The TATROS ensemble, Budapest

The Tatros Band was founded in 1988 in Budapest. The members of the band collect and learn the archaic traditions - first of all instrumental and vocal music, dance and customs - at the original spot. The name Tatros comes from the river Tatros, which springs at the mountain pass of Gyimes in the Eastern Carpathians, now in Rumania. The historian Mikecs László, quoting German historian Gustav Weigand writes about river names: ‘For the research of the onetime population of a territory a most important source represent the rivernames, which are more constant than the names of the villages and therefore may indicate a more distant past.

So I have regarded as an aim to investigate the origin of all the rivernames of the Rumanian language territory and to draw conclusions [... one of them was that] the territories investigated had rivernames of Turkish and Slavic origin and a mere minority of them is Rumanian. This means that these were not populated by Rumanian people before the 13th century. Weigand found 28 Hungarian rivernames among the investigated ones.’ (Mikecs László: Csángók. Budapest: Optimum 1989).

The Name Tatros can also be found on this list: Trotus=Tatáros=Tatros. The band has held dance houses on a regular basis nearly for a decade by now at the cultural centre of Marczibányi tér, Budapest. It draws many listeners and those who want to dance, including all age groups from high school students to pensioners. We also hold dance houses, concerts and playing houses with storytelling, folk games and singing for children, the disabled and blind people to preserve and pass on the tradition and creativity.

The instruments mentioned, which were in use until the 1950’s, recall archaic sounds. These are: the violin, the Koboz (a special kind of lute with four or five pairs of strings, today to be found in this area only), the Furulya (wooden whistle with six holes), the Kaval (long wooden whistle with five holes), the Tilinkó (wooden whistle without holes), the gardon (percussion instrument resembling a cello) and later the drum. Nowadays these instruments are gradually replaced by modern electric ones.
Beside the regular dance houses (occasions, where traditional village music is played and dances danced in an urban setting) we organize summer camps using our own resources, where guests have the opportunity to meet musicians and dancers from Moldavia and Gyimes. A few words about the Csángó Hungarian people:

'In North-East Rumania, a group of approximately 300 000 Catholics can be separated in an Orthodox Rumanian environment. From these Catholics nearly 70-10 000 still speak their archaic Hungarian language at some degree. This old minority group, living in the Valley of three rivers (Szeret, Beszterce and Tázló) in Moldavia, Rumania, is called the Csángó people. The group of Moldavian Csángó people is not homogenous, they migrated in different historical eras to their home of today. Their first settlements can be found thirty kilometres North-East from the Gyimes valley (about this territory see later). Some of the villages are of Székely origin, they are placed around Tg.Ocna (Aknavásár in H.). These peple were economic immigrants from Transsylvania and the descendants of Székely peasants who were settled in Moldavia by Rumanian Boyars. Another populous group of them is the Southern Csángó people living near the city of Bacau (Bákó in H.), and the oldest settlements of the Northern Csángó people live 12-20 kilometres from the city of Roman. The latest constitute the most ancient group of the Csángó people. The Gyimes valley, at the North-Eastern border of Transsylvania bordering to Moldavia, was populated 250 years ago most probably by Székely people fleeing from Inner-Székelyland and by Hungarians settling back from Moldavia inside the borders of Transsylvania. They are also called Csángó people. They make their living by logging and livestock-breeding. Their special, very much closed culture represents a significant tradition.

The most widely spread theory about the origin of the name Csángó says that it derives from the Transsylvanian dialect verb ‘csángál’, meaning to ‘wander away’. It should mean that these people ‘wandered away’, they lived far from the majority of Hungarians. According to another interpretation the Hungarians living in Moldavia were border guardsmen, who, as Cuman and Tartar invaders approached, fought with great bells (cf. ‘csengo’ in modern H.) attached to the horses, which frightened the attackers away. What has been proved so far, is that the first group of Hungarians got to Moldavia around 1225, in order to serve and protect the Catholic Christian clergymen, who evangelized the pagan Cuman people lving there. Among the Northern Csángó villages there are some, where traces of the Hungarian conquerors of the 9th century can be found. The oldest Hungarian settlement, Gyula, was already destroyed by 1646 according to the Codex Bandinus. Since then, names of the villages go back to medeival origin. The tiny group was later joined by fleeing followers of John Hus and survivers of the fatal genocide of Székely peasants by Austrian military in 1764, at Madéfalva. The majority of these immigrants still lives in Moldavia, others migrated between 1940-45 to Inner-Hungarian territories (through Bácska to Tolna-Baranya: called later the Bukovina Székely people).

The language of Moldavian Csángó people preserved a state before the language reform of the 18th century. They pass on their ancient culture via oral tradition due to the lack of schools and churches in their Hungarian mother tongue. This means a constant assimilation into the rather intolerant Orthodox Rumanian environment and an isolation from other Hungarian speaking groups in Rumania. The Csángó customs still bear medeival character. Their musical and dance tradition constitutes a most valuable part of Hungarian cultural heritage.’
(written by: Gergely Csoma )

A few occasions abroad where Tatros has given a concert:

Finland: Happavesi, Finno-Ugrian Folk Festival
Turkey: Artvin Kafkasöv, Folk Festival
Italy: Udine, Folk and Puppet Festival Velence
Chech Republic: Praha, Mediawave Festival
Denmark: Ballerup, Folk Festival
Sweden: Concert tour
Germany: Leipzig Music and Dance Festival
France: Paris, Hungarian year
Netherlands: Utrec, Hungarian year
Poland: Wraclaw, Hungarian year; Szczecin
Romania: Moldavia, Csángó-Festival

In spite of all these, we are proudest of the many invitations we got to play at wedding parties in Moldavia. So far, we have published two casettes and a CD and appeared on various other CDs and have played with rock, blues, jazz formations. With the help of the band, edited by Kerényi Róbert, several casettes were published, on which musicians from Moldavia and Gyimes, our friends and masters appear.

We would like to express our special thanks to the onetime members of the band, our masters and friends, the enthusiastic and raving audience.