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Issue 12 - Gipsy Kings

Whisky Magazine Issue 12
November 2000


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Gipsy Kings

Roby Lakatos and his band are redfining Hungarian gipsy music with the help of malt whisky. Ken Hyder reports.

Gipsy influence is everywhere in music. Flamenco and central European classical music would not sound like they do without the tribes who headed west from India. And can you easily think of a Hungarian restaurant without seeing guys in ornate waistcoats playing soaring violins at breakneck speed over a jangling gallop from the cimbalom?

For some gipsies, being a musician is a job handed down from generation to generation. In Hungary especially, children grow up in musical families and themselves become the next generation of players. The first wave of gipsies, now largely known as pan-European gipsies , began to make their mark in Hungary in the 13th century. Unlike the 18th century wave of gipsies who continue the full gipsy cultural life of speaking Roma and wearing traditional clothes, the earlier settlers have integrated - up to a point. They may not speak Roma any more, but the musical dynasties continue. And to some extent that's created a problem.

“For the last 50 to 60 years Hungarian gipsy music has remained static,”claims cimbalom player and guitarist Ernest Bango. But 10 years ago, a young gipsy violinist named Roby Lakatos decided to change things. He wanted to create something new, take a firm grip of the music and shake it definitely out of its stylistic straitjacket, presenting a new gipsy music uprooted from its past using the strong influences of jazz and
improvisation. To do this he called up a handful of other young musicians he had known since his...

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