Transylvanian folk preservationists Üsztürü play Howler's | Music Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Transylvanian folk preservationists Üsztürü play Howler's

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In a world where "folk" comes with a lot of prefixes and suffixes, it's becoming rare to encounter a musical outfit that plays folk music, pure and simple. Üsztürü hails from Transylvania and plays actual, real-life folk music. Not freak-folk, not folk-punk, not folk rock -- Hungarian folk music, as the musicians learned growing up in, and later studying in, the villages and enclaves of Eastern Europe.

Hungarian folk of the brand played by Üsztürü is characterized by simple instrumentation, not unlike rootsy American outfits: guitar, violin and drums. As such, it's not cerebral, and doesn't require the sort of refined listening ability that some other brands of far-off folk ask for, with keys and time signatures unfamiliar to the Western ear.

The members of Üsztürü -- founders Levente Major, Jozsef Szász, Lörinc Szász and a small cadre of others -- play the music their ancestors passed down to them, conscious of the threat posed to it by the homogenization of music in a quickly westernizing culture. Major and Csongor Könczei, the group's other founding member who has gone on to concentrate more on dance, earned degrees in ethnology, and are concerned with the transmission of folk culture on an intellectual level.

But while there is often a noticeable gap between how scholars approach preservationism and how those directly affected feel, Üsztürü brings the two together: The preservationists, in this case, are part of the culture they are looking to preserve.

Üsztürü with Pandemic DJs. 8 p.m. Wed., July 18. Howler's Coyote Café, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $7 ($10 at the door). 412-682-0320

Pardon the umlauts: sztr
  • Pardon the umlauts: sztr

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