My month-long trip ended in Budapest. It was the perfect city to conclude such a reflective trip, for many reasons. Firstly I was joined by my key besty Berto who is currently building a boutique hotel in the south of Spain. His uplifting spirit was all I could hope for as I bounced ideas off of him and he quelled any innocuous apprehension I had about the upcoming year. Secondly, the day I landed in Budapest, Jan 20th, was the first day of the aquarius zodiac sign, which put me in a very positive mood. I am incredibly inspired by the many aquarian women in my life, and on that day I wrote a piece for them that I performed two days later at Budapest’s Brody House. Finally, Budapest is an incredibly tranquil and calm city. Because I couldn’t feel the immediacy of the stories in the making around me, I had the physical space to be more reflective and thoughtful about past, present and future. I wasn’t over-stimulated by my surroundings, allowing my mind to think meaningfully about what I had learned this month and how I wanted my second semester at Harvard to be even more purposeful.
Our days represented my ideal lifestyle. Berto and I would find amazing coffee shops in the morning near our apartment on Kiraly Utca, get work done on our laptops from around 8am-noon, spend the afternoon exploring and meeting people, and then spend the evenings going out to live music at one of the ruin pubs or playing live music at the place we were staying called Brody House.
My experience at Brody House was what made my trip to Budapest especially powerful. Brody House was a concept created by a couple of young intellectuals who wanted a space for several experiences to co-exist: creative exchange, performance, art, music, good food/drink and living. There was an old house that was divided into apartments during Hungary’s communist era, and slowly they worked to buy the apartments back and convert it into a house again. When speaking to one of the owners, William Clothier, I learned something very interesting. He talked about how the “distressed” look of old buildings is really trendy these days. In analyzing this, he concluded that because Europe has hit an economic wall, the continent has become reflective about its history and its abilities as a world leader. This has fueled a nostalgia in the younger generations to look to the past for answers in a time when present circumstances are not as prosperous as older generations seem to have experienced. I found this explanation most fascinating. I always felt this about LA – there are so many old buildings and such a commitment to paying tribute to old musics and style of dress. And I’m not talking about a hipster thing. This is a little deeper – this is deliberate recreation of old environments in an attempt to search for meaning of present self. Where do I come from, what are my roots, how do channel this identity into success and independence. Today things aren’t working. What did we used to do?
I was looking for a place to stay and a friend recommended I contact Brody House. They were so welcoming there. Not only did they put me and Berto up during our time in Budapest, they also invited me to play a show on Wednesday Jan 22nd. I was thrilled. I had no idea what I was going to play or who with, but I seized the opportunity. I reached out to friends of friends and friends of Brody House and assembled a trio of myself on drums, Balint Petz on guitar and the illustrious Rozs Tomaz on cello and vocals. Our rehearsal was explosive. It was so unexpectedly big.
When Rozs walked into the room with his cello I was so surprised because I wasn’t expecting an elderly, incredibly dapper, gentleman. I was expecting a bro-y dude!!! His grace, passion and kindness broke through our language barrier. The three of us connected musically and we put together a setlist with ease that consisted of each other’s original pieces, some covers and a couple of concept jams we wrote that day. What struck me about the two of them was how boundrilessly they interacted with me. They didn’t see divides such as woman/man, American/Hungarian, young/old. They just really didn’t. You can tell when someone is othering you, and you can tell when someone is treating you with no preconceptions, allowing you to create history and meaning starting from that moment only. In doing that, they liberated my playing. I didn’t feel scared or intimidated. I felt like my music was welcome, they were grateful for what I had to play, and I grateful for their openmindness and genuine happiness to be there. This interaction was a 180 to how I felt working in my HBS group at times. Balint and Rozs didn’t feel the need to ask me a million questions to try to get my story or figure me out. In fact they hardly knew anything about me. They just let our history begin together in that moment, forming their own conclusions only based on what they experienced. What a blessing this was.
Brody House Set List 1
1. Culture Day – catch 22 blues (Start on bongos and stir the soup) play fingers switch to brushes, put bongos on snare)
2. Take 5
3. Herbie Hankok – Cantaloupe
4. [Drum solo] Into Blues
5. Samba (eat – pause – yourfood) is the baseline
7. Hungarian asymmetric metric folk song on bongos
8. Imagine (trip hop teardrop version)
9. Brazilian Bossa nova – desafinado
Many people came out to our experimental jazz slash Hungarian folk set that night. When Rozs played, he would emit this wild Hungarian vocal quality that sounded like a digeridoo. He would sing into his cello so it would echo while he struck the chords with his bow. Balint and I would pay close attention. We gave each other space though, each musician taking leadership at different times. It felt like we had been playing together for years.
- Gellert Baths (Buda side)
- Budapest Castle (Buda side)
- Central Hall Market – pickled things, honey, paprika, chocolate!
- Sirius Tea House – tunnels, crevices, ladders!
- Zsivago – HOT CHOCOLATE
- Goa Coffee
- Mozaik Teahauz
- Gerbaud – MORE HOT CHOCOLATE
- Koleves Restaurant: Beetroot Soup, Goulash soup
- Opera House
- The Parliament
- General crevice culture in Budapest in the tea houses and kerts