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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Bela Lakatos & The Gypsy Youth Project

By Michael Stone
Published April 27, 2007

Introducing Bela Lakatos & The Gypsy Youth Project
World Music Network

Roma (gypsy) singer and arranger Bela Lakatos founded the Gypsy Youth Project in 1989. The Budapest group has dedicated itself to collecting gypsy folk songs from the Hungarian countryside as Bartok, Lizst and other classical composers had done before them, albeit with the distinct purpose of documenting traditional music in the Roma language and transmitting it to the younger generation. This is not the urban “restaurant music” staged for tourists in Hungary (high-end string orchestras whose theatrically dressed musicians play lightning-fast violin, bass and cimbalom), but a genre that values lively vocal artistry and choral harmony, with minimal instrumental backing (guitar, mandolin, bass, harmonica, whistle, spoons and other hand percussion). This is everyday song, ballads and anthems, reflections on family relations, the vagaries of fortune and anti-gypsy discrimination, love found and lost, songs of weddings and gatherings, and spiritual yearning, indeed, an ardent and poignant sonic record of community life.