MUZSIKAS & MARTA SEBESTYEN
Whether accompanied by techno rhythms (on Deep Forest's Boheme), ambient electronics (with Karoly Cserepes), "world music" (on last year's solo Kismet), or the opening credits to The English Patient, Marta Sebestyen's singing is unmistakable. But it still sounds best with Muzsikas, the Hungarian folk group she's fronted for nearly 20 years. Her voice is a strikingly emotive and technically immaculate instrument that effortlessly negotiates the bold rhythms, difficult harmonies, and melismatic embellishments of the band's traditional Transylvanian repertoire, but she never sounds like she's showboating. Muzsikas fiddlers Mihaly Sipos and Laszlo Porteleki and violist Peter Eri spin complex and winding melodies with similar aplomb, while Daniel Hamar, who totes both a three-string, cello-size slap bass called a gardon and a conventional double bass, vigorously maintains the momentum. Their music has always had a political subtext; when they started out, just their simple affirmation of Hungarian culture, not to mention their choice of songs like "The Prisoner's Song" and "The Unwanted Guest," made them a symbol of dissent under communist rule. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain they've sought to draw attention to the oppression of ethnic Hungarians living in the disputed Transylvania region, which was assigned to Romania after World War I and again after World War II. In performance Sebestyen and Hamar explain the origins of their material, giving their concerts a rather academic demeanor. But when the bows hit the strings all you'll want to do is dance. Luckily two acclaimed folk dancers, Zoltan Farkas and Ildiko Toth (both of whom guest on the group's recent Morning Star, on Hannibal), will be on hand to show you how. Friday, 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 773-525-7793. BILL MEYER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Mario Pacheco.