A Statement on Poetry | Alistair Noon

The TranssylvaniansI first heard The Transsylvanians in 1995, a few months after they had formed, at the Schokoladen in Berlin. Acoustic at the time – guitar, accordion, double bass and two violins – the band played traditional songs from Hungary and elsewhere in the Balkans, with melodies I’d never heard and rhythms that required dancing to. I heard them again not long afterwards, and during the break between sets, the audience spontaneously removed all the neat rows of chairs that the organizers had diligently set out.

The members changed and the band rocked up, going electric and starting to do festivals, touring round Europe, pitching up in the UK in the middle of foot and mouth and the Bradford riots. They put out their own CDs, which brought in enough moolah for them to keep going. Songs were reworked and there were various experiments, for better or worse. They did a piece by Béla Bartók.

I’ve seen them grumpy, I’ve seen them happy. A recent gig was the best I’d seen in ages. In one song, one of them strummed chords and sang while another leaned over from behind to do a bass line on the lower string, the drummer drummed on the guitar body, and someone else did something else on the same instrument as well. The violinist did his usual stage-dive.

To quote a line from Kelvin Corcoran’s poem ‘Tocharian the I-E Enclave’, totally out of context: ‘It’s only a sustained analogy’.


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