“Their cultural policy is equal to nothing”

In a 1962 report, the Department of Science and Culture (TKO) explained by the general rise in living standards and “civic well-being” that there was a growing demand for the forms of entertainment they called petty bourgeois, such as “cheap dance music, sentimental light music”. These genres were not considered too much, but rather were seen as a danger, as they wrote:

Musical kitsch can also bring material results, but the moral destruction that comes with it can delay cultural development for years.

Significantly rewriting the reality, they added that light music received so much support from the state in the hospitality industry that they proved powerless. The word support sounds quite strange in this context, it was probably only meant by party officials that they did not close the restaurants where they also played music. Incidentally, part of the taxes paid by these nightclubs kept the cultural base from which the “high arts” were funded, so the opposite was the case:

not only would the state have given subsidies to these places, but on the contrary, revenues were deducted from them for higher purposes.

Of course, it is already a question of why the party’s governing bodies said they had little influence, while they could dictate support for individual light music trends. It was probably this annoying statement because hospitality music, which was so popular in society, could not be completely suppressed after it was used as a musical “valve” at the time. In any case, the comrades would have preferred to listen to laborers or communist shrews in restaurants and bars, but they already felt the twitch of it, so they didn’t force its execution. It should be noted, however, that the tangible form of this was when László Rajnák, a wrestling sportsman from the Buda Youth Park, became an omnipotent director of the institution with various shops – selling tickets and watering beer – in the second half of the 1970s. He had fun in the restaurant of the Intercontinental Hotel on the side of the town, while he pulled the Red Drip into his ear with the gypsy band.

The Hotel Duna Intercontinental was built in 1973. Photo: Fortepan / Main photo

Incidentally, the famous and infamous party center in Jászai Mari Square in Budapest discussed the social and economic situation of musicians a few years earlier, on March 7, 1959. It was found that only 3,000 to 3,500 of the entertaining musicians had regular jobs, but once again the same number had only occasional job opportunities, performing every week or two. The artistic standards of dance musicians were judged to be fluctuating, although their employment skyrocketed in the late 1950s, mainly to the detriment of folk musicians, making the earnings of light composers and popular performers remarkably high. This, they say, could have been reduced if the party and state administration had a clear say in the distribution of royalties. Of course, this could not be done directly unless Hungary kicked off the Treaty of Rome, which regulated it, but it was clearly impracticable.

Indirectly, however, the government was able to influence royalties by putting pressure on the authors through the Dance Song and Season Committee, allowing only songs that were both ideologically and aesthetically pleasing.

However, throughout the term, the Copyright Office reserved the right to distribute the royalties it collected to its members, that is to say, to its authors, at its own discretion, through its distribution committee. However, in the great earnings of light music performers, as they put it, the role played by the fact that “the role of relations that cannot be called socialist at all is decisive in their assertion.” To solve this problem, it was recommended that

The programs that contribute to the implementation of our cultural policy must be remunerated appropriately, above average, for artists in both the serious and light genres and for those who actively participate in it.

In order to achieve an ever higher level of control, which meant playing pieces and songs in accordance with socialist principles, they wanted to expand the competence of the National Entertainment Music Center (NSZK). ”.

The party state was perfectly aware of the great social influence of light music, and the growing degree of Western influence may have annoyed the authorities:

The light genre, especially dance songs, is largely dominated by Western tastes today. Although there were few attempts to create some better works a few years ago, this has now completely disappeared. The lyrics of our dance songs and the “catchy” melody in many respects also pose serious obstacles to the moral education of our youth.

Strengthening the power of the NSZL was also considered important by the party’s professional body because

Folk and dance musicians and singers in the state and cooperative hospitality industry, houses of culture and dance schools are the only strata in the country that has been without a host since nationalization. Unlike all other working groups, their employment is unsettled, their basic social issues (social security, leave, etc.) are unresolved. Their cultural policy is equal to nothing.

The task of the NSZL was to involve the operating licenses of about 10-11 thousand unemployed or underemployed musicians, which had previously been received from the Ministry of National Education. In the name of tightening, Zorán was not licensed to play guitar for the first time in 1962, but due to the popularity of the Metro Club, the young musician soon received the coveted document.

The other main task of the party TKO was to retrain light musicians ideologically, because they claimed that nationalism, cosmopolitanism, and materiality were particularly prevalent among them. It is a fact that, on the one hand, the music was made for money, but it was a shame to put it on their eyes, and on the other hand, it was a lot of financial sacrifice and money for the musicians to start and maintain their activities. And cosmopolitanism may have been the result of learning and performing Western songs in public places. The biggest trouble for the TKO was that the party’s cultural policy principles were lost due to serving the needs of its guests. Approximately in line with this, the board of the Association of Hungarian Musicians stated on June 13, 1961, that more conceptual, more planned work should have been done in light music, which in this case meant more and more control, and this idea was shared with the TKO in 1961. on June 28. The majority of the management of the Association of Hungarian Musicians opposed the publication of the sheet music for the chansons and called for the young composers they described as talented to embrace “tasty, high-quality light music”. This desire was not long in coming, soon a series of Dance Song Festivals received a green signal, followed by a series of Dance Song Festivals, in which authors considered dear to cultural politics could cast hits of different standards.

However, the musicians of the beat generation – Elijah, Metro, Omega and quite a few others – were not expected to show up at these quizzes and cause an unforeseen “upheaval”.

– but that’s another story.

Cover image: Zorán (middle) was not granted a license to operate guitar for the first time in 1962. (Photo: Fortepan / Zoltán Szalay)


Source: Magyar Nemzet by magyarnemzet.hu.

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