Master of the Cimbalon
Kálmán Balogh is a master of the centuries-old cimbalom, the extraordinary precursor of today’s piano. The first picture of the instrument dates from 3500 BC – it can be seen in an Assyrian bas-relief. There are over 25 different names for the instrument, depending upon the region, but the nature of the instrument is common to all variations of it – it is both extremely difficult to play and it transcends boundaries both national and musical.
Roma musicians combine peerless technique with encyclopaedic musical knowledge, and Balogh is no exception. Born in 1959, and descended from a family of itinerant gypsy musicians, he was taught cimbalom by an uncle, and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest. Hungary is, by the way, the only country to offer degrees in advanced cimbalom study, and in due course Balogh was awarded the Young Master of Folk Arts in 1985. In 1987 he won second prize in a national cimbalom competition and has never looked back since.
With its 125 strings, the cimbalom is played with mallets, and is a versatile instrument with an enormous dynamic range. In the hands of a master, it can whisper like the wind or rattle like a machine-gun, it can support other players with gentle chords or it can leap into the frontline with frantic arpeggios. It is this versatility that enables Balogh and his band to continue the tradition of bringing classical techniques, improvisation and jazz swing into a repertoire of folk music. Following in the footsteps of other great melangistes like Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, Balogh and his band perform the music of the Carpathian Basin and the Balkans while imbuing it with a new life force.
His band combines their core repertoire with aspects of Latin, flamenco, swing, ragtime, klezmer and even the odd classical reference to Brahms and Bach. Melodies that have been polished in European villages for centuries are reinterpreted with fervour and contemporary insight. In recent years, the group has performed with jazz groups, rock bands and symphony orchestras, including the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra and the Miami Philharmonic Orchestra. The result forms a musical history of the wanderings of the Roma since their centuries-old migration from northern India. Gypsy music continues to survive their diaspora. In addition to their concert performances, Balogh and his band also undertake workshops, master classes and teaching residencies, disseminating the ‘gypsy jazz’ tradition wherever they go.
On March 10-11, 2010, Kálmán Balogh presented his musical project ‘The Other Europeans’ at the EU conference ‘Projects in Favour of Roma Culture’, in Brussels.
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
Concerts, Films, Exhibition, Discussions
(22 July 10 - 13 August 10)