Music without borders: Besh O Drom (Hungary)

SOUNDTRACKS OF TOMORROW – It would be too cliché to say that Besh O Drom is a gypsy music group. They are indeed, and so much more. It would also be a cliché to define them under “world music”, even though their music ranges across a wide variety of styles and musical traditions, such as Transylvanian, Jewish, Turkish, Afghan, Egyptian, Lebanese, Armenian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Greek, and Macedonian.

It means something like “go the good way”, “follow your path”, or “get on with it”, in a gypsy dialect (Lovari). BTW, one of the words for “path” and “way” in Romanian is drum. It is also meant to be a pun in Hungarian: “I am rolling… (a cigarette)”.

The band started out in 1999, in Budapest, and have been active ever since. It is literally a big band, featuring an impressive set of instruments, many of which might as well seem “exotic” to most of us westerns, though very popular and traditional in the East. For instance, the cymbalon, which combines the mechanics of a string-piano with the technique of playing drums with a pair of sticks.

A cymbalon

The band is presently formed by Gergely Barcza (saxophone, flutes, etc.), Ádám Pettik (darbuka, kanna jug), Péter Makó (trumpet), József Csurkulya (cymablon), Attila Sidoo (guitars), Péter Somos (drums), Attila Herr (bass), and Borbála Magyar (vocals).

What is there to say? It may be Balkanic fanfare, an Arabic tune, Ska or Jazz; it’s eclectic, effusive, intense, joyful, and most importantly, it’s dancy. Some people will not appreciate the vocal tones in the sung parts, as they are always very high ones (a feature mark of gypsy singing).

Some of their songs I love most:

Rumelaj (Besh O Drom)
Cigansko Oro (Besh O Drom)
Tortapapír (Besh O Drom)
Kettle solo by Ádám Pettik (Besh O Drom)
Vaságy (Besh O Drom)

And a full concert (2018):