Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Every summer, Budapest hosts a music festival on an island in the Danube. It’s called the Sziget (island) Festival, and is clearly a fairly big deal. This year’s luminaries include Sean Paul, Natalia Imbruglia, and I dunno, a bunch of other internationally famous stars. A couple of weeks ago it also came to my attention that Targu Mures also hosts a music festival – called the Felsziget festival. Now, my Hungarian is well up to the task of deciphering “Felsziget” as “half-island”, which I thought was quite a good name for a festival in the circumstances. Knowingly referencing another more famous festival while making it clear that this one would not be quite as good. Something akin to “Chipboardstock”, or “The Isle of Off-White”, or perhaps “Clingfilmtonbury”. (I’ve battered that gag to death haven’t I? I should have stopped at the first one. Or possibly earlier).

Anyway, I’ve since discovered that felsziget actually means something in Hungarian other than half-island. It means, go on have a guess, what could half an island be? Yep, peninsula. So, anyway, this festival was the peninsula festival of Targu Mures/Marosvasarhely. And it just so happened that we would be in town for this festival (which was this weekend just gone) and so could attend. Unlike the full sziget, this one featured basically bands from two countries only – Hungary and Romania. And, as far as I can tell, they were divided generationally too. I think because of the circumstances that people found themselves in during the 80s, the bands that have survived from that time are almost revered (and I mean revered in a non-knowing-post-modern-ironic kind of way). Hungarian blues singers and other old men front bands that seem to survive despite themselves (blues seems to be a very popular genre among Hungarians – or at least Transylvanian Hungarians – the 70s white version of the blues though rather than the 20s deep south lonely old black man version).

The Saturday night was the time we would be able to make it, and Bogi insisted on joining us, party girl that she is. So, after spending the day sweltering by and in the pool (the previously mentioned “Weekend” which is where all Marosvasarhelyiek* go when they’re not working), we wandered next door into the festival at around about 9.30. (I bet the real Sziget festival costs more than the 190,000 (Old) Lei per ticket that this one does (about €5)).

[*I’ve invented this word as an attempt to help myself follow the Hungarian suffix-ing system. –i means from that place, and ek/ok etc is a plural, so what I’m trying to say is the people from Marosvasarhely, but there’s a good chance that there’s no need for the plural bit at all since I had implied it in the context of the sentence and in Hungarian if it’s implied (such as with a number) you don’t need to add in the plural form. /end nerdy language bit]

We’d heard the turgid Quo Vadis from the pool (a Romanian band who seemed to do nothing but Deep Purple covers), and when we got in the first stage (which was obviously set aside for Hungarians on this day) was occupied by TankCsabda (Tank Trap), who seemed to be a rubbish (but youngish) heavy metal band of no great interest. Wandering through the people to the other stage down by the river we came across the Romanian stage featuring Holograf. A bunch of old men, but a million times more listenable than Tankcsabda. Bogi was a bit taken aback by the volume and we had to sit fairly far back for her to feel comfortable. I couldn’t work out whether the crowd were dividing themselves along linguistic lines or generational ones. Certainly the section we were in around Holograf seemed to feature most of the oldies (like us), singing along to old remembered tracks from the times that music were music and songs were real songs. There were very few of the yut dem (as I believe young people self refer).

After Holograf, the stage started getting filled up with yellow oil drums, which heralded the arrival of Sistem, the band who backed the Romanian entrant to this year’s Eurovision song contest. Basically their shtick seemed to be playing a house-y backing track with female vocals and overlaying it with lots of loud and energetic percussion. They were OK, but it gets a bit tiring after a while. They were also all hip young lads with wet-look haircuts who insisted on shouting the words “Targu Mures” after every song. You know the kind of thing “Thank you TARGU MURES!”, “It’s great to be here in TARGU MURES”, “Now, TARGU MURES, this next one is called…”. You’d think people would see through this ploy after a while and stop cheering, but nobody really did.

Back on the Hungarian stage, as we left Sistem to their geography lessons and gel-fest, it was time for Deak Bill Blues Band. Deak Bill is yet another old Hungarian man doing blues, thought this time with the added twist of being an amputee. He has only one leg and stands at the mike belting out the songs leaning on his crutch while resting his stump on the lower strut of the crutch. I was sceptical but won over by his energy and the singalong nature of the crowd. One of his songs (Rossz Ver - bad blood) was very familiar to me, which makes me realise I have been taking things in even if I do get bothered by my weak level of Hungarian. I wanted to stay for the last band, Romanian rappers Parasitii (mostly to see if they would take a chance of doing their most famous song “Fuck You Romania” in front of the semi-Hungarian crowd that this festival would throw up), but by this time Bogi was tired and noised-out. So to the strains of Deak Bill singing Hendrix’s Hey Joe in Hungarian (though it’s probably spelt Hely Gyó in Magyar), we wended our way out through the long haired crowd and home. I realised afterwards that in the two hours-ish that we wandered through the festival crowds I didn’t once smell anyone smoking marijuana. Which must say something, though I’m not sure what.

Final observation - The girls handing out free condoms had www.secs.ro splashed over their T-shirt, which made me laugh partly because of the cunning way of spelling sex, but also because Erika's school is at www.sec.ro, so I imagine lots of people sending emails to Erika's office asking for free johnnies. Little things please little minds.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I am Vera from Budapest. I enjoyed reading your bit on the festival a lot. I think Hungarians and probably Romanians too must seem a funny bunch of people to foreigners, and you appear to exploit some of the absurdities to a very amusing result..and I think it would do us very good to get more of kind, fresh, but slightly ironic feedback.

by the way, Hey Joe would be spelt 'Héj Dzsó' in Hungarian..

all the best


O.K. said...

Doesn't sound a patch on the recent "Clare World Music Festival" featuring the delights of, err, "Outpatience" from Haverhill ;-)

Varangy said...

Hé Józska/Józsi

Marosvasarhelyiek is fine.