Isaac Misri – A guy from Washington DC, who plays Balkanic folk music in Budapest

Viktor Berczi

Viktor Berczi
Viktor Berczi

DISTRICT9: Would you introduce yourself? How long have you been here, ect. On the score of your FB profile you have had graduated as a mechanial engineer, but in contrast with this, now you’re a musician.

Isaac Misri: I’m from Washington DC. I didn’t bachleored as a mechanical engineery and I went straight into a master’s in mechanical engineery. Very quicly I realized, that I didn’t want to doing this, but I had a fellowship, so I was getting payed. They were paying my schooling, so I figured if it two years save enough money and go to travel, so the day after I’ve graduated I started to travel. With no plans in mind, I was working on farms. Have you heard about wwoofing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)? Wwoofing means working on farms and for your work you get some food and there is a place to stay. I did it through the United States. Generally I haven’t got any certain plans. Someone told me India is kind of cool, kind of cheap, so after wwoofing I went to India. When I ran out of money in India, I came to Europe for eight months to work. Then I went back to Asia for four months. After five months I came back to Europe. Looking to get serious about music. I started in Germany. I didn’t find many musicians who were playing the music that I wanted, wich is gipsy-jazz and Balkan-Romanian music and then I came here. I had posted on a couch-surfing site and I asked the question that is there anyone looking for gipsy-jazz guitarist. The bassist of this band find me. I went to practise with them once because the other guitarist broke his back the week before that I arrived, so I went to practise to their flat. They had an empty room. They asked me to move in which is worked out. I’ve been here since the begining of september in Akácfa utca. The band is called after this street. Taraf means ’the group of musicians’. (The name of Zach’s band is Taraf de Akácfa.)

DISTRICT9: What are your impressions on Hungarians?

Isaac Misri: Well my first impression was from Food Not Bombs (a loose-knit group of independent collectives, serving free vegan and vegetarian food to the poor). It is a kind of social group. It was very positive, very ’alternative’, it was really exciting, but as soon as I stepped out from FNB, I wasn’t too satisfied to be honest. I’ve never get in trouble but in general I found that like I use to say „Hi!” to people on the streets „Jó napot!”, than people looked at me shocked. I use to wear sandals with socks so everyone was looking at my feet when I was walking on the street. And they were also shocked to see me looking for food in trash can….I don’t know…Maybe more in western countries this seems as like some alternative or whatever. Here people were also shocked to see me looking for food in trash can. I don’t want to say only negative things but unfortunatelly I also experienced with lot of negativity. I see that: „Hey! How are you? – Ah, well but… – Okay, wonderful! I don’t want to talk to you!” Honestly I haven’t made too many hungarian friends. I mean there are as well many crazy alternative people in Budapest.

DISTRICT9: What are your further plans? How long would you like to stay here?

Isaac Misri: In June I’m going on tour with my other band in Italy and Switzerland and in July I’m planning with a few concerts with this band, maybe few festivals. In August I would like to travel a bit, but honestly I’m kind of happy here by the fact that I make very little money, I have my bands and I’ve got good friends. I’ll be 27 in a few weeks. I’ve so feelin I have one year to mess around than when I turn to 28 than I need to get serious about something but for now I’m quiet happy and I can survive here, so why not enjoy it for another year.

DISTRICT9: Why have you came here, to Hungary?

Isaac Misri: It was by accident. A summer before I’ve been in Western Europe. Portugal, Spain, France and Switzerland and than this summer I wanted to come to Europe. I wanted to continue travelling in Europe, so I started in Germany, than I went to Switzerland the next stop was Austria, but I had no contacts there so the next stop was Budapest. I had one friend here. I was planning to stay here for three days than I wanted to move to Serbia, to the Balkans. I found a job in a hostel so three days turned into two weeks. Than I found these people and I’ve been here for six-seven months now.

DISTRICT9: You mentioned, that you have some Hungarian ancestors. Would you tell me something about that?

Isaac Misri: One of my grandfathers was born somewhere in Hungary and he moved to Vienna and from Vienna somehow he managed to escape to Uruguay and from there he moved to Argentina.

DISTRICT9: What would you change in Hungary?

Isaac Misri: I would like to see a bit more openess and more acceptness of foreign ideas. Maybe it is a symphtome of post-communism and capitalism has came very quickly. It seems that the influence of older generations is still very strong.

DISTRICT9: If you leave Hungary what would you miss about the country?

Isaac Misri: Every time I leave Hungary I’m excited to come back because here I have my social group, my friends are here and just so many opportunities to play music. There is greater appreciation for it here I think. On the other hand I can’t make so much money here. When we’ve been in America we’ve heard some American bands playing Hungarian folk music. These were the top bands in America. They were horrible. Here, like in smallest „Táncház” you can hear the most amazing musicians. I remember when we were in America we went to this „Táncház”-night and we all looked each other and we were saying: „This is horrible! This is nothing like the music in Hungary!” I felt nostalgy about my Friday nights in „Rácskert” and „Fonó”.

DISTRICT9: What would you take with you from Hungary to the USA?

Isaac Misri: My experience is that living here as a musician is quiet simple. To gain my food from the garbage. Appreciation of living a simple life. It’s not uniquely Hungarian, but it is something that I’m able to develope here. I would take the appreciation of people have here for musicians. its a big part of the culture here especially the folk music. There are so many opportunities to play music here and survive as a musician. In the USA it seems like you need to have an extra job to be able to play music but here I can focus only on my music.


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