THERE ARE NAMES AND TITLES that I have a hard time memorizing, probably because I associate them with something else. Such was the title of Djabe’s 2012 album, Down And Up, I wrote and said “Down and Out” several times in the early stages of writing this book (I even got shunned by Atti). My only excuse is my bluesy upbringing, as this the term is well known in these circles (Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out, sung by Bessie Smith).
But in the end, luckily, Down And Upalso sticked with me. Our great teachers said, we cannot know light without the darkness. And also that the road only leads upwards from the deepest point. Although Djabe achieved fantastic success on the concert stage between 2008 and 2011, and they did not reach a low point even after the loss of András Sipos, but it still took time to get out of a kind of creative crisis, which was undoubtedly caused by the absence of Sipi. That’s why the title Down And Upis apt, just as it was obviously a conscious choice that the live debut of the new album took place on November 30, 2012, Andrew’s Day, at IBS.
Although the band looks upwards from the bottom of the cover, after the gripping trumpet intro of the title piece, it reaches the desired height fairly quickly, and the piece takes off with the dignified strokes of a stork. However, Öcsi, Ko (with tango accordion-sounding keys) and the now indispensable Steve take care of the diversity of the above sight.(When I was writing this part and the music was playing, my partner was sitting next to me, crocheting, and her hand was following the rhythm of Down And Up. Or did I just see it that way?)
Take A Deep Breath is anything but a yoga practice, more of a cheerful, funky set free in which Ko produces some sort of 70s Return To Forever solo and makes room for John Nugent’s tenor saxophone. You can associate the melodic dawn mood of Awakening City with everyone’s liking, but I would argue that if we woke up in an atmosphere like this, maybe there wouldn’t be so many nervous, stressful people. Yet sometimes you need nothing more than a little intimacy, a little attention to each other. This is what Attila’s acoustic guitar and the flute of another guest, Gábor Veress, say.
“Only choreographed dancing could be done for this song, because the rhythm section enhances the parade of even and odd beats even by the end,” wrote Károly Libisch about No Chance For Dance, in which Tomi further complicates the tempo, while Attila temporarily calms it down.
Children make a grateful theme not only in cinema, but also in music: Almi & Kitti is for Tomi’s twin girls, full of pure romance and serious playfulness. Let’s not be afraid, because when we think its going to turn into some sweet pop, they’re always stir it up with something unexpected.I Remember, on the other hand, is already a loose ethno-jazz-rock mix in which Ko gives birth to his synth solo from Malik Mansurov’s tar notes so the whole thing starts off and Feri’s trumpet chases Steve’s guitar. Dark Soup has since become a permanent repertoire piece. No wonder, as an Anglo-Saxon rock voice enters Balkan and Central Asian folk music motifs in the first minute. Nothing follows in this piece as much as in I Remember, Tomi leads Feri’s Hungarian insert starting with a “nimble-legged woman” with dreamy bass (after all, it’s a “feeding”…), while in the end Szilu “straightens” the rhythms…
Five Months Later is the most serene piece on the album, conducted by Attila and Feri, although we do hear a few accelerated voices wrapping around it like snakes. Hills of The Valley is once again accompanied by a great ethno meeting, Malik, Kálmán Balogh’s dulcimer, Péter Bede’s flute, while Öcsi’s multi-source violin reacts to Atti’s guitar.
This is how the world village was realized in the Hills of the valley.
In 2009, Steve’s Out of The Tunnel’s Mouth featured the song Last Train To Istambul, inspired by Djabe and featuring Feri. They have been playing at joint concerts ever since. There was another angling on the bonus CD of the same disc. Three years later, the time came for Tamás Barabás to present a “Hackett song”: Steve’s wife, Jo Hackett, wrote a lyrics titled Tears For Peace, which gave rise not only to the closing song of Down And Up, but also to a clip shot in Budapest, in December 2012. One of the protagonists of the black-and-white short film is a tank commandeered by Steve, who, after searching for the Djabe boys in megaphone in Hungarian (!), Picks them up and rolls through our capital. Steve does solo vocals while Judit Herczeg and the Hungarian musicians do vocals. At the end of the clip is a caption, a quote from Steve, “I believe anyone who starts a war is an idiot.”
Listen to the creators and actors about the birth of the song and the clip. These confessions were made during the studio conversations mentioned in my Djabe diary.
Tomi: “The theme, the song, was completely different from what I originally thought. We were in Malaysia around Christmas. The environment was completely foreign to us, and in that mood I started writing several songs, most of which were released on Down And Up a few years later. Among them was this, it seemed a bit popy basically, it stayed in a drawer long enough, I wouldn’t have thought it would get on a Djabe record once.It was a working title, Tears for Peace, it came to mind about the band Tears For Fears, a melody reminiscent of the 80s. Later, I deliberately did the arrangement according to the fashion of this age. Since we thought this should be sung, we showed it to Steve. He and his wife, Jo, liked it so much that it immediately inspired them, but they insisted on the title. I didn’t think it could be a kind of a peace song, but I let things go their way. Then, if it is about war, Attila’s tank idea came… ”
“If we put the damn cold aside, the feeling of touching a tank in minus degrees, it was very enjoyable to shoot. We didn’t know what was going to come out of us sitting on a tank and walking around the city, how they would react to it, if people would remember 1956, or the war… ”
“My bass guitar was all the way inside with the case in the tank. I thought I would be in danger of standing among the sharp irons if I pulled out any instrument; or even by a sudden braking…”
Feri: “I was in the Operett Army. I was called in after college, before I joined a symphony orchestra, and after my request was not released, I did five months of labor service with all sorts of prison inmate-types. Great atmosphere. I built a part of the housing estate in Békásmegyer, cleaned guns, took part in shooting competitions. Then I got my pass and played in the army for two years, four months.”
“It was trying to sit on a freezing tank all day, but we had a lot of fun. Steve also did it with great love and self-sacrifice. We had many such experiences with him. In Slovenia we even called him to play football once again, we kicked his hit goal with him… I was the one who took a real instrument in his hand, a metal on another big hunk of metal. Every time I picked it up, it froze on my lips, so I tried to warm it up. But that’s nothing compared to when you have to play live outdoors, like New Year’s Eve. In the cold, the metal instruments go down and the woods go up, till total unplayability. You may need to choose another tone. Fortunately, the music was already recorded for the clip.”
“A lot of people were walking down the street and everyone was taking photos, shouting at us. It was as if someone had said we would start again in March. When a tank was stolen in Budapest in 2006, it was driven by an ex-soldier and to this day it is not clear if it was a pre-planned action… in our case, everyone understood that there was shooting because the tank was being transported on a large truck.”
“People are so overwhelmed with all sorts of influences that I don’t know how to get such a message of peace to them. It was a very interesting series of pictures for me that when in Eastern Ukraine the mothers, whose sons were killed, when the murderous soldiers were caught were not concocted up, but they almost hugged and said: go back and tell your superiors that don’t shoot because you could be our sons… our clip is not far from that either.Or think of the weight of ’56 in the hearts and whether we are prepared for a war situation in our time. How can one come under a command in a military obligation? We’d rather hug the ones we still have… There are laws that can evoke and confuse the environment. If people could see their own desires and opportunities better, they would not run into situations that would force them to sacrifice themselves.”
Ko: “It felt good to do keyboard in a tank, I was a little afraid of the weather, the cold tank, but somehow we still warmed up. It became damp, rainy on the day of the shoot, poor Steve had a hard time, but there was nothing seriously wrong. Anyway, it became an experience of a lifetime, we had a lot of fun, this atmosphere stayed with me the most. We were an exciting phenomenon in the city that many people noticed. I didn’t notice that anyone was scared of us driving a tank on Andrássy Avenue.”
“As a kid, we lived near the Russian barracks, sometimes we even climbed in and then ran. However, this was the first time in a tank.”
Attila: “Earlier songs of Djabe were usually world music-like vocals, or some kind of African motif by Sipi, such was the song Djabe, later clips were more about concerts. Tamás wrote this song, Steve’s wife, Jo, wrote the lyrics that Steve changed here and there as he sang. I thought the song was pleasant, quite popular in nature, though it didn’t follow today’s fashions, and that’s why I wanted a clip to be born for it. The band members all agreed. It also brought some viewers, although it could not be expected that the music channels would keep it on the air all the time, but because of Steve, it was also taken over in many places abroad.”
“I’m a big fan of filming, I also make shots myself with super 8 technique. But here that would not have been enough. My cameraman and friend Iván Vermes and I started discussing what technique we could involve that could even be paid for. We chose 16mm because its graininess fits well with this mood, the effect is more cinematic. Unfortunately, this technology is really out of fashion. The raw material we were shooting for was found partly in Kodak’s warehouse, with an expired warranty, and partly sourced from America. In addition, Iván Vermes is a film cinematographer who had the knowledge and commitment to this work. They tried to convince me, “that it’s going to be good with a video and then we’ll blacken it out,” but whoever watches this clip feels like it has an unadulterated cinematic vibe.”
“We had to find venues that fit this peaceful thing when we listened to Jo’s text, its content was clear. Although these thoughts about Hungary are perhaps a little more general than what we Hungarians, after 1956, feel, because since it was an international production, we tried to illustrate it a little ironically, with the means described. That’s why we chose the tank as a symbol that expresses the absurdity of the world, then we got on it and sang.And on the street, people came, laughed, climbed on the tank, took photos. This is all the good that can happen with a war machine. Some Japanese came, hugged us – that’s what we need to tell the world, to live in peace, side by side. Organizing the tank was really not easy, but we typed www.tankberles.hu into the search engine, and there really was such a page. But the logistics to get to the foot of the VIII. district to be able to shoot on Bronze Sunday, downtown, when the streets are full, it took some serious organizing work. Securing permits, schedules, venues… the camera rental, we had to condense the shooting for two days because of the professionals, and Steve only had that much time. We solved what I could at home, I worked closely with the cinematographer-director, organized, and even starred. Plus, the previous day, November 30, was the album debut for Down And Up, and the next morning we were already shooting. By the time we were performing, the police had already emptied the street at the old Ganz factory. But everyone threw themselves into it with great enthusiasm, so we easily overcame these difficulties. We have only been stopped by police once at Heroes’ Square…”
“The post-production was basically done with a computer. This had to be merged with the music into a complete video stream, which then had to be polished. I cut the material myself. We made the mistake of not using a clapperboard, and since we were shooting without sound, with multiple stops, everything had to be put together and figured out by mouth and hand movements. Ivan finally gave up on this job, at which point I took over and synced for two days. When a huge big matrix came together, I chose what to put in the clip. Then Ivan joined in and we made the final version. The Super 8 had a role in the recordings made on the Columbus ship, where we projected previous films from the Netherlands, and Mongolia, onto ourselves, and they made a special impact.”
“When we turned around on Deák Square with the trailer with the tank on, well, it was a nice stunt. We redrawed the traffic map of Budapest a bit. When it was announced in the Road Information that a road would be closed due to filming, it was a good feeling to know that these are us. It was a success that we were able to put the tank down on the cobblestone. What is also memorable is the cold and the rain. Szilu refused to take out his drums because they would have been ruined for sure, and I didn’t take out my electric guitar either, so I did acoustic guitar. We cut keyboards, making the orchestral packaging smaller than planned. It was suprisingly hard for Steve to climb on the tank, and had to be pushed from the bottom, pulled from the top, put on and he stayed in place till the end. When we stopped to warm up, we wrapped him in blankets and gave him a pálinka; he never drinks, but when we offered him tea, he said that now only a pálinka would help…”
Szilu: “I served in the military as a civil servant, teaching in college. Those years were very important to me in terms of building myself, I by no means wanted to miss them. I will never forget the tank scene. Even since I go on Andrássy Avenue or Heroes’ Square, I often remember that we occupied this area at the time. It was very cold and we worked all day. Anyone who watches the clip doesn’t think about how hard work this is. At the same time, it was a great experience, not only the tank, but the recording on the Columbus ship, with the projections, it had a very amazing effect.”
“I can identify with the thoughts of the song to the maximum, but I have no feedback from viewers on how much the fears of war can be felt.”
“People always like to get involved in a filming. We were also filmed and photographed. I didn’t feel like anyone was scared, and the tank didn’t even moved on on its own track.”
And finally, Steve, with whom Attila talked about his experiences: “I really liked the melody, my hardest thing was the accents. The melody was different from the usual phrasing, it was more jazzy. The vocals were as if a brass band had spoken. I tried singing in different octaves, eventually singing in a high position compared to myself. The message of the song is also good, both locally and globally. There are places where certain Nazi tendencies have resurrected and nationalism is gaining strength. In many places you can travel in Europe without a passport, in other places many look at a stranger with a slanted eye. It would be good if no one was afraid of anyone.Jo, who wrote the text for Tears For Peace, has been very attached to peace all her life. She had to write for the music, that led her. It was only hard for the first time until the music went into her head. People need to understand each other, the impact of war on individuals. For the first time in my life, I sat on a tank. The filming went well organized, it didn’t bother the people who saw it, but rather wanted to take part in it. Of course, it is important that people understand the message of the tank and the text. There was a song by Genesis at the time called The Knife, and people thought we were in favor of militarism.I am a on the side of peace. My generation was very lucky because it was the first to escape the war. My first Hungarian contact was Péter Pallai, a teacher. There were almost only English teachers in my school, my class teacher was a prisoner of war in Japan. The guitar was a symbol of freedom for us too. Musicians are by nature ambassadors of peace by building relationships between different people and cultures. The trouble is, if the speakers are extremists. I also borrow from everywhere, as Djabe does. If Djabe were an English or American band, it would be labeled “progressive” or “crossover”.
If we went back to the village-life approach, the world would be much less of a place.”
Down And Up doesn’t end here, of course, as it’s an enhanced CD once again. We can see a live recording from a Vienna show, Dark Soup and hear a version of Steve Camino Royale supplemented with Djabe that is in a different version and made it to Hackett’s Genesis Revisited II. also. The song was originally the opening track for Steve’s 1982 album Highly Strung, after which he created his own independent record label, Camino Records. It was the opening track of his album. This version was orchestrated by Tomi based on Steve’s narrations and requests, which were based on a 1975 dream in New Orleans. Touring with Genesis at the time, the album Lamb Lies Down On Broadway was unveiled in America. The jazzy tone is no accident…
“Above all, Down And Up is a record with a very fresh vibe, another milestone in Djabe’s successful career. In 5.1 it sounds extremely good, so for those who indulge in this, as well as the imaginative, flirty jazz, prog-rock, complex light and extremely unique musical experience, this is a piece to be on the record shelf, ”JazzMa wrote.
“Listening to the album, we can take part in the fresh, diverse musical journey we are used to from Djabe, and this time the band will show their new faces again. 10 new issues, moods from the experience of recent years – below and above. Tamás Barabás’ bass guitar playing is recognized and loved all over the world. On the Down And Up album, he now plays almost every instrument from which we can highlight his excellent guitar playing. Surely few know that he originally began his career as a solo guitarist. In the last few years, Szilárd Banai has grown into one of the highest-rated drummers, as evidenced by his international accolades. Its unique rhythmic and musical solutions give the compositions an enjoyable color.
Attila Égerházi’s guitar texture has been an essential feature of Djabe’s sound since the beginning. On this album, the tracks Awakening City and Hills Of The Valley represent this world. Ferenc Kovács brings his usual music on trumpet and violin. Of particular note is his interesting lyrics to the song Dark Soup, which he performs in his characterful singing style.
Over the years, Zoltán Kovács’ piano and keyboard playing has become an increasingly important element of Djabe’s music, which convinces us of this release as well, ” Rockstar.hu praised the album.
Djabe wouldn’t be Djabe if the format of this album would be a simple CD. A double LP version of the album was soon released, featuring three sides of original music, and the fourth page features a concert recording of Camino Royale as well as Firth of Fifth and Dark Soup. There was a critic who thought that the vinyl version seemed more important to the band than the CD… and in early 2013 there was already a 5.1 surround sound dvd audio / video version.