|NPR's Metro Connection Features "The Diplomats"|
"The Diplomats" were originally formed exclusively with musicians from the Embassy of Hungary. It now also includes others, including Bryan Dawson, AHF's Executive Chairman, who sings for the group. The Diplomats perform American and Hungarian rock songs. The radio personality came to interview the group during a rehearsal at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, DC, as they were preparing for a concert at the 6th Annual Hungarian Festival in Sarasota, FL. In this segment, the band members shared their experiences with communism and the suppression of creative freedom.
The peoples of the captive nations had to find unique ways to express their discontent while staying under the radar of communist authorities to avoid sometimes harsh punishment. One of the songs the Diplomats perform is by a Hungarian group formed in 1982 called Bikini. Akos Veisz, the band's saxophonist and bass player explained, "The Hungarian title is "Adj helyet magad mellett," which is, like, "Give Me a Place Right Next To You." So they were trying to write songs, which had thesedouble meanings.So this one is about love, one meaning, the other is the love for freedom." Akos is also a diplomat at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington. [Visit NPR and Listen to the Radio Program]TRANSCRIPT (Courtesy of NPR / WAMU and Rebecca Sheir, producer and host of "Metro Connection.")
'The Diplomats' Pursue Rock-And-Roll Outreach
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and today we're talking Diplomacy. So far in the show we've covered international diplomacy, political diplomacy and in just a few minutes, we'll engage in a bit of plant diplomacy. Yes, plant diplomacy. But first, we'll meet some folks who are immersed in what I guess you could call musical diplomacy.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We're in Northwest Washington at the Embassy of Hungary, where a four-member band is rehearsing for an upcoming gig.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR 00:00:51
The band is called The Diplomats and initially it consisted solely of Hungarian embassy staffers.
MR. AKOS VEISZ 00:00:56
But that's the nature of diplomacy, it's about change. People come and go and most of the band members left and are now back in Hungary.
Except for this guy.
I'm Akos Veisz and I'm a diplomat at the Hungarian Embassy dealing with political and economic issues.
Veisz started The Diplomats last year when the long-time saxophonist came to the U.S. and realized so many of his new colleagues dabbled in music too.
We had a drum, we had a guitar player, we had a piano player, we had singers, but no bass player so I've decided to learn the bass.
Nowadays, not all members of The Diplomats work in the Hungarian Embassy, but they do have diplomatic and/or Hungarian ties. First up, on vocals Bryan Dawson.
MR. BRYAN DAWSON 00:01:43
I'm executive chairman of the American-Hungarian Federation.
And on guitar, David Rakviashvili.
MR. DAVID RAKVIASHVILI 00:01:52
My name is very complicated to pronounce, a family name, Rakviashvili. I'm diplomat the Embassy of Georgia.
And on drums, The Diplomats newest member...
MR. RINGO JANCSI 00:02:02
Ringo Ashkosh (sp?)
Did we just make this name?
Given name, given diplomatic name. It's a rock name.
Try again, all right. Ringo Jancsi.
Ringo Jancsi (Reengo Yunchie), as he requested we call him, as only been with The Diplomats a couple of weeks. The Diplomats just lost a drummer, at the Hungarian embassy and with less than a month before their first gig outside Washington, a Hungarian Festival in Sarasota, Fla., Veisz says they scrambled to find a replacement.
We had Craig's List, we had the same emails that we have sent when we found our singers and that's how we found Ringo Jancsi, his Hungarian name.
Okay, so Ringo Jancsi may not have actual Hungarian roots, but he says he loves rehearsing here at the embassy.
Even, like, the ambassador came by. I mean, the ambassador’s working and we’re bashing away, playing rock and roll covers.
We have a cool ambassador, Ambassador Gyorgy Szapáry. He's going to be there in Sarasota, Fla. with us.
So like a roadie.
Yes, the manager. Let's give him -- we'll give him a little.
The Diplomats perform American and Hungarian songs like this one by Bikini, a Hungarian band which formed in 1982 when the Communist regime was suppressing freedom of speech.
The Hungarian title is "Adj helyet magad mellett," which is, like, "Give Me a Place Right Next To You." So they were trying to write songs, which had these double meanings. So this one is about love, one meaning, the other is the love for freedom.
Singer Bryan Dawson says he's spent years trying to reconnect with his Hungarian roots and so this music means a lot to him.
My mother was very affected by all that happened. The multiple wars, the revolution, she was kicked out of school because of her family name. And so she largely wanted to forget when she came here and never really instilled anything in me. But my grandparents, whom I spent a lot of time with, from that, the love of my heritage really grew and I really tried to do what I can to give back what this country gave to me and my family.
That's why he joined up with the American Hungarian Federation, an interest group representing the Hungarian-American community. It’s also why he joined The Diplomats.
A lot of folks have seen movies about the importance of music to the folks stuck behind the Iron Curtain. David talks about how he was not allowed to listen to rock and roll and so he would practice in secret. When I was in Hungary in '89, I was amazed by all the little clubs that were popping up, the little jazz clubs and salsa clubs and young people coming in just hitting the piano. And so it's an amazing experience to sit here in freedom and play rock and roll.
Not that The Diplomats just play rock and roll. They do blues too, including a tune inspired by Bryan Dawson's father. It's called "Baby Blues."
The band hasn't recorded an album, though it hopes to eventually. It also hopes to expand its Washington venues beyond the embassy.
So you do think maybe you'll like play gigs around town?
We're looking for a manager. Rebecca? 10 percent in for you, just for you.
We are looking for an audience, guys, out there.
Yes, there is that.
And part of the reason they want an audience so badly, says Akos Veisz, is to lift that shroud of mystery that's surrounded diplomacy through the years.
There is a part which has that secrecy and intimacy. But on the other hand, you have something else as well, which is the people-to-people diplomacy or public diplomacy. To understand the civilization of two countries, you know, to have a better understanding at the end of the day. And part of this effort is the rock and roll, what we are having here with The Diplomats.
Because ideally, Veisz says, this public diplomacy will bring the world together so it can sing as the old tune, "in perfect harmony." The Diplomats will be performing in Sarasota, Fla. at the 6th Annual Hungarian Festival this weekend.
Selected Articles on Democracy Issues
8/21/2012 - AHF sends letter to Romanian Ambassador and Chairmen of the US Helsinki Commission regarding the Szekely-Miko Case: AHF is "deeply concerned that the prosecution of former state secretary Attila Marko, Silviu Vlim and Tamas Marosan in connection with the restitution to the Reformed Diocese of Transylvania of the Szekely Miko Evangelical Reformed College (“MEC”) in Sfantu-Gheorghe, Romania was not justified. It only serves to further stall, and in this instance reverse, the lawful restitution of church properties and discriminate against Romania’s Hungarian minority... [read more]
7/17/2012 - AHF releases statement, "Romania: Reversing Lawful Church Property Restitution,
Through Criminal Prosecution." AHF is deeply concerned that the prosecution of former state secretary Attila Marko, Silviu Vlim and Tamas Marosan in connection with the restitution to the Reformed Diocese of Transylvania of the Szekely Miko Evangelical Reformed College (“MEC”) is a baseless and blatant attempt by the authorities to further stall and reverse the lawful restitution of church properties seized by the communists.
2/17/2012 - AHF briefs top professional staff advisor to Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia on the eve of congressional delegation (CODEL) trip to Hungary and Slovakia. The Federation submitted a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member along with significant background materials on Hungary andSlovakia and called their attention to recent harsh and often politically motivated and unfair criticism of Hungary and the anti-Hungarian attitudes, policies and practices in Slovakia [read more]
1/24/2012 - AHF reacts to what it sees as politically motivated, unfair, unmerited, biased criticism of Hungary. "While democratic institution building should be encouraged and debated, it should be done based on facts, and in a fair, unbiased and evenhanded manner [it must be] bereft of partisanship (or even the appearance of partisanship) and undertaken solely in furtherance of promoting Western values, not political expediency."
12/02/2011 - Slovakia strips citizenship to ethnic Hungarian minorties who assert their right to dual citizenship in violation of their own Constitution. AHF submits a statement to the US Congress Helsinki Commission: "Intolerance and discrimination targeting any group based on ethnicity, nationality or religion is not acceptable... The most recent anti-Hungarian incident involves Slovakia stripping Oliver Boldoghy of his Slovak citizenship after becoming a dual citizen. This decision is not only contrary to American and European practices, it violates the Slovak constitution, which provides that “no one must be deprived of the citizenship of the Slovak Republic against his will.” [read more]
9/29/2011 - Federation again raises minority rights. In a letter to Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Federation again raises anti-Hungarian measures in Slovakia and Serbia and requests the High Commissioner's clarification of reports in the electronic media asserting that he had labeled Hungary's support for Slovakia's Hungarian minority "malicious and foolish."
9/13/2011 - Slovak President shamefully calls Janos Esterhazy, a hero of the Holocaust, a follower of Hitler. AHF continues call for rehabilitation of Janos Esterhazy, reacts to Slovak falsification of history... Esterhazy was the only member of the Slovak Parliament in 1942 who voted against expelling the Jews, setting an example which few dared to follow in the parts of Europe controlled by Adolf Hitler's Germany. He was detained by the Nazis and died in a communist prison. Officially he is still classified as a war criminal in Slovakia, as courts have rejected requests for his rehabilitation. [read more]
AHF Reacts to Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, who questioned democracy in Hungary and criticized expressions of concern for Hungarian minorities. AHF's letter expressed its steadfast conviction that judgments be "objective, fair, balanced and based on facts and not generalizations and speculation." It also urged the Helsinki Commission not to ignore the Hungarian minorities but to publicly and privately encourage Slovakia and Romania "to build tolerant societies by respecting the rights of their Hungarian and other minorities and the rule of law." [read more]
6/28/2011 -- The American Hungarian Federation Expresses Concern About Romania Ignoring Minority Rights... as Romania considers "redistricting." The statement expresses AHF's concern that more than two decades after the collapse of Communism, Romania has yet to fulfill its promises to its ethnic Hungarians. Although Romania was accepted into NATO and the EU based, in part, on these promises, the irrefutable record demonstrates that its laws and practices continue to fail to conform to European and Western standards relating to human and minority rights, but in effect aggravate inter-ethnic tension. [read more]
4/27/2010 - AHF remains concerned that authorities continue to raise barriers to divide residents of Szelmenc, the Village Cut in Two "A kettévágott falu." In 2004, AHF, working closely with member the Center for Hungarian American Congressional Relations (CHACR), worked to publicize the fate of villagers of Szelmenc, the "Village Cut in Two" / "A Kettévágott Falu." But the very same Schengen guidelines used to open the border seem to have raised new barriers. [read more]
3/25/2011 - The Hungarian American Coalition and the Common Sense Society co-sponsored a seminar entitled, "Hungary's New Constitution: Prospects for the Rule of Law & Liberty in New Europe." The Federation urges cooperation among Hungarian American organizations to facilitate an educated debate of the provisions of Hungary's draft constitution and the context of the proposed changes. AHF feels we must make every effort to correct the record and educate the public on the long history of Hungarian democracy. [read more]
3/20/2011 - AHF Supports Voting Rights for all Hungarian Citizens... In a Heti Válasz article, AHF President Frank Koszorus, who, later this week, will be representing AHF at the Hungarian Permanent (Standing) Conference Diaspora Subcommittee (MÁERT) in Budapest, expressed AHF's support for a citizen's right to vote regardless of geographic location. "Enabling Hungarian citizens to vote [is a] democratic means of uniting a divided nation without endangering anyone and a practice that is consistent with the practices of other states in Central and Eastern Europe and elsewhere. [read more]
1/11/2011 - AHF Issues its First Statement on Hungarian Media Law: "A Rush to Judgment: The Reaction to the Hungarian Media Law." It is our "unassailable and firm conviction that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and liberty." But the unprecedented rush to judgment and vitriolic media coverage of the Hungarian media law seems to have been based on a partial understanding of the law itself and, in some cases, appears to be motivated by bias or political considerations. [Read more]
3/22/2010 - AHF President discusses Slovak Language Law with OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Knut Vollebaek and submits follow up letter: "...[Slovakia's] actions include the gerrymandering of the administrative division of Slovakia so that Hungarians are in the minority; adopting a resolution proposed by extremist Jan Slota ratifying and confirming the Benes decrees; and refusing to rehabilitate Janos Esterhazy, who as leader of the Hungarian Party in Tiso’s Fascist Slovakia was the only Member of Parliament to vote against the deportation of Jews in 1942, yet who died in a Czechoslovak prison after the war." [read more]
2/16/2009 -- AHF urges OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities to increase pressure on Slovakia to repeal oppressive language law. "The language law is the latest manifestation of the Slovak government’s intolerance toward its Hungarian minority. Not surprisingly, the Slovak National Party (“SNS”) is a member of the ruling coalition. Its chairman Jan Slota is known for his xenophobia: “Hungarians are the cancer of the Slovak nation, without delay we need to remove them from the body of the nation.” [read more]
2/3/2009 -- AHF urges Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to "publicly and unambiguously express [her] concern relative to the Slovak language law. By curtailing or eliminating the use of minority languages from the public sphere, that discriminatory law threatens the Hungarian minority’s culture and infringes on fundamental freedoms." [read more]
11/23/08 - AHF Submits Letter Regarding Intolerance in Slovakia -- On November 21, 2008, the American Hungarian Federation submitted a letter to Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubis who was visiting Washington, D.C. The Federation's letter raised concern over the intolerant and discriminatory policies and practices aimed at Slovakia's Hungarian minority. [read more]
6/4/2011 - On the 91st Anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon, AHF remembers the ill-advised treaty and publishes essay by Sir Bryan Cartledge who calls the treaty "the greatest catastrophe to have befallen Hungary since the battle of Mohacs in 1526." Over the course of its more than 100-year history, the American Hungarian Federation has commemorated the Treaty of Trianon, highlighting the gross injustices wrought by that treaty (better described as a diktat) and the entire Versailles so-called peacemaking. Trianon continues to plaque the region. [read more]
Links on NATO
Links on Louis Kossuth, the
"the house of Habsburg-Lorraine, perjured in the sight of
God and man, had forfeited the Hungarian throne."
"All for the people and all by the people. Nothing about
the people without the people. That is Democracy, and that is the ruling
tendency of the spirit of our age." Spoken before the Ohio State Legislature,
Kossuth Lajos (b. 1802, d. 1894, pronounced co-shoot luh-yôsh) was Governor of Hungary during fight for independence and democracy which was eventually defeated by the union of the royalist Austrian Habsburg and Russian Czarist Armies (1848 - 1849). Kossuth envisioned a federation in the Kingdom of Hungary in which all nationalties participated in a vibrant democratic system based on fundamental democratic principles such as equality and parliamentary representation. The bloody conflict eventually led to a great compromise known as the "Austro-Hungarian Empire," in which Hungary gained some autonomy. although Kossuth would have no part in it and demanded full indepependence until his death.
The speech from which the above excerpt is taken was given over a decade before Lincoln's famed "for the people, by the people" speech given at Gettysburg in 1863. Kossuth was the first foreign Statesman officially invited to the US since the Marquis de Lafayette. His upcoming speech in the Congress of the United States made the pre-civil war joint house nervous due to his democratic views on equality of all men. Kossuth learned English while in prison and exile and spoke to half the population of the US who enthusiastically greeted and flocked to hear him. Despite Hungary's epic struggle and Kossuth's brave and noble efforts, the US, the "Bastion of Democracy" turned him away, empty handed. Hungary was alone again in its fight for democracy in 1956, and didn't gain freedom until 1989 and would soon join NATO.
Today, there are many reminders of Kossuth's impact on America and the world. In North America, there is a Kossuth County in the state of Iowa, a town with his name in Indiana, Ohio and Mississippi, a settlement with a Kossuth Post Office is in Pennsylvania. In addition, there are Kossuth statues and plaques in New York, Cleveland, Akron, New Orleans, Washington, and Ontario, Canada. The Hungarian Reformed Federation's building on Dupont Circle, in Washington, DC is called Kossuth House with a memorial plaque commemorating his speech on democracy. See the picture gallery and memorials on Louis Kossuth in North America.
The renowned Ralph Waldo Emerson said in greeting Kossuth on his arrival at Concord, MA, May 11, 1852:
"[we] have been hungry to see the man whose extraordinary eloquence is seconded by the splendor and the solidity of his actions."
Kossuth was greeted with wild enthusiasm across the country. He was only the second foreign leader (second to Lafayette) to address a joint session of Congress. The American Hungarian Federation dedicated a bust that now sits proudly in the US Capitol - it reads, "Louis Kossuth, Father of Hungarian Democracy" [read more]
Louis Kossuth Speak! [Click Here] - This is the speech of Louis Kossuth which he gave for the dedication of the statue for the 13 Hungarian generals, who were executed at Arad, Hungary, on October 6, 1849 (Arad is in Rumania today after annexation due to the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 ).
Louis Kossuth was exiled after the fall of the Hungarian Liberation Fight of 1848 and made his permanent home in Torino (Turin), Italy. He could not attend the dedication of the monument at Arad, without risking arrest, so he recorded his speech inTurin, and sent it to Arad using the new technology of sound recording, called the phonograph.
The original recording on two wax cylinders for the Edison phonograph survives to this day, although barely audible due to excess playback and unsuccessful early restoration attempts. Lajos Kossuth is the earliest born person in the world who has his voice preserved. Since the audio is of such poor quality, here is it is transcribed in Hungarian and translated to English (special thanks to Louis Kossuth in North America)
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