Karolin Benkő's interview in the portrait series of Népzene.hu (=folkmusic.hu) titled The"mysterious voice", Andrea Gerák
Ten years abroad, two years between* (for * see Editor's note in bottom) Sweden and Hungary - right now and according to her plans, more often in Hungary - rejoicing the audience of all ethnicities, ages or music tastes with velvety, tinkling-soaring voice. On the 30th of March, she joined the Fringe Festival program with a concert at Vörösmarty tér and Teátrum Hajó.
What kind of songs did you sing at the Hajó, in the "Set Forth Along a Road" program?
Mainly Hungarian, Turkish and Irish songs were on the repertoire. It was a 40-minute show, mostly with acapella songs, this much was a good length. I also fit a real exotic piece into it, a song from the Solomon Islands... The Vörösmarty tér audience was very much mixed, moving around, most of them strangers, but I am used to this - and they received it well.
Solomon Islands are indeed far from Hungarian melodies... How did it make it into the chosen ones?
There is a song which was arranged by the Deep Forest long ago, called "Sweet Lullaby". It became a big hit. I liked it too and recently I heard another version of it by a Canadian composer, that one is also great. I started to search for the roots of this song and found the original which is a little song from the islands: it was recorded 40 years ago*, performed by an indigenous woman.
Which means that although you are a Hungarian folk singer, you don't exclude foreign melodies either.
No, not at all... While I look for Hungarian folk songs first - if I find one that would fit into that particular show or music offered to me for cooperation. If not, I will take something else. The point is that something in it has to capture me, touch me. For me, the most important is the aesthetic experience, the feeling I can convey.
And what "captures" you?
For example a charming little song, in Baegu language... It was quite difficult to learn the lyrics by the way, had to do it syllable by syllable - but I made it at the end. Not so long ago, I heard a a Finnish song in a church with a melody completely different from Hungarian church chants, still it spoke to my heart.
I like Spanish sound too: it is especially exciting because I discover a kind of parallelism between Spanish and Hungarian music in one song after the other in the works of a musician collegue Ángel Orós (Cambridge 2003 by his artist name and he did most of the music to the Fringe show). About one motive or another, instantly comes to my mind its Hungarian folk song "counterpart", even if originally they had nothing to do with each other, they still fit very well.
The music of Cambridge and other you are working with uses electronica pretty much...
Right, and I don't find this as a reason to be barred, even from folk music genres. Everything depends on the complete sound, the impact, the musical-aesthetical experience created. Electronic music also has its own right within the ethnic genre, one just has to know how to dose and form the elements.
By the way, how are you doing with Swedish songs?
Their pronounciation is very difficult, therefore not too well...*
Do you like your Swedish life?
Yes I do. In many regards, days are easier, more organized, fluent, of better quality and cooler than in Hungary. But despite all difficulties, this is still my country and the "Hungarian spirit" can't be compared. Otherwise Swedes also keep their folklore: traditional music and dance is always part of events. A fact though that the dancehouse culture we are familiar with is not so common over there. Of course, it also depends on that the biggest city where I live, Stockholm is much smaller than Budapest - so it is logical that music and cultural life in general is less colorful than in the Hungarian capital. That's why we did Hungarian dancehouse for them. :-)
What other program are you preparing for, while here?
Those who are interested, can see this "festival show" at Benczúr Klub on the 9th of April, in a little bit extended version, with more new songs. I might put a Russian or Gypsy song on the repertoir, but I still have time, for now I am forming it, thinking it over, organizing it. Maybe, there will be one more concert.
Is the summer also booked?
Looks like I have a lot of invitations, cooperations, many of them are in other countries and I am glad about them. I have contact with a lot of foreigner musicians, like in England or Spain. In Hungary, I am planning things together with FolkFree and we also found each other with Berkó, and in Sweden with Barozda. Despite of the busy schedule I know and the disease I fought recently taught me to know there are limits and one has to be able to say "Stop." and find a balance. But of course, I will try to take on those that I feel really important. I have a lot to do: amongst others, I would like to publish an older album of mine, "Árva az a madár" (Lonely Is The Bird) as a correct CD, in an expanded form.
What do you like most in your profession?
I enjoy singing solo, as well as breathing together with a band. I like that I can reach into this unfailing, bottomless treasure chest, take out a gem, admire it and set it into a frame so that it can become a jewel. And that others can also admire it.
- Karolin Benkő
ORIGINAL ARTICLE IN HUNGARIAN
(Editor's note: *= factual corrections made compared to the Hungarian text)