Hungarian Rock Hall of Fame – Rock Museum in Budapest

A rock museum opened in Budapest on 8 February 2014 in the Radnóti Miklós Colosseum, a new cultural and event centre in the 13th district. The displayed material – posters, photographs and other documents, instruments, equipment, artwork – come from  a variety of sources, but mostly private collections, and encompasses the years of state socialism, from the birth of Hungarian rock and roll in the early sixties until the 1989/1990 regime change and even beyond. The event posters were often saved by promoters, who have now donated them to the museum; the instruments, equipment, as well as a few stage costume items come mainly from the musicians themselves. The collection is continuously expanding – the curators are aiming at collecting more material from musicians outside Budapest, as at the moment the display primarily focuses on Budapest and shows less of music making outside the capital. The exhibition also features an interactive map of Budapest’s rock music venues – mainstream and underground. The curators have also compiled an accompanying book. There is an accompanying Facebook community. It will be interesting to observe how the collection will grow, and whether online participation and discussion regarding our rock music heritage will continue to unfold.

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Tampere Media Museum

Here are my photos from the Media Museum. I found this small-size, but rich museum fascinating, partly because of the imaginative display; also, the fact that the display did not proceed chronologically, rather by presenting the development of one media after the other – printing and journalism; television; the telephone; photography; radio; computers and the internet, and so forth; and the fact that throughout the exhibition reflected on the dynamic and two-way relationship between technological innovation and society, as well as the continuities of our engagement with new technology – regarding both innovative uses and anxiety and social debates. The many local references – to Linux and Nokia, for instance – were also informative. Regarding continuity, the following was probably my favourite example:

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Harry Whittier Frees: ‘What’s delaying my dinner?’, 1905, USA. “The American Harry Whittier Frees photographed cats and dogs in funny situations in the early 20th century and sold them, for example, as printed postcards. Cat photos quite similar to those taken by Frees are very popular on the Internet even today”

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Realising that objects so familiar from my childhood – the Commodore 64 – and teenage years – the Sony walkman I used daily for so many years, tamagotchis, floppy disks, video cassettes – are now media history, museum items, was a particularly revealing experience. It reminded me not only of the speed of technological development, but also of how quickly and perhaps irrevocably our everyday objects, laden with rich personal and social meanings, become obsolete and therefore forgotten – or at least hidden, to borrow a metaphor from Sarah Baker and Alison Huber, ‘under the bed’ – ‘in places between remembering and forgetting.’

Baker, S. and Huber A. (forthcoming) ‘Saving “rubbish”: preserving popular music’s material culture in amateur archives and museums’, in S. Cohen, R. Knifton, M. Leonard and L. Roberts (eds.) Sites of Popular Music Heritage: Memories, Histories, Places. Routledge

Roma Café, Tampere

During my visit to Tampere on 7 June 2013, I was walking around Finlayson , the rehabilitated cotton mill factory area, now home to cafés, restaurants, offices,  museums, galleries and other creative spaces.

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I had just visited the fascinating, cleverly arranged Media Museum (see my separate blog post for photos) and a neighbouring gallery featuring an environmentally conscious exhibition centred around the theme of waste, when I spotted a large tent being pulled up in one of the open-air squares within the complex. I found out from the couple of young people setting up the tent that a Roma cultural event with music, dancing and food would commence in a few hours’ time, at 3pm. So I wandered off to town, visited the Klubi venue and Epe’s Music Store (I had already purchased my ticket for the Sauna Open Air Metal Festival the next day in Swamp Music earlier in the morning –  I had a brief chat with the staff, they assured me that there was quite a vibrant local music scene, even if most of the acts are not known outside Tampere) and returned to the Roma Café location. It wasn’t extremely busy, about 25-30 people were present while I was there, but the atmosphere was very pleasant; the Roma guests performed and taught dances, while those who weren’t brave enough to participate ate cakes and drank coffee.

I chatted to Elina Niinivaara, one of the organisers, who told me that the Roma had come from from Romania and were travelling around Europe trying to find jobs;  most of them have children and other family back in Romania, and they are trying to earn something to send back to them. This year the Roma involved in the event had come to Finland because they had heard there might be jobs for them  – which turned out to be not quite true.  Since finding a job remains so difficult, the travelling Roma remain economically and socially marginalised.  Elina explained that in Finland, they mostly stayed only for the summer months, when it is possible to sleep in cars or outside without freezing.  In the autumn they go back to Romania or to other countries, and many already  leave during the summer – many are disappointed when they find out the miserable work situation in Finland and try to collect money for the trip back home as fast as they can.

The purpose of this event was to actively facilitate the social involvement of this population, and besides raising awareness about the issue, to enable this minority group to assume a position whereby they have the opportunity to share their own culture and knowledge (e.g. through the teaching of dance and sharing their cuisine) and thus, so to speak, reverse their passive political position. Elina also invited me to the evening event that would follow, with a live music performance at a local bar. This proved to be much busier and livelier than the afternoon event; the first performance featured three musicians performing mostly popular Roma songs, and even some rock and roll; the second act was, interestingly, sitar music.

Of the group that performed  the evening club, at least some had been in Tampere the year before as well, but the Roma people at the café event were there for the first time, as far as the organisers know.

I wanted to record an interview with Elina but she was too busy; however, she and her colleague Stina Riikonen were kind enough to send me responses to my questions via email afterwards, so the following is based on the responses of both.

The organisers are a working group of 5-6 persons (plus several helpers). Some of them are visual artists, some students, some have been working in the social sector. The initiative had come from two of them who had met through a network working for migrants’ rights – they wanted to do something with the traveling Roma. As there was only two of them, and as they had started to think about some kind of a café event, they contacted a their friend Stina Riikonen, a visual artist who had been developing and organising a series of multicultural café events with changing cultural themes (http://kulttuurienkahvila.net/). Together they began to develop the idea further.

They contacted the Roma in the streets, in collaboration with a church-based centre that had opened a place for the Roma this spring where they can have a shower and get some clean clothes. They advertised this place for the Roma and at the same time created contacts and talked about their plans. They had an interpreter working with them a few times, which they found extremely helpful – it probably wouldn’t have worked without.

In the end they had more people willing to participate than they were able to take. They were trying to make sure that the selected participants would all be from different families, so that the payment would be equally distributed among the groups; and they were also looking for people with different kinds of skills and ideas.

They had several goals, including the following:

1) “to give some Roma a decent job for at least one day”

2) “to turn around the everyday situation so that at the event the Roma would be the guests of honour and the ones who teach and perform to the audience”

3) “to create contacts with the Roma and get to know their situation better”

4) “to break prejudices by creating interactive and intimate atmosphere where people can meet the Roma”

5) “to show that we see that all people are truly equal.”

In terms of evaluating the event, they have been very satisfied with the results: they feel that they mostly reached our goals and in some cases even achieved more than they had expected to. It is, however, difficult to determine how exactly the participants evaluated the event. But it is telling that they all spent the whole afternoon together (this was not expected from them, they could simply have performed their bit and left with the payment), danced and laughed. Several also asked if they were planning to continue, and at least one hoped for a common private party. The most touching evaluation for the organisers came from somebody who said that the day reminded him of his childhood, when they used to travel around in Romania with his family and work together, dance and play together and eat together.

To the question of whether they were planning anything similar for the future, the answer was yes and no. It was a lot of work for them to organise the event, and none of them got paid for it. However, they have been talking about possibilities to continue working with the Roma. The multicultural café event series will continue, but most likely with a different theme.

The event was financed through small grants from different sources: NGOs, the city of Tampere, the Social Forum etc.  Roma Café was organised in collaboration with Tampere Social Forum – it was not exactly part of it but a parallel event. They got a lot of help from the Social Forum and also visibility. The Forum was organised in the museum in the square at Finlayson, which explains the location for the afternoon event. For the evening club they looked for a place for quite a while and ended up in Artturi after some compromises regarding money, space, equipment etc.

(Tampere Social Forum is connected to other Social Forums – see Wikipedia)

The organisers thought multicultural events were quite commonplace in Tampere and there was quite significant interest in them, but the culture of travelling Roma was definitely not among the popular ones. Indian food, African music, or South American art sells well, but no-one would organise an event about the culture of travelling Roma (Finnish Roma minority, on the other hand, does interest quite many people). So in this sense this was also a political act: to invite and give stage to the people “most despised in our society.”

My many thanks to Elina for her company throughout the event, and to both her and Stina for the informative responses.

East Punk Memories – full documentary

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“In the mid-eighties, defying local regulations that prohibited illegal filmmaking, Lucile Chaufour shot Super8 material about a group of Hungarian punks and how they were struggling under the communist regime. More than twenty years later, she returned several times to interview the same people about what it was like to be a punk in Hungary, what punk stood for back then and how it has changed since and also how they see life in Hungary before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Is this what they struggled for?”

East Punk Memories – a film by Lucile Chaufour
With Kelemen Balázs, Tóth Miklós, Mozsik Imre, Márton Attila, Papp Zoltán György, Ványi Tamás, Rupaszov Tamás, Horváth Attila, Erdős József, Vojtkó Dezső, Asztalos Ildikó, Törjék Tünde
Including music by QSS, ETA, CPG, Kretens, Aurora, Modells, Bandanas

Source: http://toldimozi.hu/programok/east-punk-memories

Berlin visit 3-5 May 2013 Part II

While visiting NewThinking, Andrea and I bumped into her colleague Andreas Gebhard, who, similarly to Andrea, was also very actively involved in the orgainising of re:publica conference, to commence the following week. We engaged in conversation, and Andreas invited me to a two-day workshop on cultural entrepreneurship starting the next day, called WSLab. The workshop was one of the preliminary events leading up to the conference. I arrived at Station Berlin – a renovated industrial premises – without having a clear idea of what our task would be, and no idea regarding who else would be participating. When I got to the venue, the preparations for the following week’s conference were already well under way, with boxes being assembled, placed on top of one another all over the spacious warehouse hall.

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The workshop was spread over two rooms in a different hall. Various sheets – to be filled in later – decorated the walls and the desks, felt tip pens and markers were in abundance. The beginning of the workshop was unconventional in the sense that we omitted introductions – so up to the point, about an hour in, when we sat down in alternating small groups to brainstorm together, we had no idea who everyone else was or why they were here, but this in my opinion was beneficial to the working process. (We later had plenty of time to get to know each other better during the end-of-the day beer garden event, where we joined forces with another pre-re:publica workshop).

The initial, warm-up rounds began with discussing ad defining creativity and the significance of creativity in one’s personal and professional life, as well as in relation to communities and society. It was from here that the workshop gradually shifted to more focused group work around more specifically defined questions, but never moving too far from the central question, namely:  ‘How could we enable and promote creative spaces to influence global action?‘ The workshop used so-called open storytelling as method, building on the stages of (1) empathy; (2) define; (3) ideate; and (4) test. It seemed to be an efficient method of gradually drawing up precise scenarios from a bunch of vague ideas at the start.

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The workshop continued the following day (when I was no longer able to attend), and the results were later presented at re:publica.

Berlin visit 3-5 May 2013 Part I

Since my first visit to Berlin in September 2012 consisted only of one evening and one full day, and I used most of that time to observe All2gethernow’s music conference at Noisy Musicworld, I decided to return to do some further exploration of the city and its music heritage, as well as to become more familiar with Newthinking and All2gethernow. My host Andrea Goetzke made sure that I was able to do both.

In particular, upon Jez Collins’ recommendation, I was interested in visiting the Ramones Museum (truly amazing experience, especially for a Ramones fan like myself!) and participating in Fritz Music Tours. The latter on this occasion included a two-hour tour of Hansa Studios, led by Thilo (previously interviewed by Jez), which was then followed by a bus tour primarily centred around places related to David Bowie, as well as Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and others. Since Jez already reported on both the museum and the tour, I just want to mention how fascinating I found the sense of place the tour managed to convey – a sense of Berlin as a city for music making and creative inspiration sought out by people coming from various other parts of the world, both in the past, i.e. the Wall era, and in the present. Thilo’s amazing collection of photographs, which he showed us one by one as we moved from one room of Hansa Studios to another, or his demonstration of the Studio 1 mixing desk through playing music that was recorded at Hansa (Bowie’s Baal, U2’s One) made these locations feel less like the locus of heritage, and more a continuous, living source of exciting cultural activity.

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This sense was reaffirmed by a Bowie-themed exhibition (A Tribute to David Bowie HAUPTSTRASSE. The Berlin Years 1978-1978) at the small Egbert Bacqué Contemporary Art Gallery, where the bus tour ended. We were treated to an exciting introduction by Bacqué, the exhibition’s curator. As we learnt, upon hearing about Bowie’s new album, announced on the 8th January 2013 along with the release of a video for the new song “Where Are We Now” – a retrospective of Bowie’s Berlin years, which was in fact frequently referred to during the bus tour –, Bacqué immediately decided to alter the previously planned spring programme for the gallery and organise instead a homage to the artist. Photographer Joachim Seinfeld was commissioned to take photos of various sites significant in the Bowie story; besides these photos and the accompanying explanations, the exhibition also featured the work of various local artists inspired by David Bowie.ImageImage

Later I also spent some time walking around the Kreuzberg area, observing the variety of subcultural venues, and visiting places like the refugee tents in Oranienplatz – see the attached photos.

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Image(To be continued with a report on the 4th May WSLab workshop organised by Newthinking)

The Record Karma Cycle – Recorder interview with Gábor Vályi

The following is a translation of the original Hungarian article on Recorder, published with permission from Gábor Vályi and Recorder.

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Photo from IASPM 2013 conference in Gijón (by E. Barna)

The first guest of Recorder’s LP Kollektor series features Gábor Vályi, a.k.a. as DJ Shuriken, whose doctoral dissertation is on the collective aspects of record collecting, and who runs a 2-hour radio show with DJ Keyser every Thursday from 22.00 on Tilos Radio.

Gábor Vályi is the perfect example of record collecting becoming an organising principle of one’s life: it started out as a hobby, later his love of music led him to doing the radio show, then being a DJ lended new momentum to crate digging, and as an academic he also wrote his PhD thesis on the topic, delving ever deeper into the world of shiny black records. It should be self-evident that the works of art that are album covers, the scratchy sounds, and the best sound quality provided by the trinity of record plus pickup plus a good sound system all guarantee that crate digging will continue to remain relevant – this is also evident from ever-growing vinyl sales. So let us look at a professional collector whose collection is in the tens of thousands.

‘There is a photo of me as a child staring into the world with headphones on my head. The picture obviously demonstrates that this was a characteristic childhood activity for me. At the same time I always had an inclination towards hoarding, collecting. Starting with my matchbox collection, everything was assembled in a compulsive manner’ – thus Gábor begins unfolding the foundations. His most important musical experience was Tilos Radio, then he started visiting Wave record shop [in Budapest], and competed with his secondary school friend in exploring new music after new music, both inspiring the other. ‘If I had only been buying for myself, it had been less entertaining. This way I was able to show the records to someone else’ – an important characteristic of any hobby that involves collecting.

‘In October 1995 I got a show on Tilos from 3 to 6 am. I met plenty of DJs there and I formed an interest in electronic music. It was around this time that I bought my first vinyl. The song Wilmo by Sabres Of Paradise was on MTV Chill Out, and because they didn’t have it on CD, I bought it in Underground Records on a 10’’. The other big record influence came from Belgium, where, funnily enough, I happened to be at a psychology conference, but then I quickly made friends with local rappers and chose to hang out with them instead. They only listened to vinyl and that stuck with me at the time.’

He started DJing in connection with the radio, first as a member of the Future Retro 2000 collective, together with Péter Nádori (a.k.a. DJ Parker) and Balázs Weyer (a.k.a. DJ Kretén). It was here that we began doing easy listening gigs, with mostly Hungarian dance singles. I learnt an awful lot about music from Nádori – that you had to read up on it in books, that the cultural context of this whole genre was important. This was the time when I started discovering where the samples were from. I preferred easy listening, crime jazz and similar music because they were better produced that electronic music at that time, so I began collecting these and then jazz followed and there was no way back.’ It was this mutual musical interest that brought him together with DJ Keyser: besides the radio show running up till today, they have also done live gigs and remixes together.

Initially the growth of the record collection is a natural process: ‘we began DJing, which made us some money, which one could invest. It has never earned me a living. The fact that I have hoarded this quantity is also thanks to the fact that I always had work to support myself. At the same time, that also proved an obstacle because I didn’t proceed to do music making as a career. I have had this album that I had promised ages ago and never completed. I really love my radio programme though, that helps me relax for two hours even in a bad week, and with live gigs, I can decide whether to do them or not, they are not a pressure, so record collecting has remained a nice hobby – in relation to which the quantity of accumulation is of course unrealistic.

It is undeniable that in any kind of collecting there is an element that seems to be taking over. ‘When opportunities are there, because you have money in your pocket and you are in places where you can find good records – for me these are Sixties’ and Seventies’ American jazz records, impossible to get in Budapest, well in that case it can easily happen that the buying instinct or desire gets hold of you. When I’m in America and I’m bringing 100 records back, then I’m getting into all this explanation of how much I had saved, how much cheaper they are than at home. There are these stories of me carrying the records all over New York in a trolley suitcase made in China, with the wheels coming off, my other suitcase full and I had also left two more cases of records at a friends’ place. At such moments you can sense that this is a story of obsession.

From Hungarian folk to Nineties’ drum’n’bass, from hip hop to rock, from Brazilian music to jazz, Gábor collects many different genres. His biggest collections are of American jazz albums (about 700) and Hungarian singles (about 1000). He talks about the fact that collecting only becomes difficult after a while, as it is possible to get hold of the records relating to your interest at a reasonable price category in 5-10 years, but once you have everything you come up against walls. Although nowadays almost anything can be found, ‘the internet and this “anything is available” approach has also ruined hings a little, the prices of rare records have really gone up.’

What is record collecting about? Fundamentally it is obviously about the love of music, but there is a part of it that points beyond this. ‘The excitement, the pleasure of discovery – from this point of view, the best records are those on which you don’t even find anything on the internet. It is the archaeology of urban people. You begin to look at the places you go to with different eyes. You go to a city and you don’t look for architectural sights but legendary record stores. It is not about what you have seen from the Eiffel Tower but whether you had been to the shop with one-euro records. You get to corners of the city you wouldn’t otherwise see. You learn a little bit about what kind of music the people who had lived in those places were listening to. But this is also true about individual collections.’

And finally, a very typical record collecting experience: ‘athletes dreams about the coming competition, while my dream was about a Zalatnay album that doesn’t exist in reality, but in your dream you don’t know this. Fold-out cover, you put it on and the goosebumps appear, mind-blowing funk and then you wake up.

Favourite Budapest record shops

For new releases, my favourite used to be Underground Records, for used, it is still Rockin’ Box.

Most expensive record purchased

Hungarian rarities around 10,000 HUF, I don’t buy very expensive records. 

Biggest margin

The Rubaiyat Of Dorothy Ashby and Song Of Innocence by David Axelrod. I got both of them for 1590 HUF from Rockin’ Box, they are usually over 100 dollars. I have a Moses Smith single for 100 HUF which is selling for 2-400 dollars among Northern Soul collectors on eBay. Once I got the Körössy Jancsi LP released by Qualiton at a Pécs fair for 100 HUF, now it’s around 15,000 HUF, if you see it at all.

Coolest record shop experience

There is a store specialising in singles in Philadelphia with hundreds of thousands of singles, endless corridors, as if you were in a library. Then there’s a Brooklyn cellar called The Thing, with 100,000 cheap records. But my favourite is Groove Merchant in San Francisco, which is essentially like a museum, you can learn so much there.

Record karma

If you don’t feel a record close enough to yourself, you let it back into the cycle, and new things will start coming at you.

by Endre Dömötör

Links:

DJ Shuriken on Mixcloud

DJ Shuriken on Soundcloud