Yolda / Onderweg / En route

A touching melancholic song

Papa arrives, aka Jenö, with Gaya and her husband Sandor. Very friendly, lovely people. Beautiful people, literally and figuratively. These people are also thrown into the chaos of Yolda. They also didn’t have breakfast yet and Papa takes them to the village for some shopping. We have to rush and quickly jump to conclusions if we want to take part in this: I ‘m going to take care of lunch. Papa informs Sandor in Hungarian about the environment and the facilities, and I wonder if I should be annoyed because we all had to sort it out ourselves. “You shouldn’t buy the wine; I’ll bring local stuff tonight,” he says at the store ( the wine turns out to be awful). Sandor advises me about Hungarian sausage, the cashier smiles when she sees me standing at the check out, again.

pannonhalma 2Over lunch with nostalgic ham/lentil/sausage sandwiches we fraternize. Sandor works for a club / music organizer / exhibition space on a boat in Budapest , speaks good English and is very interested in the project and in us. Gaya is delighted that Jonatan and I speak some Russian. “That you took one course a long time ago and still speak Russian that well!” She says it 10 times that day. At the table Özge starts singing an Armenian song. The ladies immediately begin to reconstruct and sing , Gaya coos of pleasure. All doubts whether the interaction will work or not, disappears immediately.


Soon the artists sit around the coffee table, Jonatan places the camera strategically between them. I reveal myself as the mutfak erkeĝi , the supplier of tea and coffee. From her throne Gaya, cross-legged, teaches us a traditional Armenian song with a fast violin melody as refrain and a choral song ” Araho -o Raho ” (Armenian for lalala). Gaya has a keen eye for detail : decorations at the end of the sentence and not in the beginning for Wouter, the rhythms and chords for Ayten and Thomas, sometimes silent sometimes loud, the words and melody of Özge. She can improvise: “I love you,” Gaya then says. She orchestrates everything, even in the next, almost mystical song that they play for fun where improvisation is allowed . “Freedom , freedom , ” she cries. The men joke about it in the evening” Freedom , freedom , but not now : -p ” The first song is a success and will be included in the concert programme.


The search for a restaurant in the not exactly fashionable Pannonhalma takes some time, but is smooth enough, thanks to the skilful Hungarian Sandor. The only decent option ultimately turns out to be Süleyman, a Turkish restaurant. Next to the supermarket where I have a subscription. Özge and Ayten are immediately thrilled, have a chat with the owner, go over the (mainly kebab -like) options. The man has cooked lentils and spinach, which I have never seen in Turkish cuisine. Served with some chicken and a delicious bun it makes a fine meal. The owner serves us a coffee and sits down for a chat. Nerelisiniz ? His brother is apparently a musician and all kinds of instruments from him are exhibited. Among other a Turkish lute, the Cümbüş, that actually turns out to play. Özge knows how to play it. While Özge strums the instrument, she suddenly begins to sing a slow but touching melancholic song. Dreamlike poetry in a kebab shop. In the end she’s so overwhelmed with emotions because it reminded her of her deceased grandmother, that it gets a little too much.


pannonhalmaBack at the house we do an interview with Gaya on the theme of the project: migration, making music, contact with other cultures. The strict but professional approach of Jonathan for the set –up is a bit too much for me after a long day. But the coquette charm of Gaya (” I have to look nice”, she puts a scarf on her head and keeps her “whiskey” with her) gets to me. She brightens my day. What a story: born as an Armenian in Moscow, she met the man of her life, a Hungarian, and moves to Budapest where she has been making music for 7 years. Especially spicy ethnic pop rock, but since two years … yes , since two years, she feels more and more displaced from her Armenian roots and begins to focus on songs from her roots. She didn’t need to be taught, because she knew them from her mother and grandmother. “When you are not in your home, not with your family, not with your friends, not with your language, all your feelings are very sharp, you feel everything very strongly extra, double, I don’t know. I think in this way musicians can be very sensitive, very … right. I can not find a better word, a very right way.” Meanwhile, she teases me , calls me ‘Boss’, my new nickname, and snatches my paper from my hand. “Why do we make music? Artist should only play music if it is the most important thing in life. Most Important , number one. If not, you better sing in the shower. No music, no life. If you cannot live without music, only then you’re a real musician.” I have heard this story in various versions, in contact with the Greek and Turkish history, in my study of romantic and Greek nationalism. This cultural rootlessness, the struggle for an identity, so sincere, honest, pure, but at the same time so ambiguous and sad. In a way I want to hug her after the interview, but I don’t. We joke a little bit, say that it went well and that her English was just fine and over the last glass of vodka we chat away: Sandor about work, about language , about music and Chatchaturian, and so much more. Just before we go to sleep, Gaya sings a melancholic song for us. At the door I don’t really want to say goodbye, I don’t want to become just a Facebook friend. I want to drink coffee with them tomorrow, go for a drink next week , and talk further to them. Before the hug I hold the bottle of water she wants to take. Saying goodbye, that’s Yolda as well.

Text written by Steven Van Renterghem, occasional production assistant and tour guide