Mónika Lakatos and the Gipsy Voices: Hangszín

June 2, 2021

Tailwinds and Headwinds

Listening Post 305. More than anything else, her voice—soaring, soulful, charismatic, bluesy, passionate—explains why Mónika Lakatos received the 2020 World Music Expo (WOMEX) Lifetime Achievement Award, becoming the first Roma artist to win the prestigious honor. Hangszín (Sound Colors), her second album with Gipsy Voices, further enhances her reputation on the world scene and also in Hungary, a homeland where Gipsy performers can, on a single day, encounter adulation on stage and ethnic insults on the street. With a band that includes husband-partner Mihály “Mazsi” Rostás, Lakatos represents music of the Olah Roma, most traditional of Hungary’s Gipsy communities, known for buoyant dance tunes and melancholy ballads sung mostly in Romani and using household percussion instruments like spoons and milk jugs. Olah songs are designed not so much as entertainment in the modern sense but as social glue for family and communal gatherings, and conveying stories too painful to tell without music’s cushion. Hangszín embraces tales of mothers and fathers, charmers and would-be lovers, dreamers and drinkers. In Jóska bácsi (Unlce Joe), Lakatos introduces a wealthy, witty man who enchants the ladies (video 1); while the title character of Hej Bora (Hey, Bora, video 2) is a seductive woman. Alcohol weighs heavily in Mátyilém mé Mámo (Mother, I’m Drunk), a wretched man’s confession to a crime of passion (video 3); and more lightly in Pálinka, about a mother-in-law who gets a bride drunk on fruit brandy (video 4). Szávátoné (On Saturday) describes a horse fair, highlighting traditional Olah horse breeding and trading (video 5). Even as she represents Hungary abroad and makes her countrymen more aware of Roma life, Lakatos has said in interviews that she sees a loosening of communal bonds, making her music more important as a form of cultural preservation. Poised between tailwinds of success and headwinds of change, her voice personifies two additional adjectives: Powerful and influential. (Music Hungary Zeneműkiadó)

Mónika Lakatos and the Gipsy Voices: Hangszín / Lakatos Mónika és a Cigány Hangok: Hangszín
Mónika Lakatos: Vocals 
Andrea Balogh: Vocals 
Ildikó Krisztina Balogh: Vocals 
Antal Máté Kovács: Milk jug, oral bass 
Róbert Lakatos: Guitar, vocals 
Dzsenifer Rostás: Vocals 
Mihály Mazsi Rostás: Guitar, vocals, tamboura, spoons 


Jóska bácsi / Uncle Joe
Traditional, sung in Romani
A cheerful story of a smart, wealthy self-made man who charms ladies with his quick wit


Hej Bora / Hey, Bora
Traditional, sung in Romani
A song about seduction, as practiced by a woman named Bora


Mátyilém mé Mámo / Mother, I’m Drunk
Traditional, sung in Romani
The lament of a drunken man in prison, confessing to his mother that he has murdered his wife


Traditional, sung in Romani and Hungarian
A mother-in-law gets her son’s bride drunk on palinka, a Hungarian fruit brandy


Szávátoné / On Saturday
Lyrics: Traditional/Music: Mihály “Mazsi” Rostás, sung in Romani
The story of a horse fair, where Roma make deals with non-Roma



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