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Bela Lakatos, and the Gypsy Youth Project

Introducing Bela Lakatos & the GYP

Celebrating A New Generation Of Gypsy Music

(World Music Network; US: 26 Sep 2006; UK: 14 Nov 2006)

This is vocal music, sequel to a tradition which didn’t use such melody instruments as the guitar and bass and mandolin which give support for a lot of the time here. This genre of music, which your reviewer claims to have been studying since the present CD arrived in November 2006, normally only had various forms of oral, and portable percussion accompaniment (sticks hit together, the occasional bashed can). Between the hup, hup! on a few medium tempo or dance numbers here, and varieties of harmonisation (not so much westernised east-European, as east-central European), some unusual and involved vocalizations appear now and then in accompaniment. I’d presume that the music on this CD is of the serious folk-revival sort, rather than tourist product. A less artistically and morally scrupulous effort would have sought a wider variety both in tunes and accompaniment, and I don’t get a sense of liberties being taken. If there is some real thing which is even better, I’d like to hear it. The added instrumentation was possibly required to interest customers.


The songs are the thing, according to the notes, which report that Lakatos and members of the quartet of young singers went a’hunting for unworn repertoire on field-trips. The “new generation” aspect is the presence of these singers, trying to keep alive old songs and a general performing style: folk revival, as I said. As for one tune here which wouldn’t be a surprise coming from an American kazoo, and delivered also with scat singing in lead vocal and accompaniment, it doesn’t sound as if it has traveled back across the Atlantic. Presumably it has relatives whose forebears came from eastern Central Europe.
 
One of the more interesting lyrics is on the opening title. After a whistled prelude, the song (whose title translates as “The Wedding”) unfolds as a sequence of stanzas, each sung by a few voices in unison, each developing another speaker’s observations on this-and-that aspect of the wedding. Presumably this practice derives from dance-without-bands days. I recall very different, indeed cloying travesties of this sort of thing in Hollywood-Ruritanian celluloid idylls when young enough not to know any better. This ensemble does have character. What is distinctive of the music here is the harmonisation of voices, which hasn’t the bite or edge of music from farther east, say Georgia, nor yet the blending western concert choruses develop. Very different from that, but the tonality is more Western, fresh sound.


Mostly it seems to be Lakatos, or a male vocal lead, sometimes dancing and even with proto-scat in the vocalise, and sometimes melancholic. Where on “I’m Lonely (Kokorro Son)” other voices join in harmony with the male singer at the end of each verse, there’s a good opportunity to hear how this music differs from Georgian or even Scottish folk music which involves an audience joining in.


I’m not so sure about the presentation of attempts at English translation of the texts in a line for line style. These aren’t singing versions, and since translations of regular stanzas seldom fit easily into the same patterns as their originals, there’s something to be said for an approach dedicated principally to bringing out as much as possible of the text’s meaning.

Overall, the music has a nice lively and fresh sound.

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