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AntiSzerda: Bringing Spontaneity to Folk Music

Gábor Sarnyai 2018.07.31.

AntiSzerda utilizes a host of diverse instruments to construct their unique sound– the viola, harmonica, piano, bass guitar, pipe organ, banjo and zither being just a few. Their style changes often as the duo believes music shouldn’t be strict, but rather fluid and subject to emotion.

AntiSzerda is a world music duo from Vojvodina, created by Antal Brasnyó and Árpád Szerda. Having both been involved in the Hungarian folk music scene, the two musicians have known each other for decades. Brasnyó is a seasoned viola player and has contributed to many folklore projects in the past. Also well acquainted with folk history, Szerda dances.

AntiSzerda was officially created this year, but the musicians first crossed paths at a Hungarian dance event held in Becse, a town in Vojvodina. Brasnyó was practicing at a church in the village when he suddenly had the idea to ask Szerda to accompany him on the church’s pipe organ – a hint at the spontaneity which would come to color their music.

The duo explained that no other folk band is currently experimenting with the viola and organ and that their use of the two instruments makes AntiSzerda unique. They researched extensively but found no instruction on how to utilize the pipe organ in folk music and rhymes.

As the pipe organ isn’t exactly a practical instrument to take to a festival, Brasnyó and Szerda bring an electric piano in its place. They currently have plans to tour around Vojvodina, playing in local churches.

According to the original line up, Brasnyó plays the viola – it comes naturally to him– but Szerda makes it clear that the roles of the band members aren’t set in stone; if he or Brasnyó wish to switch instruments, they can do so without any argument from the other.

It’s difficult to define AntiSzerda’s style, and maybe that’s for the best as the duo prefers not to be labeled and confined to a box. They come from a folk environment, therefore their roots are in folk music, but this doesn’t stop them from adding their own special spin to the genre. As Brasnyó puts it, “The essence of folk music is that it’s created by ordinary people and anyone can find something relatable in it, making it their own.”

Brasnyó has fond childhood memories of his mother kneading dough at the kitchen table while he sits beside her, playing. He particularly remembers his mom commenting on a change in his style, “A few years passed and my mother said ‘okay my son, when you first started playing you played entire songs, and now you’re just making nonsense.’ This is when I first started to improvise. Sometimes I don’t even know where I am; I just concentrate on the instrument and the creation.”

Szerda shared that they already have eight songs, with three more in the making. He describes them as short, tight and impressive works, designed for a music competition. However, in concert they don’t play just these songs; sometimes they change their whole repertoire and even introduce new instruments to already existing themes.

AntiSzerda had a busy summer spent performing at the Exit festival in Novi Sad, Fishing on Orfű, and WOMEX–an international world music support and development project based in Berlin.