Introductory note from the director of the AHFC

The American Hungarian Folklore Centrum is fortunate and proud to be able to support the publication of this photo collection by the exceptionally talented photographer, Béla Kása. No doubt the images are breathtaking and show superior photographic sensitivity by a gifted artist, but more should be mentioned about the subjects of these photographs, these Hungarian musicians. Who are these engaging persons, what do they stand for, why are they more important than only curious visual images on photographs? The men and women in these photos are the Frank Sinatras, Elvis Presleys and Michael Jacksons of their villages. They are loved, worshipped and respected, as they are able to provide music for all occasions; they can make people cry, dance, shout, sing and mostly smile just by striking up a tune. Most are from a gypsy lineage who serve their community and are considered one of the villagers, without discrimination. These musicians had not learned their art in conservatories, they had no formal musical training. They were born to be musicians and the minimal exposure to musical training was sufficient to build on to become virtuosos. Playing their visceral music, their talent and virtuosity are not less than of the greatest musicians of the world. Like the virtuosos Isaac Stern, Itzak Perlman or Midori, these folk artists" music also can mesmerize the listener. The traditional music which was handed down for generations and was preserved by these traditional artists is difficult to find or is nonexistent today in its authentic form. The present musical taste of even the most remote villages of Transylvania has changed, and electric, amplified musical instruments are replacing the traditional string bands. This is a natural phenomenon and we cannot and should not attempt to slow it down. However, as Zoltán Kodály predicted, it is the educated layer which will preserve folk culture in the future. Today, most authentic traditional music can be heard solely from old field recordings and scratchy long-play records, or possibly from some revival bands who are dedicated to the presentation of this art form. Music as it was played by the folk artists pictured in this book cannot be heard in live performance today, most of these virtuosos have passed away. However, we may come closer to understanding their music if we observe the powerful photographs in this book. We will appreciate more the lost treasures of Hungarian village music.

We owe Béla Kása gratitude for dedicating a significant portion of his last 20-25 years to be friend, live with and capture the images of these last surviving soldiers of the Hungarian musical tradition. His work is beyond monetary value, and his art is not only superior but it is also a documentary study of notable proportion. Kálmán Magyar
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Feleségem tenorbendzsós, Délalföld 1980

Cili József, Vajszló, Ormánság 1976

Pista bácsi a Dudás, Palócföld 1993