Marta Sebestyen & Muzsikas

Although she’d already been singing with Muzsikas for more than a decade, Marta Sebestyen first grabbed my ear with her own 1992 record Apocrypha (Hannibal). On that disk the Hungarian singer successfully fused her gorgeous, pleasingly nasal voice with Karoly Cserepes’s otherworldly arrangements (imagine a rubber gamelan) in one of the few completely rewarding achievements of the dread category “world music.” Since then Sebestyen’s gone on to high-profile projects, including appearances on records by Deep Forest, Towering Inferno, and Peter Gabriel. Her newest solo record, Kismet (Hannibal), shows that she can adapt her incredible middle European pipes to Celtic, Greek, and even Indian traditions as well as those from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Tartarstan, and Hungary. In any context she maintains her signature sound: a tight, slightly mournful tone and incisive delivery. Sebestyen’s mother studied with Zoltan Kodaly–the classical composer who, with Bela Bartok, helped document and preserve much of the folk-music tradition from these regions–so Sebestyen was immersed in the rich waters of many traditional musics from a young age. Since forming in the mid-70s, Muzsikas has been the group most actively delving into those same depths; they’ve dipped into the great acoustic string traditions from Hungary, Romania, and Transylvania. Traveling into the outback that produced countless incredible, unheard-of gypsy fiddlers, Muzsikas (Sandor Csoorjr, Daniel Hamar, Peter Eri, and Mihaly Sipos) collected tunes and culled them into a solid repertoire. Among their records, the 1993 release Maramaros (Hannibal) deserves special attention, as it brought to light the obscure Jewish music of Transylvania. Performing together Sebestyen and Muzsikas make for a fantastic central European trad treat. Saturday, 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 525-7793. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ray Burniston.