Deák Bill and the Gang

On November 8 of last year, the Hungarian man known as Deák Bill Gyula turned 65 years of age. Bill has lived a long and hard life (had a leg amputed while young for starters) that has been documented on film, on record and hundreds if not thousands of stages from Budapest to Bucharest. His vocals were even praised by the one and only Chuck Berry. The praise was something about Bill having the blackest voice of any white man Berry had ever heard.

Besides Bill, there is lots of other good music in Hungary, and there are even spots of great Hungarian music outside of Hungary. My wife & I caught an amazing gig of live gypsy music (magyar nóta) in Leeds at the Howard Assembly Hall. My son quite enjoys the CD that I purchased from that show. Just to give you an idea, here is Tcha Limberger and the Budapest Gypsy Orchestra playing one of their typical songs.

Truth be told, I quite like magyar nóta/Gypsy music. I am also quite impressed by the cimbalom. It is a cross between an open piano and a xylophone from what I can tell, and it is amazing to watch the masters play it live. I should mention that I don’t really know the connection (or lack of) between magyar nóta and Gypsy music. I do know that Tcha is a Belgian Gypsy and the rest of his band are Hungarian Roma musicians. This is why I connect the two even if that bind isn’t really there.

Hungary may be a great place to see traditional Hungarian music, but it is also a great to see more modern Hungarian bands like Quimby. Especially so, because there is a small problem with quality foreign tours making it here. For example, I’m going to pass on Nickelback, and I’ll be out of the country for Red Fang (my super power is just barely missing gigs I really want to see by being out of the country). However, small bands don’t often make it here. Although there are a fair number of worthwhile bands that do make it to the Carpathian basin, they are more likely to visit Prague or Vienna. Speaking of Quimby, they are still around and playing gigs. My wife & I caught the members of Quimby playing Tom Waits covers with an English singer and Zsuzsi from Csókolom. Well, Zsuzsi actually sang a kind of post-modern version of Tutti Frutti. Here is Zsuzsi singing to a video of her walking around London.

Even though I enjoy most any and all music (besides discordant music), I have always been partial to the kind of music that belongs in beer houses. Hobo Blues Band & Bill meet that criteria here in Hungary. Bill sometimes sings with Hobo Blues Band, but he has his own thing going. Here is a clip from a movie called Kopaszkutya where Hobo Blues Band perform a Hungarianized version of the traditional blues song ‘You Got To Move’.

UPDATE: The clip referred to above (see below) is no longer watchable due to the rules of YouTube, and we only have a copy on antiquated Hungarian VHS. Just try to imagine it if you didn’t see it before it went dark.

As for Bill, here’s what Bill looks like these days.


He belts out the tunes, that’s for sure. Chuck Berry made a good call. Here is a song of his called ‘Üvöltsön a szél’ (Let the wind howl).

I’ve only seen a pinch of live music since I moved here permanently 4 and a half moths ago. I only have myself to blame. It’s time for me to see some music again. I’d certainly be up for more magyar nóta. Quimby proper would be nice as well, and I really want to see Bill before he isn’t with us anymore. I do know that he has already booked a New Year’s Eve gig at the Josefina Blues Bell Bar for the end of this year, but I hope I don’t have to wait that long. Let’s just hope the king of Kőbánya blues music sticks around for a number of years to come.

So if you are curious about Hungarian music, come on over already. There’s quite a thriving music scene here, and a lot of it is still very Hungarian (lacking outside influences). I can’t speak kindly of it all, but most of the music I mentioned here I quite like. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the thriving classical music scene here due to the likes of Franz Liszt & Béla Bartók. There was even quite a thriving music scene in the 1960’s with bands like Omega. In other words, there’s pretty much something for just about everybody out there.

So come enjoy something musically different in a venue that you haven’t been to before. I’ll write some more about Hungarian music in the future. This was just a taster. I hope you enjoyed it.

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