Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Hungarian musician, instrument maker, and self-taught ethnomusicologist Ferenc Tobak has opened the eyes of many San Francisco Bay Area music lovers by introducing eastern European bagpipe music to local audiences.

Last night's concert at the Croatian American Cultural Center was a spin on this theme, with the addition of guest musicians from the Hungarian Ethnographic Museum in Budapest, local Didjeridu musician Stephen Kent, and the Center's own Slavonian Traveling Band.

The show started with short film documenting Ferenc's research among the Csango people of Moldavia in the 1990s. At the time of Ferenc's trips, the bagpipe was almost obsolete in this area. It was certainly uncool to be a bagpipe player, and Ferenc went door to door in some of the rural villages "outing" reluctant bagpipe players. He found some elderly musicians who kind of remembered the tunes, or maybe had a non-functional bagpipe in the trunk. Piece by piece Ferenc reconstructed the music, the instruments, and the culture behind it. See photos of the musicians here. Or hear a sample here.

Ferenc is also an instrument maker. He makes bagpipes, flutes, and any kind of wind instrument. In fact, I first met him in the Budapest airport about ten years ago where he was arguing with the check in agent about the charges for his extra luggage. His extra luggage consisted of hundreds of pounds of plum wood he had collected from a certain region in Hungary. This rosewood would become the chanters for his bagpipes, and other flutes and whistles he made in his studio in Northern California. H

This concert is part of a concert series, Culture at the Crossroads, held at the Croatian American Cultural Center this fall.

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