The Phonogram Award-winning Cimbaliband celebrates its decade and a half of existence this year. At the time of the coronavirus epidemic, the band leader considered it his main task to hold the band’s core together, but teaching was also important to him. We asked Balázs Unger about the secret of their success.
– With what intention was the band Cimbaliband formed 15 years ago?
– At that time I was a member of the orchestra of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble, but in the meantime I always tried to make the dulcimer flourish so that the instrument would live its renaissance. My great role model is dulcimer artist Kálmán Balogh, from whom I learned a lot. He first had a folk solo album as a dulcimer, which made me completely enchanted. I was full of ideas, and I was lucky enough to play authentic Hungarian folk music with many in the folk music scene. I made two solo records, in which István Pál’s Bacon and his band contributed. I wanted to realize the ideas bubbling inside me, so my founder, the accordion friend Wertetics Sloboda, founded Cimbaliband, and I have considered this band to be my own project ever since.
– Based on the appearances, they create the image of an extremely happy and cohesive team. Is that really the case?
– Like all bands, we had ups and downs, the band went through a lot. Due to the challenges of the music profession, there were healthy transformations and member changes. It is not easy to run family life at the same time with plenty of tedious travel, a migratory lifestyle. We are always swinging through everything and I am happy to work despite all the difficulties.
– In addition to folk music inspiration, the audience can also hear their own songs. How to reconcile the two?
“I’m always aware of what I’m playing, I’m not going to confuse genres. When I need folk music, I do, but when it comes to my own songs – which I started writing between 2013 and 2014 – I adapt to that. You need to be able to choose the two separately and accept that there will always be someone who doesn’t like one of my productions. At first I was more preoccupied with negative criticism, and since then I have been more relaxed.
– How did the fans respond to the departure from folk music? Have you achieved the expected success?
“It started with an uncertain experiment at first, but then it soon turned out that it works and is loved by the audience. As a result of the band, a lot of children started learning on cimbalum, and to my great delight, more and more people are getting to know the instrument. This result speaks for itself.
– What do you do when you’re not playing music?
– My mother is a kindergarten teacher and music teacher, so my teacher vein comes from her. I currently teach in three places: Turán, Gödöllő and Jászfényszarun, but in addition to these I also deal with many private students. I have almost forty students in total, twenty of them are cimbalos, the rest are violinists, bassists and violinists. In April, seven cimbalos won the 10th Aladár Rácz cimbalos competition, which I am very proud of!
– What is the band currently working on?
– Several different projects take place simultaneously in the life of Cimbaliband. At the time of the coronavirus epidemic, I considered it my main task to hold the core of the band together. We also have two shows where we work with the five base band members. One is a compilation album of the audience’s favorite songs, and the latest is now being made and will be titled Free. It is structured with three melodies from each of the five major ethnographic landscapes. The novelty in this will be that we only worked with folk music basics, not songs I wrote. The aim is to keep an envelope that does not damage folk music, but also has a modern development in it, such as in the Balkans, where folklore is part of everyday life. It is no secret that the influence of Balkan music will also appear here on our already mentioned album, Szabadon, which will be released in the autumn under the care of Fonó.
– What kind of performers would you mention who add color to Cimbaliband’s music palette? Is there any other formation that promotes the dulcimer?
– We are working with singer Dóra Danics, who was the winner of the fourth season of the television talent search program X-Faktor. He contributes to our Phonogram Award-winning album Iram and adds color to many of our concerts with his talent. I would also like to highlight the Gypsy Fusion production, in which our bassist, Gergő Tóth’s wife, Alexandra Horváth, sings. There is also a cimbalom dome with Jenő Lisztes called Cimbalom Brothers.
– If you had to send a message to society in one sentence, what would it be?
– There should be as many people as possible who are not aloof, but open to folk music!
Source: Magyar Nemzet by magyarnemzet.hu.
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