All about Hungary: Màrta Sebestyén, the queen of the Hungarian folk music

Màrta Sebestyén, the queen of the Hungarian folk music

Posted on Mar 18, 2010| | | No comments:
Folk music

Hungary has made many contributions to the fields of folk, popular and classical music. Hungarian folk music is a prominent part of the national identity and continues to play a major part in Hungarian music. Hungarian folk music has been influential in neighboring areas such as Romania, Slovakia, southern Poland and especially in southern Slovakia and the Romanian region of Transylvania, both home to significant numbers of Hungarians. It is also strong in the Szabolcs-Szatmár area and in the southwest part of Transdanubia, near the border with Croatia.

The characteristics of the Hungarian folk music : romantic, sensual, sentimental, playful, impulsive, letargic and transitional between occidental and oriental music.


Márta Sebestyén (born August 19, 1957, Budapest) is a Hungarian folk vocalist.
Sebestyén was educated at Miklós Radnóti Grammar School, Budapest. She has sung regularly and recorded with the Hungarian folk group Muzsikás. She is known for adaptations of Somogy (South-West Hungarian county) and Erdély (Transylvania - former Hungarian territory in Romania) folk songs, some of which appear in Deep Forest's Boheme album, which received the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 1996. She has also adapted Hindi, Yiddish, Bulgarian, Slovak etc. folk songs to traditional Hungarian style.
Sebestyén sang in the movie "The English Patient" (Szerelem, szerelem). Three songs recorded together with Muzsikás appeared in the Japanese animated movie "Only Yesterday". She also sang in and contributed material to the album Kaddish by Towering Inferno (Richard Wolfson and Andy Saunders, 1993).

The album Kismet

Márta Sebestyén's album, Kismet, strays slightly from her usual form of music -- Hungarian folk -- as she begins to explore the realm of Celtic music.
I was first drawn to Sebestyén's music by her singing of "Szerelem" in the beginning of the movie The English Patient. The song is haunting and her voice is alluring. I couldn't get "Szerelem" out of my head, so I knew I had to explore her music further. This was my first attempt at listening to Hungarian music. I was not disappointed at all.
Most of the songs on Kismet are Hungarian folk; however, two of the songs are of Irish origin. The two Irish songs are "Leaving Derry Quay/Eleni" and "The Shores of Loch Brann/Hazafelé." I had heard Afro-Celtic music and Celtic music with a Middle Eastern influence to it, but I had never been exposed to the influence of Hungarian music on Celtic. Sebestyén's take on "Leaving Derry Quay/Eleni" is very unique. She sings in English with a thick Hungarian accent and the vocals are accompanied by non-Celtic instruments. Some have said that a good traditional musician is one that can make the oldest and most reproduced song sound completely new to the listener. Sebestyén's has certainly accomplished that task.
Kismet opens up with the energetic "Devoiko Mome." This song begins with a guitar, and is shortly followed by vocals. Sebestyén's vocals are very raw and distinct. There is a beautiful, alluring quality to her voice that makes her music enchanting. "If I Were A Rose (Ha En Rozsa Volnék)" and "Leaving Derry Quay/Eleni" are the only other songs on Kismet that are similar in energy to "Devoiko Mome."
"Sino Moi" also opens with guitar, but is much slower in pace. Though this song is not sung in English, the music's somber tone speaks for itself. "Imam Sluzhba (The Conscript)" is similar in tone to "Sino Moi."
I am not an expert when it comes to Hungarian music. I wasn't able to point out all the instruments featured in the individual songs. The musicians featured on Kismet are Zoltan Lantos (violin), Kornel Horvath (percussion), Péter Eri (mandola), András Berecz (additional vocals on "If I Were A Rose"), and Nikola Parov * (guitar, koboz, flute, tambourine, keyboards, bouzouki, kaval, gadulka, clarinet, tambura, gardon, whistles, bass, drum and sequencer programming).
Purchasing Kismet was one of the smartest choices I've made. The music stands apart from the rest of my collection, and has opened me up to a new genre of wonderful music. I strongly recommend the music of Márta Sebestyén to anyone that loves music.

* I know Nikola Parov personally who was the leader of that Balkan music group, called Zsaràtnok who played live music for the dance group where i danced also for a short while. The album called Holdudvar (Moon Yard) from Zsaràtnok is one of my favourit with a mixture of jazz, classic music and folk. Nikola Parov's official website :

The English Patient

For the new generation Màrta is know by the film The English Patient where she sings a romantic Hungarian song, its title is Love, Love. I translated it here below :

Love, love damned misery
Why didn't you flourish
On the top of every tree?
On the top of every tree,

On leaf of nut-tree
That every girl and boy
Should rip off thee

Because I also riped

And even missed
I also riped
And still missed

But I would rip again
If I have found a good one
In case of a good one, a nice one,
My old love

And for my old lover

What wouldnt I do?
Water from the sea
I would spoon

And from the bottom of the sea

Little pearls I would collect
And for my old lover
I would knot a pearl wreath

With Deep Forest

Marta worked several times with the French Deep Forest groupe, their most known music is Marta's Song :


Her personality is very sympathetic, she will remain always popular and lovely !

Màrta Sebestyén official website :

Sources :

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