Author Archive

Live Review | Globaltica, Poland July 20-23

Posted on July 26th, 2016 in Live, Recent posts by .

Globaltica-©Simon Broughton-Free
Six great things about Globaltica, World Cultures Festival, in Gdynia, Poland

1. The main site is just five minutes walk from a pristine beach on the Baltic Sea.

2. A weekend ticket costs around €10

Globaltica-©Simon Broughton-Free1

3. Over four days, in a relaxed and intimate setting you can get a taste of music from all over the world. This year the line-up included Balkan brass masters Fanfare Ciocarlia from Romania; Damily from Madagascar, playing infectious tsapiky dance music; the cheeky Monsieur Doumani trio from Cyprus; kora and talking drum maestro Diabel Cissokho (pictured right) from Senegal and the remarkable Rancho Aparte, with squealing clarinets, euphonium and powerful percussion from Colombia. Not forgetting Songlines’ favourites, the father, son and daughter trio from Poland, Kapela Maliszow. Traditional music that is vibrant and evolving, which is what Globaltica is about.

4. The celery and ginger drink from the Beetle Juice van (Sok z Zuka) is just divine.

Globaltica-©Simon Broughton-Free2

5. Turkish musician Tahir Palali (pictured right with singer Cigdem Aslan) describes Globaltica as a mini-WOMAD but nicer, because it’s more chilled out. It was a rare opportunity to see him and singer Cigdem Aslan sing spiritual songs from the Alevi tradition. “We Alevis don’t go to the mosque,’’ she says, “but we gather in places like this.’’  We’re in barn-like old stables, and the performance is intimate and intense. Palali’s plucked tembur, with just three strings, is delicate but profound. There’s a simplicity and intensity that takes you to a higher place. “The consciousness that created the universe is within you,’’ he says and his tembur with Aslan’s melismatic voice seems to bring that consciousness closer.

6. Gdynia is Europe’s best location for modernist architecture. The port city was built in little more than a decade from 1926 until World War II as Poland’s ‘window to the world’. In 1928 it handled just one per cent of Poland’s trade, but by 1937 it controlled 49%. The architecture of the city is still dominated by the clean, white, unornamented style of the pre-war period. Easy access from the UK with direct flights from London to Gdansk, just 45 minutes away.

Globaltica-©Simon Broughton-Free3

Globaltica was held on July 20-23 2016. For more information, visit


Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Live Review | Førde Traditional and World Music Festival, July 6-10

Posted on July 13th, 2016 in Recent posts by .


With 300 artists from 30 countries, Førde is the biggest festival of folk and world music in Scandinavia. Simon Broughton was at the latest edition, which finished on Sunday, July 10 (Photos courtesy of Førde Festival)

Førde, a small town of 14,000 people in the west of Norway, is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and fjords. So it’s a spectacular location for a festival and some of the Førde Festival’s concerts are in farmyards, wooden cottages and on mountain tops. As a broad theme, the festival took the idea of ‘Flight’, reflecting the unprecedented movement of refugees in the world, and that is something I will look at in the next issue of Songlines, out August 26. But, from Førde itself, here are some personal highlights of the 27th edition of the festival.

One of the most atmospheric locations is the Jølster Museum, a collection of traditional wooden houses, not far from Førde. The small rooms only fit 30 or 40 people, so the concerts were acoustic and intimate. At different locations between 11pm and 2am – when the summer night is more or less dark – you could find music from Norway, Finland, Spain, Tuva, Kenya and Malawi. I just dived in at random and struck lucky. In one of the smallest cottages a couple of old gents in trilbies were playing Hardanger fiddle and the guitar-like mandola. The room was packed and pretty dark, but I found a place on the floor and could make out the neat white beard of the fiddler and catch the light glinting on the mother-of-pearl on the fingerboard. The musicians’ smiles suggested they knew each other well.


I only discovered afterwards that this was one of the most-loved duos in Scandinavian folk music: Gunnar Stubseid, from Norway, on Hardanger fiddle and Ale Möller, from Sweden, on mandola (pictured right). They first met in 1986 and started playing in this novel combination. Stubseid comes from Setesdal region where the most rugged Hardanger fiddle music is found, but here the sound was softened by the plucked strings of the mandola. The acoustic of the wooden room was perfect for this music and the tapping of the two gents’ feet on the wooden floor was the ideal accompaniment. The cyclical, trance-like tunes draw you in and you hardly know whether five or 25 minutes have passed. You can imagine long evenings enjoying music like this a couple of centuries ago.

The contrast between the rustic simplicity of the Jølster houses and the main venue at the Førdehuset cultural centre is striking. Here the large hall has dramatic lighting, screens, graphics and a slick live video cut of the concerts. La-Bottine-Souriante-©Forde-FreeThe big crowd-pleasers were Sephardic singer Mor Karbasi, who brings drama and theatricality to her songs in Ladino, Moroccan Berber and Hebrew, and the magnificent French Canadian band La Bottine Souriante (pictured right), who have been active, with different line-ups, since 1976. They’re a force of nature with their trademark foot-percussion, fiddles, accordion and a powerful horn section.

In a get-up-and-have-a-Balkan-party way, the double-bill of Romanian and Hungarian Gypsy music from Mahala Rai Banda and Romengo was stunning. This was music that comes from very deep Romani roots – and tied perfectly into the migration theme of the festival. With the singing of Romengo’s petite but powerful Mónika Lakatos, it drove the audience into a dancing frenzy.

The Scandinavian band to look out for are Denmark’s Dreamers Circus – three young guys on fiddle, mandolin and accordion. There is charisma, talent and a powerful performance onstage.

The most memorable performance was the premiere of Arctic Ice Music, by the world’s only ‘ice musician,’ Terje Isungset. He literally plays trumpets, xylophone, chimes and drums made out of ice. But however extraordinary and beautiful that is, there are limitations to what ice can do. So here he was working with Sami and Inuit singers from the Arctic plus Tuvan throat singer Radik Tyulyush, which brought in an awesome sonic landscape, created in just three days.


To play his instruments, Isungset wore a furry hood, thick sweater and gloves. I don’t know whether he’s sponsored by a Norwegian sweater company, but he’s missing a trick if not. During the show, Isungset had an ice helper (his daughter) bring instruments on, unpack bars of ice so they were ready to be played and remove them before they melt. It was a logistical choreography. “The concert is about human beings relation to nature and how to live with it,” he said to me before the show. “The Inuits really know how to live in the ice and this generated the idea for the concert.”

Isungset’s contribution was largely percussive, with incredibly delicate sounds from tapping ice rods while stepping in crushed ice, to more melodic sounds from his ice xylophone. The latter is essentially like a balafon, but while the balafon evokes the dryness of the desert, Isungset’s iceophone sounds fluid.

The singers added layers of texture and melody. The Inuit singers brought the breathy, rhythmic sound of katajjaq; the Sami singers add more ethereal joiks; and Radik Tyulyush produces a deep pulsing growl. One of the Sami singers, Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska told me she was performing joiks about nature, animals, the wind and “one from Finland about the Russians colonising Sami land and your feelings knowing it will be destroyed.” The various layers, textures and otherworldly sounds seemed like listening to an aural equivalent of the Northern Lights. Glorious, beautiful, but elusive. It is something that deserves to be seen around the world because it’s not only inspirational music, but there’s a powerful message in there as well.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Qawwali singer Amjad Sabri murdered in Karachi, June 22

Posted on June 23rd, 2016 in News, Recent posts by .

Amjad-Sabri-©Bartek-MurackiThe leading qawwali singer was shot dead yesterday in Karachi. Simon Broughton reports 

Leading qawwali singer Amjad Sabri was shot in his car by two armed motorcyclists in Karachi on June 22. He was 45 and one of the leading performers of qawwali music in Pakistan today. It’s a religious, devotional tradition with deep roots in Pakistan and India, but has become popular all over the world. The Pakistani Taliban, who consider Sufism to be idolatrous and even devotional music to be forbidden, have claimed responsibility.

Amjad Sabri was leader of the Sabri Brothers, founded by his father Ghulam Farid, although they claim a lineage going back 400 years to the time of Tansen. From the 70s, the Sabri Brothers started touring internationally and made many recordings. Amjad started touring with his father and uncles Maqbool, Kamal and Mehmood Sabri from the age of five.

Amjad Sabri had taken over at the helm of Sabris with two of his brothers. He gave some spectacular performances in Europe in recent years. His most recent recording was Ecstasy of the Soul (Transetnika, 2012).

In 2010, there were bombs in the shrines of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi and Daata Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore. But this is the first targeted killing of a high-profile Sufi musician and raises serious questions about such musicians’ safety in Pakistan.



Tags: , , , , .

Feature | Sondorgo: Lost music of the Balkans

Posted on October 8th, 2015 in Recent posts by .


In 2011 Simon Broughton discovered the story of Hungarian tambura band, Söndörgő, prior to their Songlines Encounters performance. Four years later the band’s music continues to be met with critical acclaim. 

Söndörgő will be on tour in the UK from November 12-27. Find out more here.

The kid was just four years old, and playing with all the singleminded concentration and enthusiasm that young boys have when they are gripped by something that fascinates them. In his hands wasn’t a toy car or a football, but a tambura – a small mandolin-like instrument. As he noticed everyone was looking at him, he stepped into the limelight at the centre of a circle of onlookers and musicians and played like one possessed. More than anything, this was evidence of the healthy tradition of tambura playing here in the south of Hungary.

The tambura is typical of the Serbian and Croatian communities in Hungary – and over the border in Croatia and the Serbian province of Vojvodina. As an instrument it is fast, agile and precise – and its music is very catchy.  It’s like a meeting of Greek bouzouki and Hungarian violin, delicate yet fiery, as a tight group of strummed strings sparkle together. The music has an irrepressible spring to it. I’m listening to tambura players in Mohács in the south of Hungary.

Söndörgő have described what they play as the ‘Lost Music of the Balkans’ and it’s true. Hungary is famous for its Gypsy fiddle music, Serbia is famous for its brass bands, but here lost in the cracks between them is the delicate and distinctive sound of tambura music that’s virtually unknown.

In Hungary, Mohács is notorious for the battle that took place here in 1526 when Hungary was defeated by the Ottoman troops of Suleiman the Magnificent. It marked the end of Hungary’s golden age and the beginning of Turkish and Habsburg domination – the Turks left in 1699 and the Habsburgs were in control until World War I. In Hungarian ‘ More Was Lost at Mohács’ is a resilient expression meaning ‘Things Could be Worse.’ On a more cheerful note, Mohács is also famous for its Busójárás Lenten carnival with sheepskin costumes, scary masks and lots of tambura music. According to popular belief, the tradition started after the Turkish occupation when the population carved themselves masks, re-entered the town making lots of noise and scared away the Turks.

Most of the South Slav population in Hungary came because of the Turks. In the 14th and 15th centuries, as the Ottoman empire expanded into Serbia, many Serbians fled north up the Danube. The South Slavs founded a number of towns along the river which had, and in many cases still have, a strong Serbian or Croatian flavour. These include Mohács, Ráckeve (with the most beautiful Serbian Orthodox church in Hungary), and Pomáz and Szentendre, close to Budapest. Szentendre is a popular day trip for visitors to Budapest and is where Söndörgő are based.

The tambura probably came to Hungary with the Turks. The small lead tambura (prímtambura) usually has five strings, with the two top strings doubled to emphasise the melody, plucked with a plectrum. Then there’s the bigger bass-lead tambura (basszprímtambura) and the guitar-like contra tambura which plays accompanying chords. Down in Mohács, the bass is traditionally a bass tambura (tamburabőgő), which looks deceptively like a regular double bass, but is played with a plectrum and has frets.

Söndörgő came to Songlines’ attention in 2008, thanks to a fantastic live CD they did with Macedonian saxophonist Ferus Mustafov, one of Europe’s greatest Gypsy musicians. Being interested in South Slav music, the band were huge admirers of Mustafov and, when they were able to get in touch, went down to meet him in Macedonia. “We went to his rehearsal in Skopje and it was incredible,” says Söndörgő’s leader Áron Eredics. “Once he’d finished he just said ‘Now you play!’ and we were terrified. But it went quite well and we both had the feeling it would be good to record a CD together. So we arranged to come back for ten days practice together followed by four or five concerts at which the CD was recorded.”

“They drank a lot and so you couldn’t really rely on them, but they knew some really old tunes”

Söndörgő are almost literally the songs of the band Vujicsics who from the mid-70s pioneered the professional presentation of South Slav music in Hungary and had one of their records released on Joe Boyd’s Hannibal label in 1988. 

Screen-shot-2015-10-08-at-12.05The family background is mixed. They think the Eredics name is Croatian, but the family now only speak Hungarian. Kálmán’s grandmother was Serbian (and the last Serbian speaker in the family), but she married an Austrian (and there was some anger in the family about this). Kálmán married a Jewish wife from what is now Ukraine and they are proud of their totally mixed ethnicities. It certainly means that their commitment to the music can’t be described as nationalistic

Kálmán and his brother Gábor Eredics grew up in the town of Pomáz, just next to Szentendre. It was there they formed a band in 1974 inspired by a local group playing South Slav music for weddings and parties, but “they drank a lot and so you couldn’t really rely on them, but they knew some really old tunes,” explains Kálmán. This coincided with the folk revival in Hungary and the start of the táncház movement. Also living in Pomáz was a composer and ethnographer of Serbian background called Tihamér Vujicsics (1929-1975) who composed for the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and collected Serbian and Croatian tunes from the communities in Hungary.


Sadly Vujicsics was killed in an aircrash in 1975 and the band (pictured right in 1981) adopted his name in his memory. “We’d been given this horrible official name – the Pomáz Young Folk Group of the Minorities – so we were very glad to get rid of that,” Kálmán chuckles. Before his death Vujicsics had virtually completed Musical Traditions of South Slavs in Hungary, a collection of melodies and songs, which was published in 1978. It was from this book and from the tunes they’d learned from the drunken old-timers that Vujicsics built their repertoire.

They released an award-winning debut CD in 1981 and became one of country’s best ensembles and the only professional band performing the music of the South Slavs in Hungary.

So the next generation of Eredics brothers grew up in an environment where this music was just a part of everyday life. “My father bought me a tambura when I was five years old,” says Áron, “although I didn’t play it at that time. It was when my cousin Dávid said they wanted to start a band at school that we began in a serious way.”

Like the Vujicsics Ensemble, Söndörgő have also drawn on the collections of Tihamér Vujicsics, but they’ve also connected with traditional players like József Kovács in Mohács and also taken tunes from other parts of former Yugoslavia and arranged them for tamburas. Paradoxically their repertoire is both more adventurous – arranging tunes from other regions of former Yugoslavia – and more traditional – with old tunes that have been preserved in the communities in Hungary – than the local tambura bands in Vojvodina.

But Söndörgő’s real passion is for the music of József Kovács and other musicians from Mohács who are the bearers of a living tradition.  This shows in their ability to create a party with their playing, whether it’s on a concert stage in Budapest, or playing, whether it’s on a concert stage in Budapest, or amongst the community in Mohács. While they have an amongst the community in Mohács. While they have an illustrious background behind them, they are committed to doing things in their own way.


toure-heartVujicsics, Southern Slav Folk Music

(Hungaroton, 1981)

Excellent Vujicsics debut with vocals by Márta Sebestyén amongst others.






vujicsicssamosvirajVujicsics, Samo Sviraj

(Vujicsics Association, 1997)

Great Croatian and Serbian tunes, one from the field recording by Bartók. 






sondorgmustafovSöndörgő & Ferus Mustafov, In Concert

(Sonodisc, 2008)

Live album with Ferus Mustafov, a Top of the World selection in October 2009 (#63).






sondorgo-tamburisingSöndörgő, Tamburising

(World Village, 2011)

New album with tambura player József Kovács and singer Kátya Tompos and Antal Kovács.






toure-heartSöndörgő, Tamburocket: Hungarian Fireworks

(Riverboat Records, 2014)

The band added Macedonian melodies and a nod or two to Béla Bartók to their South Slav musical background.







Tags: , .

« Older Entries               

Switch to our mobile site