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Music is lifeblood to Hungarians. While most locally-produced music remains in Hungary, there are still artists and compositions that have become popular throughout the world. Here are just five of the most popular Hungarian songs and singers that have achieved worldwide fame.
Hungarian Hits #1 “Gyöngyhajú lány”
“The Girl with Pearly Hair” is a song by Hungarian rock band Omega. It was written in 1968, composed in 1969 and released on their album 10,000 lépés. “Gyöngyhajú lány” rocketed to international fame and was popular in many countries, including Germany, Great Britain, France, Poland.
In 2013, hip-hop artist Kanye West sampled the song in the outro of “New Slaves” without asking the band for permission.
Hungarian Hits #2 “Marta’s Song”
Boheme is the second album of the French duo Deep Forest, released in 35 countries. It mainly sampled Eastern European gypsy songs (i.e. the Bohemians, hence the name of the album) with electronic music. Hit singles included “Marta’s Song” (featuring Márta Sebestyén) and “Freedom Cry.” The album was the duo’s most successful, selling over four million copies, receiving Diamond, Platinum and Gold awards in 15 countries and winning the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album.
Hungarian Hits #3 Yonderboi
Yonderboi is the stage name of László Fogarasi Jr., a Hungarian composer, music producer and visual artist. He released three studio albums to date: Shallow and Profound, Splendid Isolation and Passive Control. His most notable collaboration was performing an audio-visual show with British film director legend Peter Greenaway during the Berlin Film Festival 2009
Yonderboi’s music is difficult to pigeonhole because it is quite conceptual, combines a wide range of sources and includes various musical styles. A certain intense atmosphere and distinctive melodies remain recognizable in all of his works. Each record was followed by a tour.
Yonderboi’s music is often licensed to films, TV and fashion shows or video games. He also enjoys making field trips to different art-forms; he scores movies and theater pieces and he also composes music for art exhibitions like the Swiss Pavilion of the Venice Biennale 2001.
Hungarian Hits #4 “Szomorú Vasárnap”
“Gloomy Sunday“, also known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song”, was composed by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress and published in 1933. This well-known song has been covered by numerous artists. The original lyrics were titled Vége a világnak (“The world is ending”) and were about despair caused by war, ending in a quiet prayer about people’s sins. Poet László Jávor wrote his own lyrics to the song, in which the protagonist wants to commit suicide following his lover’s death. The latter lyrics ended up becoming more popular while the former were essentially forgotten.
“Gloomy Sunday” was first recorded in English in 1936, by Paul Robeson, with lyrics by Desmond Carter. It became well-known throughout much of the English-speaking world after the release of a version by Billie Holiday in 1941. There is a recurring urban legend which claims that many people have committed suicide while listening to this song.
Hungarian Hits #5 Kati Kovács
This multi-talented artist is a Ferenc Liszt and Kossuth Award-winning Hungarian pop-rock singer, performer, lyricist and actress. She is probably Hungary’s most famous singer ever, with dozens of recorded albums, awards and presentations indoor/abroad, international recognition and a very active career. Kovács is known for her raspy and very strong mezzo-soprano singing voice which received wide praise from Hungarian music critics who have called her “The Best Female Voice of Hungary.” She can sing opera, rock, jazz, pop, dance, blues and rock and roll.
Christina Aguilera’s 2010 single “Woohoo” contains a sample from the song “Add már, uram, az esőt!”