Domes, spires and windy plains - April 2012
Show in Oradea, Romania
Photo © Ben Fenner
Attila, Ben and Steve in Vienna
The mission... To play four shows in five days covering three countries - Hungary, Romania and Austria with irrepressible fusionites Djabe, whose World music spans gypsy jazz to blue note and back again.
Day one - departure from Gatwick arriving in time for a quick crepe and rehearsal in downtown Budapest. My hired Marshall throbbed at Gramy Music HQ against the backdrop of Indonesian anklungs that chime like exotic wooden bells.
Day two - a stop-over in Kecskemet for a radio interview and airplay where Djabe sounded knock-out over the airwaves with a kind of Miles Davis meets Hendrix vibe. Then in Szentes we had a fabulous lunch at the Chicago restaurant, decorated with photos of the band Chicago and owned by real music enthusiast brother of the evening show's promoter. The gig was a sell-out and enjoyed by all...
Adjoining our hotel was a huge ruined palace-like structure that could have featured in Dr Zhivago... beautiful yet crumbling like a Tsarina's cake. Ghostly and deserted, a forgotten song moaning through skeletal archways in the windswept night.
Day three - on to Kecskemet, with its elegant Baroque past contrasting with 20th Century Brave New World Lego blocks. We played to an enthusiastic crowd there before driving into the night for a brief shut-eye in Budapest. The dreams continued with open eyes as we left early the following morning to cross the wild and windy plains, where you could visualise the Magyar tribes who rode in to claim this expanse over a thousand years ago.
We reached Oradea in Romania in time for interviews and a delicious meal in an atmospheric cellar. This beautiful city that has also been part of Hungary has attracted many artists and poets over the centuries. The descendants of Vlad, who inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula, have long been linked to the region. We heard that one of the actresses who performs at the stunning old theatre where we played that night carries the family name of Vlad... here I was given a special bottle of red wine and interviewed by Transylvanian Radio...
Day four - after our return to Budapest Jo and I visited the Tropicarium with Attila of Djabe and his family, where we saw some extraordinary sharks and alligators...
Day five - and so on to our last destination, following the course of the Danube up-stream to where it narrows near the end of the great plain and flows through splendid Vienna, with its amazing buildings, horses and carts and dark alleys which bring The Third Man meets The Night Porterto mind. The gig at the Porgy and Bess club jammed on into the night with all the exciting surprises that Djabe presents.
Day six - Attila showed Jo, Ben and I around the centre of Vienna. Wonderful statues glowed in the sunlight along with gilded porticoes and green roofs. The old Gothic cathedral is extraordinary. By the time we were flying back home from Budapest it all felt like an exotic dream of a world of music amidst plains, domes and spires...
As always, an amazing experience. Many thanks from Jo and myself to Ben Fenner, all the promoters, the fabulous Djabe team and particularly to Attila Égerházi, who put the whole tour together.
Attila, Szilard, Tamas, Steve, Zoltan and Ferenc
The beautiful theatre at Oradea, Romania
Photo © Ben Fenner
Ghostly building, Szentes
Ferenc and Steve