Budapest, Hungary, October 2011
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Free music these days is very easy to get. Free good music takes a little bit more time and effort to obtain. But free live great music, that’s like finding a gold coin coffin under the rainbow and that was excatly what we found on the streets of Pest.
In a quiet corner bythe street Thokoly there is a 92 year old restaurant by the name Stefi. The owner Sarosi Pal has been running it for the last 22 years offering free live folkloric gypsy music for its guests. Aware of this by the sign outside the place, we entered and decided to discover what was all this about. A beer was enough to sit down in this elegant but very affordable restaurant and feed our ears with sounds that satisfied our quench for good live local music.
Hungarian Folk Music
We were far from dissapointed. The violin stroked and then soft sounds that came from what I thought was an old piano box quickly filled our crave for music. The duet made up by Aluzika on the violin and Kasko Todor played with pride and mastery pieces from Liszt, gypsy classics and even a version of Fool on the Hill by the Beatles. Their talent undeniable, their mastery not even a tiny hair of luck.
“Cimbalom”, told me Kasko. This was the name of the instrument he played.“Fünfzig Jahre”, Kasko said. He was trying to tell me in basic German the time he had been playing the cimabalam as his eyebrows expressed anxiety to tell me even more. Aware of his frustration to communicate all that he was trying to tell me, Sarosi came to my aid. “I have played in Israel, Germany, Switzerland and Hungary”, Sarosi translated Kasko’s words. Sarosi also told me that Kasko Todor was the head player for the Budapest Hilton for years and he also accompanied the famous gypsy musician Duko Elite. Family tradition and the Hungarian School of Music were also responsible for Kasko’s artistry in this very difficult instrument. “Mein Vater auch Cimbalom, und meine Kinder spielen auch Violin und Cimbalom”, he kept on humbly bragging about his musical cultural heritage. It seemed to me then that music for the gypsys was never to be taken lightly. With reasons to suffice any expert on music I felt even more proud to have had the chance to listen and talk to them.
The pause ended and the music once more filled the atmosphere with its unique spirit. Before leaving the restaurant Sarosi confessed me that paying them was no easy task, specially during the low seasons. I then asked him why he kept doing that if it was that hard to do. He nodded with the head and answered, “It’s part of who we are, how can I not do it?”.