retain their original ambience.

Their performances are not simple musical concerts, but rather a combination of music, dance, theater, and film. A video jockey mixes live performance with background animation, while dancers are given special choreography that takes into account stage scenery and other visual effects that enrich the show.

Holdviola was dreamed up by Peter, who originally wanted to create a virtual band that played to a spectacular stage performance. He began working out his first songs in 2005. At the time, he had known Zsofia, but had not encountered her singing voice as yet. The occasion of a friendly beer in the summer of 2005 at a jazz club in Miskolc gave him the chance to see her sing for the first time. Her method of performing, her stage presence, and aura immediately enchanted him, and immediately he rejected the idea of a virtual band in favor of a real band with her in it.

Peter continued to work on songs and finished a demo, and then told Zsofia about his ideas. Zsofia immediately agreed to join him, and so the two started to record in Spring 2006. Peter got the band a gig at a concert over the summer holidays, and for the first time, the band performed in front of hundreds of people. Shortly after the performance, the members noticed someone was trying to find out where he could buy their records. Peter approached the man, who shook his hand and said “The Hungarian secretariat needs this music.” The moment made a lasting impression on Peter, who then knew he was on the right track.

Over the next two years, Peter continued to work on new songs while the band continued to rehearse. By summer 2008, they played their first major concert at a festival in Borsodi. This was the first performance with their third member, guitarist Lajos Gal. Peter had known Lajos since high school, and in the mid-1990s, the two played together in a band entitled “The Rain,” a seminal underground music group from Miskolc. Peter approached the guitarist, knowing his style and creative sense would fit well with what he was trying to create.

In the show, they also incorporated a large-scale stage program with the well-known Szinvavolgyi Dance Workshop, among others. The band developed their experimental stage performance from this, bringing aboard technical staff to orchestrate their new show.

In spring 2008, Holdviola signed onto a major label, WM Records and recorded a 4-song maxi disc on July 27, 2009, entitled “Sorrow Street,” putting them on the map with the single Mahasz hitting the charts.

Zsofia Barta. Photo via holdviola.hu

Zsofia Barta, vocalist and ideas person, was born in the summer of 1987 in Miskolc. At age 5, she was already singing, and took on as role models Barbara Streisand, Tina Turner, and Judith Fishermen. Her mother said that she inherited her grandmother’s voice, however, she first wanted to go into acting. Her father also cultivated her interest in music during her childhood, encouraging her to study violin.

She went into the Miskolc music scene playing a variety of clubs and restaurants with her brother, who was already a recognized guitarist. During this part of her career, jazz slowly inserted itself. By winter 2006, she felt it necessary to find the voice she wanted, and sought out a professional teacher. Fortunately, Mariat Romhanyine Papp appeared in her life and literally took her under her wing. She would later describe her teacher in an interview, “Aunt Mariat? She is a great mother, wife, artist, and teacher. She put in all those hours to give me that little bit that I needed. I owe a lot to her.”

Zsofia sang Hungarian folk songs for the first time in 2006, having never before sung before a Hungarian audience. Her experience had been acquired singing English songs, but now she sings her mother tongue perfectly as well.

She adds, “Music is some kind of elusive energy that we associate with, it agitates all our cells. It is an incredible energy. Without it, I don’t know whether even the Earth is turning,” she said with a smile.

“The folk songs completely enchanted me. I did not know that they were so fabulous. Both melody and emotion, and lyrics about the world. I can almost feel the way that many people felt when they sang them until they were spent. And look now, I’m doing just that. I hope we will transmit their beauty to our grandchildren, and then they will listen to them as well.”

Peter Farkas. Photo via holdviola.hu

Peter Farkas describes himself as a “violently lunatic dreamer,” as well as a songwriter, drummer, and carbon-based lifeform. He was born in the autumn of 1969 in Miskolc to a simple family of intellectuals. As early as age 4, his mother discovered that he was interested in music, so she sent him to music lessons while he was in kindergarten. Later, in the Miskolc general music academy, he spent seven years studying the violin, and took up piano and flute, the latter of which he played solo in his school group. He was a member of the school choir led by Janos Remenyi. At age 13, he took part in his first competitions, and by this time, he could feel music running through his life.

At age 14, he began playing percussion. While in high school (still during the height of the Cold War) he founded his first band, which he still plays in, and which is known nationwide.

After graduating, he went on to the Bela Bartok Conservatory where he studied percussion. These were decisive years in his life. He learned a lot from excellent teachers such as Zsuzsatol Angyal, who taught him to master the mysteries of music. Zsusa was a visibly wise teacher, bringing Peter to understand intellectually the primary points to finding the infinite joy in music.

In 2005, long after the start of his musical journey, he was drawn toward the “roots” of Hungarian music. He began to pursue an idea to make music that is absolutely contemporary, but based on Hungarian folk songs. At the time, he thought of doing this as a virtual band. Then, in the spring of 2006, after showing a few songs to Zsofia, a younger singer with whom he had long been friends with, he changed his mind and decided to create a stage act. Thus began the story of Holdviola.

“Folk songs are about nothing but simple men and honest thoughts, which are fraught with infinite wisdom,” Peter said. “They are ocean deep in vision, and mirror thoughts that everyone can recognize in only a moment. They are sung for millions, but still they feel like they were meant only for you. The mania does nothing else be help this go to the surface, and even today, there is very deep within a sort of code that connects with every person’s heart.”

Among the many influences he cites are The Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Coldplay, Keane, A-ha, William Orbit, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Bartok.

Lajos Gal. Photo via holdviola.hu

Lajos Gal, guitarist and occasionally performer of other instruments, was born in May 1969 in Miskolc. He is said to have inherited his musical talent from his parents. He began music studies at age 6 when he was selected for a special music class. After initially training for violin, he started playing drums, but soon gave that up. At the time, music interfered with his regular schoolwork, and other interests interfered. In his school records, a teacher once wrote that he had spent all his free time drumming instead of studying.

That he didn’t continue was because in seventh grade, he and his classmates formed a band in which he was given a guitarist role (instruments were decided by drawing lots). However, he knew early that he liked what he was getting into. “Turning up the volume, from the first sounds, I already knew that with all my life I wanted to play this,” he said.

Soon he began taking private lessons, and at music school he advanced to become a soloist. At age 15, he was playing Irish songs with bands formed among his friends. Later, he tried out a number of musical styles. In 1988, he competed in the “Who-What-Can” television talent show, and reached the semifinals.

At the end of the 1980s, as the world opened up for the East Bloc, his focus was increasingly on British bands that later served as major influences for him: The Smiths, The Police, The Cure, and U2. He was constantly in search of like-minded musicians in the 1990s underground music scene of Miskolc, and eventually joined the band “The Rain.” During this period, Lajos developed his own individual style while also serving as a member of the PG Group.

In 1995, he received his teaching diploma, but instead of going into a teaching career, he instead launched his own studio, one that became well-known among the musicians of Miskolc.

By the end of the 1990s, he left music for awhile to go into radio. Initially working as a DJ, he later tried starting his own radio station. But he felt he was losing touch with his musical gifts in this career.

In the summer of 2008, Peter invited Lajos to join his new group Holdviola. He described the band’s demo CD as an unforgettable experience, “As the first song started up, I immediately started getting shivers. Then came the second and third, and the shivers continued. Rarely has music impacted me this way. Peter loves musical ideas, and Zsofia’s voice is simply amazing. He asked if I would like to take part in this wonderful musical environment in which I was completely captivated. I didn’t need to think much about this request; I immediately said yes.”

“The work contains incredible energy, the kind that has sparked within generations of people, but still can touch our soul. I am confident that we can, through our music, contribute to Hungarian folk songs so that they can flourish, and so our children will eventually sing them to their children.”

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2 Responses to Somogy Tales: Hungarian band Holdviola plays tonight in Marcali

  1. leonardo says:

    Molto bello il blog… per aspetto nuovi post, da troppo tempo che non ci sono aggiornamenti. Vabb, intanto mi sono iscritto ai feed RSS, continuo a seguirvi!

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