‘Most bands that play traditional music, do it in a traditional way. What’s interesting for us it to keep it fresh and make it a living tradition,’ said Gergely Barcza of Hungarian gypsy-fusion band Besh o droM. Formed in Budapest in 1999, the name translates as ‘ride the road’, which they’ve done with performances at festivals all over Europe, Asia and soon for the first time, in Australia. ‘When we started, I never thought the music would travel so far, and take us all to so many different places.’
Barcza plays saxophone, flute and other instruments, and in the years before the band, he played in a trio with brother in law Ádám Pettik, a percussionist. When Barcza moved from Israel back to Hungary, together they formed Besh o droM. While the line-up has changed over time, the core group has remained the same. Currently the band includes nine members who play a mix of folk and contemporary instruments including guitar, dulcimer, clarinet, darbuka, bass and accordion.
Besh o droM draw inspiration from Transylvanian, Jewish, Afghan, Egyptian, Lebanese, Armenian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Macedonian and Greek musical traditions. According to Barcza, ‘One of us brings in a melody and it might come from a traditional song, and the other band members ask not to hear the original recording, so as to not contaminate the creative process.’
Forming a song then involves bringing together all the different influences and elements. ‘We might mix a Jewish melody with a Hungarian song. Or a Macedonian song with a Hungarian rhythm. It’s like playing with blocks of Lego.’
The energy of their live shows is world-renowned, helped along by some YouTube footage that features instruments faultlessly played at frenetic, frenzied speeds. ‘Through the music we give energy to the audience, who through their appreciation and dancing give it back, which further energises us and we play it even better and faster.’ He laughs. ‘Always faster!’
Besh o droM are headlining Karavan, the inaugural Melbourne International Gypsy Music Festival on Saturday, February 27. The line-up is completed by gypsy and folk bands from around Melbourne: Unified Gecko, Woohoo Revue, VulgarGrad, Barons of Tang, Vardos, Rapskallion and Systa bb. Following that show, Besh o droM play the Palais Theatre in St Kilda on Sunday, February 28. The band will also be appearing at Australia’s biggest world music festival WOMADelaide, with 55 other bands from 27 countries, from March 5 to 8 in Adelaide.