Pál Havasréti is one of the founding members of the
Hungarian folk music ensemble Téka. As well as collecting, researching and arranging songs for the group
he plays the following instruments: contrabass, ütogardon (hit gardon), cello, hurdy gurdy, zither, percussion, and drum. In addition to this he is part of the management group that runs the
successful Dance-house Guild (Táncház Egyesület) in Budapest.
Havasréti (PH) When
attending primary school I had intense singing lessons and learned to play
the piano. At that time the Kodaly method of teaching was very popular in
Hungary and we were taught many many Hungarian songs and ballads.
What was your first exposure to Hungarian folk music?
grandparents lived in a village and every summer I spent my vacation in
there. In my grandma's village, Tolmács in Nógrád county, there lived
bagpipe player and I heard him play. At that time you could hear acoustic
string orchestras play at weddings, not electric one man band with a
When Téka first came together 1976 what was the demand for Hungarian folk
(PH) During 1974-76 in Budapest the tanchaz was very popular, and with my class-mate László Porteleki (first fiddler with Téka) I often visited them for fun and dancing. 1976 was my last year in swimming and water polo, and having just finished my grammar school, my summer was free. It was then that László Porteleki invited me to a music and dance camp to play music. At that time I played only the zither, but at the camp I had my first contrabass lessons, the teachers being musicians from the Sebő and Muzsikás ensembles. At the end of our time at the camp we (László Porteleki, György Lányi, Pál Havasréti) decided to start a music band. Sipos Mihály (violinist with Muzsikás) gived to us the name Téka, he is our godfather.
Today the members
of Téka are:
Where you influenced by the work of Ferenc Sebő?
Sebő and Sándor Csoóri were my tekerő (hurdy-gurdy) teachers and are
How easy was it in the first years of Téka to get your recordings
But it was impossible for us to produce an LP in Hungary, nationalistic values were dangerous and unpredictable for the government... they were very careful with poets, musicians, who were visiting the dance-houses (Tanchaz) at that time. We where just tolerated as children.
So we had to find
another way, an underground (illegal) solution. Between '80 and '86 we
recorded four LPs and a music cassette series (seven different dance
cycles) for a dance teachers who did not have an authentic music band.
Do you recall your first visit to a village to collect music?
it was during the 1976 winter in Szék village (Transylvania), and we
learned more on that trip than half year practicing in a room listening to
a tape-recorder. Real music in a real function - it's the fastest way to
understand music. We didn't sleep over 3 days, just recharging with music
and with honesty. The musicians taught us like we were their sons. During
that time in Transylvania we weren't allow to sleep anywhere at night,
once we walked down a dark street in -2O Celsius-degrees playing music the
whole day. It was hard, tiring and funny too, once wandering we saw far
away a small light, and were happy to find somebody. But we walked in a
back door where was a outfall for the pálinka-boiling house, a big and
deep lake from secondary product, we were almost drowned. But we found the
right way and tasted an excellent szilvapálinka, and workers were singing
for us into our tape recorder, so it was a lucky night. (On this same
night a soldier was frozen to death when he attempted to walk home).
How do you go about learning the songs and style of the village musicians?
a traveling we look around for songs, texts, traditions, so we have an
idea of what we would like to find. We have had much help, and tips from
the folk music collectors and researchers such as: Zoltán Kallós, György
Martin, Imre Olsvai and others.
We have visited
many times during weddings, name days celebrations etc, and just learned
the music by ear because many village musicians cannot read music
notations. They just play virtuoso, excellent, but can't tell you how. It
has taken a long time to understand what they can do.
Are the village musicians cautious towards city visitors?
the Hungarian hospitality is famous and comes as standard in any
What is you favorite place to visit when collecting folk music?
the places where we can find the oldest style of music and singing: Szék,
Magyarszovát, Válaszút, Magyarbece, Nagysajó, Gyimes and also where
there lives some masters of traditional music like in Alföld hurdy-gurdy
players, Felvidék bagpipe players, Magyarpalatka-Mezőség, Méra-Kalotaszeg,
Küküllő mente, Moldvai-Csangó villages.
What was it like working with Ferenc Szántó and how did this project
(PH) When we were with the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble there worked Zsigmond Székely who came from Lőrincréve village. It is from there that Zsigmond Karsai, one of the best dancers, was born. They taught us how to play this music well. But it wasn't enough for me and I asked Zoltán Kallós where I could find a good player from the Küküllő area. He remembered one shepherd flute player who could be of help to me, Ferenc Szántó. So I traveled to Magyarbece to find Szántó and make a film on how he plays his music. Later on I visited him hundreds of times, and went with him to see the most famous players in the Nagyenyed area. We invited him to come and play at our táncház, and at this time we where in a studio recording the CD 'Erdélyország sok szép vize' (TVM 106). He was interested in how we were recording and just for fun we make some recordings together. It was excellent, so afterwards we decided on recording 'Mestereink' (FA040), and organize a tour of Europe with Ferenc Szántó who is as well as a flute player, a virtuous fiddler, a fantastic singer and dancer.
How do you go about collecting a songs such as 'Verbuvalnak Szek Varosan'
which is 24 minutes long?
(PH) The idea was to produce a CD to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the revolution, the Hungarian war of independence in 1848-1849. Soldiers songs are very rich in music of Szék, and are mostly szapora lassú dances (slow dances). The texts are inspiration not only for sorrow but also for self-respect!
I have a many
young hussar friends who asked me to make a recording of this. So I
invited to the studio the popular authentic village singer from Szék, Márk
Zsuzsanna who has been a good friend of ours for many years.
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