news letter

Weekly newsletter

Ethnographer and Folklorist Zoltán Kallós, Artist of the Nation, Has Died at Age 92

By Fanni Kaszás // 2018.02.15.

Zoltán Kallós, one of the most prominent and successful Hungarian folklorist of the 20th century, passed away on February 14th in Válaszút (Răscruci), the same place where he was born in 1926, 92 years ago.

Kallós lived and worked in Kolozsvár (Cluj Napoca) and Válaszút. He started his career as a teacher in Kolozsvár, then he studied music at the Conservatory in Kolozsvár, and collected songs, dances and stories from rural areas of Transylvania and Moldavia. Over the decades, he compiled a collection of not just the physical evidence of the rich culture of these regions, but also songs, poems, dances, customs and folklore from the various cultures residing there, including Hungarian, Romanian, Roma and Jewish folk music, sometimes mixed. He continued these efforts in spite of the difficult surrounding political circumstances under the Ceaușescu regime, when he even spent time in prison.

photo: Zoltán Kallós Foundation

In 1992, Kallós established the Zoltán Kallós Foundation, which also operates a boarding-school at Válaszút, where ethnic Hungarian children can learn in their native language. He was instrumental in the development of the Táncház movement, which was established to revive and teach Hungarian dance traditions to Hungarian communities in several European countries. In 2011, UNESCO listed the movement in its ‘List of Intangible Heritage of Urgent Safeguarding’.

photo: Zoltán kallós Foundation

In 2017, Zoltán Kallós received the Kossuth Prize, as well as the prestigious Europa Nostra Prize for his work as an ethnographer and collector of folk music and cultural heritage. He was Hungary’s ‘Artist of the Nation’, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and was awarded with the Corvin Chain, Hungary’s second-highest honor.

According to the jury of the Europa Nostra Prize:

Mr. Zoltán Kallós has dedicated his life to the preservation of the culture of diverse groups in the Carpathian basin and has been utterly committed to its transmission across the world. Mr. Kallós has done so even in times of profound adversity. His courageous work is most deserving of this Award.

You can view a video of Kallós’ life, created on the occasion of his reception of the Europa Nostra Prize, below:

His publication, Book of Ballads, in which he compiled 259 ballads and magical retellings of eight others,  is one of the richest Hungarian ballad collection and has had four editions between 1971 and 1977. His collection of 14,000 songs are preserved at the Ethnographic Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Hungarian Heritage House of Budapest and at the Zoltán Kallós Museum and Foundation.

In 2016, a Gala concert was held at the Hungarian Opera in Kolozsvár to mark his 90th birthday, where he was surprised with his favourite song, Fordulj kedves lovam:

On that anniversary, Prime Minister Orbán also praised the musicologist, saying that Kallós

for many decades has been travelling tirelessly, from village to village, from one soul to the next, in order to rescue, preserve and pass on the treasures of Hungarian culture.

According to the Zoltán Kallós Foundation, his funeral will be held on Saturday, 17 February at the Hajongard cemetery in Kolozsvár.


featured photo: Zoltán Kallós Foundation