Mónika Lakatos loudly speaks out for Gypsies in Hungary

Rewarded at the end of October with a prestigious international prize, this Roma artist stands out for her unusual career for a woman in Gypsy music. The Hungarian reference magazine HVG met her.

Coming from the oláh minority, a community from Romania in XIXe century and settled around the village of Nagyecsed, in northeastern Hungary, Mónika Lakatos mentions in the pages of the last issue of the weekly HVG its deep style, which differs from more festive Gypsy standards. “Exploring the depths of the mind is an important part of Gypsy existence. I defend and transmit an intimate repertoire that our community tends to forget ”, explains this artist, who was rewarded at the end of October by the Womex prize, in the world music category.

The first Roma artist to be distinguished by this prestigious award, Mónika Lakatos succeeds renowned musicians such as the Senegalese Cheikh Lô or the star of fado Mariza on the list.

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Prejudices still present

Self-taught, the forty-something singer has established herself on the Hungarian music scene at the same time as her husband, the famous Gypsy musician Mihály Mazsi Rostás. An unusual setup in a traditionally conservative and patriarchal environment. “Husbands and wives cannot say words of love to each other or sit together in front of others, even when they are entertaining at home. In our community, it is unusual for a woman to take charge and sing in groups ”, tells the magazine the interpreter, who evolves within three different musical groups.

In addition to the violin, essential in the Gypsy oláh tradition, and the guitar, Mónika Lakatos and her musicians decorate the sung tremolos with rhythms formed using household utensils such as wooden spoons and aluminum pots. Claiming his Magyar Gypsy identity, Lakatos endures the ever-living weight of prejudices. “I meet people every day who comment on my complexion or look at me askance. The saddest thing is when old people tell me to go back to India [en référence à la lointaine origine des Roms]”, she laments.

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Launched ten years before the fall of the Wall by reformers open to liberalism, Heti Világgazdaság (“Weekly World Economy”) is today the benchmark Magyar weekly. Sometimes a fan of punching blankets


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