Those Mysterious Magyars + Blog Break

I'm mystified by one of my own peoples, the Hungarians. Why does their music suck so bad?

I mean, the country is surrounded by more-or-less interesting local pop genres. The Romanians of course have the awesome manele. The Serbians and Croatians have turbofolk, which is also interesting. The Bulgarians have chalga. The Poles at least used to have disco polo, though it's dying down a bit now, and currently have one of the most distinctive hip-hop scenes in Europe. Even German schlagerfox is okay.

But Hungary? What's up with my beloved Hungary?

Hungarian music is just generally god-awfully produced and god knows why. I'll spare you the straight-out-of-the-textbook pop and the frankly embarrassing hip-hop and go straight for the more working-class genres.

A typical Hungarian "folklore" pop song creation seems to be something like this: Take a popular song from before the rock era, tack on a really predictable house beat out of the demo bank of your keyboard, record a comedy video, and presto, a hit! Fekete Pákós hit from my previous post is fairly typical too; it's all like something straight out of The Manual. I don't mind this kind of simple superimposition of one type of music onto another, it is usually an important step in the development of coherent styles, but a little bit of imaginativeness wouldn't hurt. Or at least trying something a bit contemporary, like Alexander Marcus is doing in Germany.

You'd think the roma, Hungary's biggest minority group would be able to add something interesting with their massive musical heritage. Except it's possibly even more keyboardy and ill-produced. This video actually got a bit of blog attention recently (god knows how he got hold of it) and it's fairly typical of the Hungarian gypsy style - it all sounds like it's coming out of a cover band at a third-rate restaurant. The faster material is okay, I guess, but still doesn't hold a candle to its balkanic counterpart.

It's all a bit perverse because Hungary had one of the strongest pop scenes in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Especially in the eighties they had some damned brilliant material, from some totally modern-sounding eurodancepop to characteristic synth tracks. Depeche Mode used to be the biggest foreign act in Hungary for ages. You'd never guess that today.

I'm off to Hungary myself for a two-week holiday with no internet access starting on Tuesday, so any posts will be sporadic from internet cafés if at all. During my stay I honestly intend to delve deeper into Hungarian music to see if I can find anything recent of value, and barring that a pile of good-quality eighties vinyl. I'm hopeful for both and will post the results on my return.


Anton Hultberg Hansen said...

If the video you linked to is an example of Polands distinctive hiphopscene, please tell me in what way it is distinctive. In it's cheesiness?

Birdseed said...

Soory about the late reply. I've been away.

Have you ever heard anything quite this minimal coming out of Europe, ever? It's just a beat, an arpeggiator and rapping. For that matter, when did you last hear an arpeggiator in hip-hop anyway? European hip-hop scenes have usually always been about samples, consciousness, organic beats - The Prosto one is electronic, simple, party-oriented and I like it. It's a bit hit and miss but the tops are really high to my tastes.