Bela Kodoba died in 1999

Mail from Crispijn Oomes 
(translation by Nienke Oomes and Sara Bruins)

Bela Kodoba was buried on Wednesday, November 17, 1999, in his village,
Magyarpalatka, Mezőség. He was my hero, because he played the most
beautiful music in the world, and he  played it the most beautifully.

Over his life, his violin had become an extension of his body. For Bela, 
playing music was  just as natural as breathing. He could make the poorest
quality violin - or even firewood - sound like a Stradivarius. He also was
a prototypical folk musician, in that he prefered to say things with notes
instead of with words. He knew everyone's favorite melody, and would often
bring a friend a serenade.

Bela was a striking personality in his village, Magyarpalatka, and was
known to be an excellent musician. When a couple decided to marry, they
would typically set the date depending on the availability of Bela and his
brothers. At most weddings, people preferred to hear traditional music, to
which they could dance their fantastic Mezősegi dances - the Rock & Roll
of Transylvania.

The funeral was touching and overwhelming. In the poor Gypsy quarter of
the village Palatka, on the small Kodoba yard of 10 by 4 meters, worship
services were held by a reformed pastor (in Hungarian), and by a Greek
orthodox priest (in Romanian). Half the village stood on the road, in the
yard, and in adjacent gardens, listening to speeches praising Bela, not
least for having devoted his life to maintaining, cultivating and
advancing the culture of his region.

After the service, a procession of more than 200 people started moving.
It included many Hungarians, who had traveled 400 kilometers to accompany
their hero and friend on his last voyage. About 30 musicians joined the
procession, and accompanied Bela along the slippery, snowy and swampy road
to the graveyard, which was located on a very steep hill. The remaining
villagers stood on the side for a last greeting. Each musician played his
own farewell song on Bela's grave.

I noticed once again how well the different ethnic groups live together in
this village. Romanians, Hungarians, and Gypsies sing each other's songs,
dance each other's dances, generally respect each other's culture, and
sometimes even marry each other. Hungarians try their best to speak
Romanian, and vice versa. At this funeral, they all worked together like
one family to help host and feed the 200 guests.

Ten years ago a funeral like this would have been impossible. At that time
people were not allowed to speak Hungarian in public, and it was even
forbidden to play or listen to Hungarian music. At wedding parties, the
musicians were required to inform the police in advance about which
melodies would be played.

The entire funeral was filmed by Magyar TV1, about which I had mixed
feelings. Cameras are very intrusive and can make people feel like they
are being put on display.  On the other hand, I think it is important for
this man, this orchestra, and this village to become better known
throughout the world. They portray such a unique village culture, with
customs that have long since disappeared in other places.

All in all, it was an impressive and moving experience to be part of such
a rich piece of village culture in a country where poverty is widespread,
health care is lacking, deaths are premature, and minorities are
discriminated against. In villages like Palatka, life can be nasty,
brutish, and short -- making people uncertain, vulnerable, and dependent
on each other. And yet in spite of this (or perhaps partly because of
it?), this is the setting of the most beautiful living folk music of

Financial support for his relatives.
So far we received over $200 in checks from Folklor members in the U.S. 
and about  Dutch Guilders 800. Thank you all very much for your support! 
However, money is still badly needed to pay for:

1. the costs of transportation of the body from Hungary to Romania,
including many bureaucratic formalities;
2. the costs of the coffin and the funeral (feeding and hosting 200
3. financial support for Mrs. Kodoba, who has lost her only source of
income, and might have to leave her house since she and Bela were
not officially married so she is not the official heiress;
4. foregone income for the orchestra, as people may believe
(incorrectly) that they are not as good without Bela;
5. global solidarity: as Hungarian folklore lovers, we have benefited so
much from these musicians (whether or not we realize it, they have come to
define what is now refered to as 'generic Mezőseg'!), it is time to give
something back now.

See  for more info on how to donate.

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