© 2018 Irén Lovász

2018 — №1 (15)

Introductory remarks on tradition, health and civilisation

In recent years there are an increasing number of cases of mental hygiene illness, and more victims of depression. This appears to happen parallel to man’s estrangement from natural living. Whoever lives in harmony with nature will not get spiritually ill when confronted with traumatic events, since our ever-changing and renewing natural environment provides for optimism in our lives. Whoever lives from the Earth has a tremendous reservoir of strength.  Not so long ago, man actually still lived in unison with nature, respected her power, and didn’t throw away her treasures. Man lived in accordance with the adage “You reap what you sow”.

Hungarian folk music represents such an enduring value that short-lived popular music cannot supplant it.  I believe in the eternal relevance, influence and transformative power of folk music.  In its purified form over the centuries it retains such irresistible and unquestionable truth, righteousness, wisdom and timelessness that it survives all storms. In turn, it produces sustenance for all those who manage to tap into its life affirming powers.

Culture is constantly changing.  I don’t believe that one should artificially and mechanically conserve and bottle up old values in order to put them on display. Instead, let’s avail ourselves of them, and adapt their healing powers to today’s circumstances. It’s not our heritage that we should be conserving, but rather it is ourselves and our imperilled civilization that we should be saving by virtue of the use of the power of our heritage. That is the challenge of our time.

Man has three components to his unity: body, mind and soul. It is the great mistake of our contemporary education that it concerns itself only with the left brain, not with the right brain. The system develops smart children, who can count well and can recite a lecture, but no one concerns themselves with the development of their souls and their emotions, and their physical bodies are also neglected.

I swore I would acquaint myself with the Hungarian national heritage, all those powers emanating from nature, from which our children could draw strength.  I can tell by the examples of my three teenage children with just what kind of headwinds our children are confronted.  And just how great the allure of cheap, global, mass culture is. The child struggles and flounders, when he sees that his friends enjoy unconstrained time watching television and playing on the computer.  Of course, the child is also trying to push the limits but it is the parents’ responsibility to inculcate the set of values that the parent thinks are important. Those children who are not rooted and strengthened with values will be blown away by the wind.

Traditional power of singing

There is an obvious, natural healing power of human voice and singing in the traditional Hungarian culture, just like in other people’s living in close relation and harmony with nature.

The physiological basis of this, is that we are sensitive for different noises, sounds, voices already in our mother’s womb. The embryo can give physical reactions for not only the relaxing but also for the disturbing sounds or musical effects. That is why it is extremely important to be aware of the type or quality of music a mother listens or sings during her pregnancy.

The first sign of life is a sound: the heartbeat, which is rhythm and resonance. The first obvious sign of life of a newborn is a sound, a human voice! That is a crying voice of a new human being. That is the first sign of life for the parents, midwifes, doctors. Of course the first and most effective tool of relaxing, calming down a baby, besides hugging, rocking, is the rhythm and the energy of the mother’s singing voice.

Lullaby is the traditional tool of calming, relaxing a baby. I myself have been singing personal lullabies every day for each of my three children, until their age of ten. I used to ask each of them: „What do you want to dream about tonight? „ And the answer was then included in the lyrics of the certain lullaby.

One of the most important functions of singing in the traditional life of peasant people is relaxing, calming the individual psyche, projecting inner personal feelings. Once a csángópeasant woman turned to sing me the followings, while she were talking about her life and her singing habits to me during one of my fieldworks:Hereby I enclose the Hungarian text and the English translation of the folksongs without the musical notation, since here the meaning of the text is more relevant.

Panaszkodom a seprünek, 

mer az nem mondja senkinek, 

Panaszodom fűnek, fának,

 a fa mondja az ágának, 

ága mondja lapijának, 

lapi az egész világnak.

„ I do complain to the broom,

Since it doesn’t tell it to anybody,

I complain to the grass and the trees,

Tree tells it to the branch,

The branch tells it to its leaves,

The leaves tell it to the whole world…”

Folksongs, mostly laments, according to the universal function of poetry in general, are tools of self-expression, self-reflection, a tool of expressing relation of the self to the world. In other worlds, folksongs are basic channels of human communication.

Fúvom az éneket, de nem jó kedvemből

Mer’ a bú futtassa bánatos szívemből3

„…I do not sing my song out of happiness,

But I sing it out of my sorrowful heart….”

Human voice is not only the first but also the last sing of life.  „To breath out his soul” (Kileheli a lelkét).- it is said in Hungarian tradition, when someone dies. Singing is also emanating the soul (lélek). Etimologically the Hungarian words for soul (lélek) and breath (lélegzet) are coming from the same root.

A person who is going to die, whose soul is going to leave its body, is accompanied by the singing voice of others. He is lead through the last rites the passage by the singing voice of the others, mostly of women.

Dead-laments serve a very important social-psychological, and personal role. The proper way of saying good bye means singing personal dead-laments over the dead body. To sing out one’s personal attitude and relation towards the member of family who happened to die, means the expression of final respect and honour in traditional Hungarian peasant communities.

Mostly female voice gives the supporting power at the gates of both life and death. Mothers, midwifes, dead-lament singer women usually sing at the great moments of life and death. They celebrate birth and death, sunrise and sunset, which are equivalent to each other regarding the micro and the macro-level of personal being with incantation of prayers, and singing folksongs.

That is why we can consider reciting, singing morning and evening prayers  as ritual celebration and repetition of the birth and death in the micro-level of one’s sacred time of a day.

Felkelék én jó regvel hajnalba,

Kimosdódám minden bűneimből

Megkendőzém arany kendőcskével4

„I did arise good and early at dawn,

I washed myself clean of my sinful dreams,

And dried myself with my golden towel…”

A fényes nap immár elnyugodott,
A föld szintén sötétbe maradott.
Nappali fény éjjelre változott,
Fáradtaknak nyugodalmat hozott.
 Midőn ágynak adom a testemet,
Deszka közi zárhatom éltemet,
Hosszas álom érheti szememet,
A kakasszó hozhatja végemet.
 Vessünk számot hát, édes Istenem,
Hogy lelkemet ne kelljen féltenem,
Hogy lehessen bátrabban szólanom,
midőn meg kell előtted állanom!5
„The shiny sun has now gone to its rest,

The colours of the earth remained dark,

The light of day has turned itself to night,

And brought its rest to those who’ve tired out.

When I give my body to my bed,

as closing my life into a coffin,

a long dream might come on my eyes,

Cook crowing might bring my end…

Let us render account, then, Oh, dear Lord,

So I won’t have to fear now for my soul!

Should you preserve me for your coming day,

I shall not use your day to slight you by.”

This last song has a late medieval melody and constitutes an evening prayer, which also used to be sung while lamenting over the dead. Evening rituals celebrate as a rite de passage  the border of day and night , just like dead lament and funeral rituals  mark the borders of life and death. Going further using the terms of Arnold Van Gennep , we can say that these cases shows the unity of rites the passage in the archaic world view, and world concept, since the same topics, rather the same songs are used during evening – and funeral, and also during wedding –  and funeral rituals.

Fehér galamb szállt a házra,

Édesanyám, Isten áldja!
Köszönöm a nevelését,

Eddig való szívességét.6

White dove perched on to the house,

God bless you my dear mother,

Thank you for rising me up,

And thanks for all your kindness to me…

The same words are sang during wedding ceremonies as laments of the bride, and during funeral ceremonies as dead-laments in different Hungarian regions.

These facts can give again evidences of the unity of rites de passage, since wedding rituals are also taken as symbols of celebrating dying of certain qualities in an individual life-period. Singing of these songs during the rites the passage has a very important psychological and socio-psychologicalfunction. Singing these songs during ritual circumstances help closing properly a certain period of life, and also help preparing for the next coming period. In other words: singing these song help surviving the traumatic turning points, and help preserving mental health and harmony instead of breaking down radically the individual lifeline while experiencing a radical change in social status, and individual roles.

Singing traditional folksongs during the smaller or grater turning points of private and social life, has a special effective, supporting, healing power. The utterance of words has a magical, creating power.  Verbal magic is the basis of all verbal folklore genres of this kind from incantation, through blessing, curse, to prayer.

According to modern anthropological linguistics and pragmatics, the highest level of formalised speech in opposition to everyday, ordinary speech is singing itself. That is why singing is one of the most important integral parts also of religious rituals (Bloch 1974., Lovász 2011.).

Healing Voices

During the past several years I have been experiencing both as a singer and as a professional cultural anthropologist researching folk religiosity and sacred communication, to what extent the human voice is able to serve as an aid and a blessing in life-and-death situations and in other defining events that shape and turn one’s fate.

In different traditional cultures, thus in Hungarian folk poetry too, one finds texts, melodies and songs whose recitation — mostly by women — have helped the restoration of physical and mental health throughout many centuries. In human cultures, the Sacred serves as a supporting pillar of order and oneness in the world and it restores inner harmony.

One way of achieving this was through the invocation of sacred songs as they followed the natural rhythm of each passing year. The farther away modern humanity moves from this order and harmony, and the fewer the resources for maintaining close contact with nature, the greater the chances that both the individual and the society in which we live will weaken and become susceptible to illness. There is no doubt that all kinds of strange illnesses are on the rise, closely associated with the decline of our natural environment and the rise of an artificial one to take its place.

In 2006 I started to publish a four-part cd series entitled Healing Voices (see the Discography).

The first is Sacred Voice, the second is Inner Voice, and the third is Female Voice, and these will be followed by Healing Voice.  These four are linked by the sharedidea that the human voice may very well have healing powers for this is, indeed, one of the most important ancient and universal functions of singing.

The Sacred Voice cdcontains mostly Hungarian folksongs, mirroring the traditional world-view of the Hungarian people. These songs have survived as a living oral tradition and are still being sung in the most archaic regions. The order of the songs represents the festive circle of the year, focusing on Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. In our songs invoking the Virgin Mary one can recognize the archetypical figure of the protective, helping and healing Mother Goddess.The accompaniments are free interpretations of the so-called “Burdon technique”, ranging from “overtone singing” to the repetitive ostinato. This is known throughout numerous cultures the world over. Its role is to help the listener submerge himself deeper in the musical conjuring of the eternal.

In addition, we have chosen instrumental and vocal improvisation, also inspired by the ambience of the enchanting acoustics of the undercroft of the Saint Stephan Basilica in Budapest where the recording sessions took place.9

Silence – Noise – Inner voice

I believe that we have to shield ourselves from intrusive noise and that we have to restore our natural sound environment. Only in silence can one hear the twittering of birds and the babbling of the brook. If we cultivate the outer and inner silence then we will find our own inner voice. I call good music the extension of silence. When a mother is singing a bedtime lullaby to the child that is also extending the sanctity of silence.

The human voice produces healing when you are listening to it, but even more so when you are singing yourself.  The peasants of old still knew this, as they sang during the week but also for holidays:  They purged their pains, enhanced their joys and, thereby, experienced their celebrations to the fullest.

Good music is the result of the harmony of spiritual and physical vibrations. Physical sound waves reverberate on the strings of our souls. The healthy person’s vibrating surface is in harmony. When we become ill the balance is disturbed and we have to rebalance it so that we can heal. This is how singing has a therapeutic role. While singing with the help of our own sound waves we use our bodies as a resonating cavern or chamber. Under these circumstances we can harmonize our own bodily and spiritual vibrations.

Why, then, are people so afraid of silence? This keeps them from hearing their own inner voice, although we could gradually find our way back to quietude and silence. What is it that keeps us from rediscovering our own voice, resounding out from our own silence, from our own soul?

Inner Voice is the second chapter of “Healing Voices”, this current series of CD’s.10 “Inner Voice” is a meditative inner journey meant to awaken the primeval powers slumbering at the very depth of the “Self”. It brings to the surface the energies of the ancient elements of earth, water, fire and air through the natural means of music and harmony. We can only reach the very depth of our being through the help of cultivating silence completely, a turning inward in meditation. The touching of the primeval powers slumbering in the depths of our “Self” happens when we use the most ancient of string instruments, that is, the human voice, by way of archaic Hungarian folksongs, Gregorian chants and special instruments that awaken the four archetypical elements. We represent the Earth through the Australian aboriginal wooden instrument, the didgeridoo, the Water through the Celtic harp, Fire through the Hungarian violin, and Air through the Japanese shakuhatchi. I have collected powerful ancient Hungarian folksong texts and melodies representing each of the elements.

The sequencing of the four elements draws the map of the development of a given personality.

1. Earth

This is the place before one’s birth, conjuring up the mother womb’s life-giving cave. The earth is where roots live. This is the source of our stability, providing the possibility of life itself.  Its color is brown. 11 

Szivárvány havasán felnőtt rozmaringszál,
Nem találja helyét, el akar bujdosni.
Ki kell onnan venni, más helyre kell tenni,
Ki kell onnan venni, új helyre kell tenni…
Lily grown on glaciers illumined by rainbows

Doesn’t like its old place, wants to hide and wander.

She should be transplanted, put into a new place,

She should be transplanted, maybe she will grow there


Sokat gondolkoztam
A soraink felől.
Sokat gondolkodtam
A régi atyákról
A világon való
Sok bújdosásomról. Sokat gondolkodtam
Még annak előtte,
Felségednél sorsunk
El vagyon rendelve.
…I have pondered much

on how my fate’s evolving.

I’ve been thinking much

about our ancient fathers,

and about our many hidings

on this Earth here.

Before this on life’s run

was I meditating,

in your Majesty’s hand

how our fate is resting.

 2. Water

This represents amniotic fluids. The water-mill helps the grinding away of personal sorrows, their surfacing to consciousness, and their eventual elimination. Its color is blue. Water is the most reassuring, most helpful element that loosens up everything, as it reminds one of the amniotic fluids. Water is the original, universal medium for purification.14

Pusztinai nagy hegy alatt

Van egy forrás titok alatt


Aki abból vizet iszik…

lám én abból vizet ittam….15

Under a great mountain of Pusztina

there’s a secret fountain.

They, who ever taste its waters…

Lo, ‘n behold, I drank its waters…

Túl a vízen van egy malom,
Bánatot őrölnek azon. 
Én vagyok annak mónárjaKi a bánatot próbálja
Túl a vízen van egy malom,
Bánatot őrölnek azon. 
Nékem is van egy bánatom,
Oda viszem, lejártatom,
“There’s a mill beyond the water,

What they grind in it is sorrow.

I myself the miller of it,

Who’s trying the sorrow in it.

There’s a mill beyond the water,

What they grind in it is sorrow.

I, too, have a sack of sorrow,

Will take it there, have it ground up.”

…sűrű könnyeimmel…17 …with my heavy tear drops…
Egyiket öntözöm a Tatros vizével,

 a másikat pedig sűrű könnyeimmel.18

…One of them I water with waters of Tatrosh,

Others I will water with my very own tears.

3. Fire

Purgatory, the cleansing fire, the becoming of an independent, autonomous personality and the coming into one’s own. Its color is red.

 Csalogatott a két szeme sugára…19 …The rays of his two eyes allure me…


Úgy ég a tűz, ha tesznek rá,

szól a világ, mit hajtok rá,

én is teszek, hadd lobogjon,

kutya világ hadd ugasson!20

Fires will burn if you stoke them,

The world chides me, I won’t heed ‘em,

I’ll stoke it, too, let the flames spark,

Doggone world, just go on and bark!



Tüzes nyelveknek szólása,

úgy mint szeleknek zúgása,

leszálla az ő fejökre

nagy hirtelenséggel21

…Speech of tongues of fire flaming

Like the sound of tempests roaring

as upon their heads descended

With a great suddenness…

4. Air

Air is the extension of the terrestrial horizon into the direction of the transcendent. Its color is white.22

Fújnak a felleges Somogy megye felől,

Sokat gondollkodtam a soraim felől.


Sokat gondolkodtam még annak előtte,

Felségednél sorsunk el vagyon rendelve. 23

Winds blow heavy clouds from famous Somogy County

I have pondered much on how my fate’s evolving.

Before this on life’s run was I meditating,

in your Majesty’s hand how our fate is resting.

Én felkelék jó regvel hajnalban,

Én felkleék jó regvel hajnalban,

megmosdódám bűnös álmaimból,

megkendőzém arany kendőzőmmel..


Feltekinték nagy magos mennyégbe,

nyítva látám mennyország kapuját,

azon belül mennyország ajtaját24

I did arise good and early at dawn.

I did arise good and early at dawn.

I washed myself clean of my sinful dreams,

And dried myself with my golden towel.

I looked up into the highest heavens

Where I saw the Gate of Heaven wide open

Within that the inner door to Heav’n itself…


5. The inner voice

This is the integrating synthesis that unites the various cosmic elements within the human being; it represents their simultaneous presence. The mantra expresses our relationship to these elements; that is the bringing out of the male-female counterpoints as the Inner Voice celebrates the circular dance of creation and the joy of existence, while also conjuring the archetypes of Yin and Yang, Adam and Eve, Father and Mother.

Napot is szeretem,
Holdat is szeretem,
De fényes csillagot
Leginkább szeretem. 
 Áldott Apa s Anya, Ki tégedet szült volt,
Ki tégedet szült volt,
Téged felnövelt volt.Adjon Isten annak,

Ezernyi ezerjót,
Ki a te bölcsődet,

Megrendítette volt. 25

“I do love the great Sun

and I love the Moon, too,

but what I love the most is

the right star in heaven…

Blessed are father and mother

Who have given you birth,

Who have given you birth

And have made thee grow up.

Let the Good Lord grant them

Blessings thousand fold

Them who rocked the cradle

Blessings a thousand fold!


By Irén Lovász

(ad notam:  I do love the great Sun)26

Földanya lábam alatt,
Égapa fejem felett,
Én magam a tengely,
Én magam a tengely.
Gyökereim erősen,
Gyökereim biztosan,
Tartanak a szélben,
Tartanak a szélben.
Indulásra készen,
Kalandok elébe,
Erővel testemben,
Békével lelkemben.
Indulásra készen,
Szárnyaim erősen,
Lágyan és merészen,
Röpítenek messze.
Messze föl az égbe,
Vizeknek fölébe,
Tengerek mélyébe,
Vissza le a földbe.
Mother Earth under my feet,

Father Sky above my head,

I, myself, the axis,

I, myself, the axis.

My roots hold me with their strength

My roots hold me down secure

Anchored in the strong wind,

Anchored in the strong wind.

I’m ready to depart

Yearning for adventures,

Filled with strength of body

Filled with peace in my soul.

I’m ready to depart,

My wings carry me off

Soft, yet full of daring

Very far they fly me.

Up into the Heavens

Up above the waters,

Into the depths of the Seas,

And down to Earth’s crust.

Dr. Ildikó Konta, the leading Hungarian music therapist commented on the cd with the following words: “More than just songs, more than pure mantras, the sounds carried by her voice are expressive of the very wonders of the universe entwined with Hungarian folk-poetry, a musical feat I hold in high esteem, something I could not do without.  I feel, emanating out of them, the healing powers of the collective Hungarian unconscious, the sounds that actually heal.”

Examples of the Practical application of Inner Voice cd in different contemporary therapeutic circumstances:

  1. A woman with lymphatic cancer awaiting a primal cell implantation heals in a Budapest clinic.
  1. Felicity Cook a voice therapist in Cambridge University says: “I am running a retreat this coming weekend on “Voicing Authenticity”. We will be looking at the inner critical voices of fear, blame, shame, etc and at the hidden authentic voice of who we truly are…. seeing how we hold ourselves back. One of the exercises is going to be a journey into looking inside for these voices, writing down the findings and then later in the day, making masks to represent these critical inner voices which sabotage us. We will also make a mask which will represent who we feel we are deeply inside without the inner critic getting in the way. I will be using your Inner Voice CD throughout the weekend to help people to tune into what’s inside.”
  1. Dr. Bea Pászthy, Associate Professor, Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Paediatrics, Semmelweis University, Budapest: “We use your Inner Voice recording to treat depression and also in the healing of teen age girls suffering from Anorexia Nervosa. During an intensive week-long therapy we apply your Inner Voicecd for evoking the symbols and archetypical features of the Elements. Each day we focus on one of them, and try to relate the given personality to each of the Elements, balancing in this way the harmony of body and soul, child and family, past and present, nature and woman, since femininity as a whole finds itself in great crisis in all these cases. Female power and values should be recalled and strengthened through the archetypal feminine attitudes. I am convinced we found a right way using your personality, your female archetypical character and your Inner Voicecd for these healing purposes.” It is surprising that under these truly clinical conditions we have to replant the natural forces into our children, and it attests to the absurdity of our civilization that we need to capture the human voice on cd, and to apportion nature by way of capsules to those who have lost these values.
  1. Suzi Tortora dance therapist in New York: “I find your music so moving. I use it all the time. I am a dance therapist and use music a great deal in my work. Though I work with all ages, I specialize in working with young children. Several days a week I work in a cancer hospital for children. I use the Evening Prayer from your cd to help put very young children into a meditative state to be able to manage a very painful treatment they must receive. Your song is so beautiful and affective, it helps the parents and nurses as well.”

Female Voice

After the Sacred Voice (2006) and the Inner Voice (2007) CDs, I published the piece called Female Voice (2017) as the third part in my Healing Voices series of CDs. As mentioned above they are based on the curative and healing power of Hungarian folk songs.

The basis of this cd is that in Hungarian folk poetry texts and melodies recited and sung primarily by women are believed to enhance physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Female Voice contains Hungarian folk songs, which speak of specifically female roles, fates, and existential situations. The listeners can hear little girls’ games, brides’ farewell parties- wedding songs, lullabies and songs about both happy and unhappy love. One can also hear songs about the marrried woman’s fate as well as a dirge,  ballads, and archaic folk prayers to facilitate childbirth. After all, it is the woman who accompanies the individual through life’s important situations with her songs and voice. Both the opening and closing numbers of this record praise the especially blessed ability of the woman, which is her creative unique prerogative to bestow; the privilege of giving birth. All this praises and proclaims the life force, energy and vitality. This yields the frame and the eternal sense of the female existence and it is in this light that this life force makes bearable any difficulty in a woman’s life.

The disc starts with the archetypal images of a cosmic genesis. The children’s songs collected from a broad Hungarian language speaking territory indicate that preparations for the female roles are beginning to be developed by the games, songs and sayings of young girls. In the songs of grown girls values such as faithfulness, virginity, and the expression of gratitude appear as voluntarily practiced values, often considered today to be old fashioned.

Our human life cycles are celebrated with ritual and customary songs of rites of passage. These facilitate the celebration and assimilation of the transition from one phase of life to the next, as in surviving a crisis-situation. For example, mother and daughter are both equally able to relinquish a particular phase of their lives by singing of their feelings, thereby releasing them in preparation for the next phase.27

Female Voice is a mirror of the female soul and to wit, it can be happy, serene or beclouded, it can be innocent or teasing, weak or strong. This record was not aiming at completeness, as it is impossible to undertake an encyclopedic survey of the many possible situations and conflicts life presents, as in the case of Anna Fehér. This becomes a metaphor of how a woman cheated, humiliated and robbed of all her emotional and ethical values has but one final instrument to help her: this being her own female voice. She is able to believe completely and firmly in the efficacy of the archaic creative power of the pronounced word.

Besides the traditional texts, I have here included pieces from my own family and female mythologies, as there are experiences and situations to which I was only able to respond  with my own texts and songs. I also share here my personal lullabies, which I have been singing to my own children. Individual creations and improvisation are not alien to folk poetry either. This is why I added my own songs (5, 18, 28) to the traditional Hungarian female voice.28

The dearest gift on this disk to myself is my own mother’s voice.29 My female voice is a continuation of hers. It was brought forth by her voice and it has grown up in its shadow as I  encountered my first folk songs transmitted to me by her voice whilst still in her womb. Thus my female voice would lack credibility without hers.

She always sang, no matter what the situation. Now I sing along with her. These songs conjure up her childhood and youth that she spent in the County of Békés and in the farmland areas of the Nagykunság in the Great Hungarian Plain (Puszta). Let this stand as a confession about the transmission of our popular cultural traditions, the continuity of the female voice and the common breathing of the generations. One has to take on and shoulder one’s roots, which includes the motherland, which builds one’s foundations and determines one’s character.

Nowadays it has become important to bring to consciousness the traditional roles of womanhood – from childhood to old age. I hope that the words and melodies on this record will help girls and women of all ages sing along with us or find echos in the texts and melodies of this disk as a response to the vibrations of their own souls. 30

Composer László Hortobágyi shows how archaic Hungarian folk songs fit in the fabric of world music, thereby validating their universality.[1] Thus Hungarian folk music reaches through time and space. Here is hoping that the Female Voice cd as much as my earlier collectios will represent the timeless validity and universal acceptability of Hungarian folk music while also serving the continuous mediating role of Hungarian culture between East and West.

A Therapeutic Singing Circle in Budapest

About ten years ago I started a Therapeutic Singing Circle which meets every week by the Danube in the center of Budapest. This is an open, experimental club, a workshop, where I call people to sing with me in a group, with the following aims:

“For the physical and spiritual joy of singing,

for the maintenance of our health and harmony,

to become aware of the heritage of our ancients,

to discover the values and powers  hidden in our tradition,

to take ownership of our treasures,

for the opportunity to sing our folksongs.”

The title of the circle is: By the Danube, after a poem of a great Hungarian poet: Attila József. We now and then recite and repeat ritually the following lines:[2]

Én úgy vagyok, hogy már százezer éve

nézem, amit meglátok hirtelen.

Egy pillanat s kész az idő egésze,

mit százezer ős szemlélget velem.

Tudunk egymásról, mint öröm és bánat.

Enyém a mult és övék a jelen.

Verset írunk – ők fogják ceruzámat

s én érzem őket és emlékezem.

Megszólítanak, mert ők én vagyok már;

gyenge létemre így vagyok erős,

ki emlékszem, hogy több vagyok a soknál,

mert az őssejtig vagyok minden ős …

For a hundred thousand years I have been gazing

And suddenly I see what’s there and has been there.

A flash, and time is fully-grown, embracing

What generations survey and show to me….

We all relate, like blessed to the dammed,

Mine is the past and theirs is the present.

We write poems – my pencil in their hand,

I sense them and remember what to say…

They call, we are now one, I know: this oneness

Has made me strong, for I remember well,

That I am every parent in the boundless

Succession to the primal lonely cell…

In each meeting we do a ritual welcoming and faraway boundary-marking voice training, which is a voice scale within the body. I also call it inner body-massage with one’s own voice. The scale metaphor helps to imagine the self being bound between Earth and Heaven. During the classes we learn several ancient Hungarian folk songs, following the landmarks of the yearly calendar, and following our changing moods, and feelings. I especially pay attention to using texts for well wishes, blessings and greetings. I am convinced that believing in the magical power of words can help us use the old effective ritual and magical texts nowadays also. Like birthday-blessings, lullabies for calming down the child, etc. We have learned a lot of songs, and I hope people, mostly women, use them also in their everyday lives. For understanding the personal benefits of this experimental singing circle, I asked the participants to write a few words for me about it.  I quote a few of them below:

Response to the question: “What has this folk singing circle has done to me?”

“. It lifts up, bubbles up, revitalizes. It makes you reflect. It gives you wings! It relaxes you and calms you down. It makes you into a woman.

 One sees the world a bit differently, when you leave the circle. You walk home differently than you came. (Erika)

“…Now I am ready to consciously learn to use my voice to balance my inner self, to express with singing that which gets trapped inside in everyday life.

…. this is how I also nourish my womanhood.
… After a very cosmopolitan life and way of thinking I am now finding my way back to my roots. Singing folksongs helps me in getting closer to the ancient secrets, and values. This is fertile ground for me,  namely that my roots can secure me in the wind.” (Anita)

“…A year ago I was in a very difficult and painful life situation. I experienced a great loss after which I had to try to find a hold on life. At this time music was the thing that offered solace. Interestingly, no other art form could provide me with such solace. For that reason I attended many concerts but it seemed like it would be good to participate in musical experiences and not just be a passive receptacle. As I do not play any instruments I had to look for another solution. I accidently stumbled upon the internet site of this Singing Club”. (Mariann)

… Because of the transmission of wisdom and breaking through from the very depths of the hearts through the texts and these special melodies – I can’t put it any differently – I found my way home.  These brought me home.

With these lyrics and tunes the songs and I immediately relate to one another, we reach one another, perhaps this is a sign of the end of the hobbling existence.

I don’t have to remain trapped within myself and within the present any longer”.  (Zsuzsa)

“We had to go ( to the singing circle) . That was what our spirits demanded. We opted out of the multi-national world into a more sincere world, much closer to our hearts where our souls were the important thing, not money. It is very good that there is a place where we can drop in tired and leave with a full heart and a rejuvenated spirit. Our spirit is cleansed, we forget the day to day grind and problems, the joys are strengthened, the worries are purged and simply fly away. It’s as though we were arriving back at home. And these songs help in other ways also, just like a kind of therapy. I feel like they come at me from very far away and they have a profound effect on me. They shower me with genuine emotions, alternately with lively ones, then with sad ones. Never with superficial ones. They convey genuine occurrences, deep experiences simply and intensively…they build you up…I am thrilled about the singing circle. Here I don’t feel the ambition of careerism, the striving, the calculating, instead I only feel the sense of inclusion, communion and the positive vibrations. If I am irritated I mumble to myself 1 or 2 songs that you taught me and my stomach calms down. Only the ancient Hungarian songs have this calming effect on me.” (Kata)

“…I believe that I was born into the heritage but something did not allow me to draw it into myself there and at that time; all of those ancient, folk customs that provide so much  nourishment for the soul. Perhaps the answer is resides in my child, just as I once told you. It is not yet too late. I can still pass on something on behalf of the next generation. Something that I could learn from you.

At the very first singing session both during and after the practice of the vocal scales I felt an oppressive tension in my chest.  I could hardly wait to get out of the practice room and to release the pain and suffering that I had experienced: pain and suffering which had been inflicted on me in my childhood. There was a vessel that was forming in me whose inside I am filling ever since with the songs and with the experiences I have from our singing sessions. These gatherings and occasions for singing reflect a kind of cosmic mirror image from the past and they transform themselves into some kind of a sacred ritual action. Ancient Hungarian wisdom is brought forth through my deep breath, whose replenishment makes it possible for me to reach my place of belonging. I embrace you for allowing me to be part of this communal gathering that is both a bit magical and healing for me and also thrilling and shivering, encouraging and terrifying at the same time, uplifting and calming and also teaching me a lot. Thank you!  Occasionally I have this feeling about you, namely that you are of an ancient magician women’s tribe who has been dropped in our midst. Through you we are able to be connected with our ancestors. This is a feeling that continues to grow stronger and stronger.“ (Szilvi)

One can see the main common features and key words in these testimonials:

What do these archaic folk songs we learn and use do with the singers? They come from the past, and bringing true messages from the ancients, reaching the very depth of the self, they extend ones sense of space and time,  lift up, revitalize, relax, strengthen female power, female voice and female consciousness, balancing the inner self,  help finding the roots and help finding the way home. They help in surviving a personal life crisis, like losing a family member. These songs cleanse the inner self.

These songs and the act of singing itself like reciting certain effective texts, do create reality. Just like uttering certain powerful, magical, healing texts. According to the speech act theory of Searle and Austin (Searle 1969., Austin 1962.) there are  texts, which not only describe, but also create reality. According to this we distinguish in linguistics not only constative but also constitutive statements. Singing gives an extra strengthening code to the efficacy of the texts. I would suggest that with the act of singing these special traditional texts one can even create a new reality, one can even constitute a new identity.


 I hope these few personal comments on the beneficial effects of the human voice and traditional singing might offer alternatives for helping to mitigate the effects of the global chaos that has descended upon a European city such as Budapest today.

Every now and then I wish to thank all those women and men who have kept alive on our behalf these valuable pieces of ancient knowledge and who continue to believe in the medium of oral tradition.  Thanks to them, all these ancient songs and traditional singing practices, using the natural and sincere human voice have truly become part of our Heritage. We all are free to use them for preserving our mental and physical health in the next decades and centuries.


  1. The “Csángó” people (Changos) are a Hungarian ethnographic group of Roman Catholic faith living mostly in the Romanian region of Moldavia, especially in Bacău County. Part of Changos was repatriated after II. World War in Hungary.
  2. Sang by: Dávid Illésné, Istók Róza, 1908, Moldavia, (RO) collected by Irén Lovász, Egyházaskozár (HU) on a fieldwork, 1980.
  3. Csík County (RO) unknown collector. Archive record No. 10918f in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/10918f.mp3).
  4. Sang by: Demeter Antalné Jánó Anna (1927), Gerlén Moldavia (RO). Recorded by Kallós, Zoltán, Sztanó, Pál in 1963. Archive record No. 4834c in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/4834c.mp3).
  5. Sang by: Simon Ferenc Józsefné Fazakas Ilona (1897), Lészped, Moldva (RO). Recorded by Domokos, Pál Péter & Rajeczky, Benjámin, 1954. Archive record No. Gr209Aa in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/Gr209Aa.mp3).
  6. Wedding song sang by Vajda Árpádné Gergely Anna (1909), Almásmálom, Transylvania (RO). Recorded by Kallós Zoltán, 1969. Archive record No. AP-9328e-f in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/9328e.mp3). Almost the same words in a funeral song sang by Balla Ferencné Szász Etelka (1939), Feketelak, Transylvania (RO), recorded by Kallós Zoltán & Sztanó Pál, 1963. Archive record No. AP-4712b in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/4712b.mp3).
  7. Lovász I.: Égi Hang/ Sacred Voice/ HEALING Voices I. cd, Budapest, SIRENVOICES, SVCD01, 2006.
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5qCsUSEnGw
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypNmxm_MMG8
  10. Lovász I.: Belső Hang/Inner Voice cd, Budapest, SIRENVOICES, SVCD02, 2007.
  11. Though hereby I try to refer to the original sourses, archive recordings of the songs, the final version I refer to in the article is the ones I published in my interpretation on my voice on my Inner Voice cd. That is why I refer first of all to my cds and/or life performances of them, and also to the original sources if I can. https://open.spotify.com/album/3FQgtx8lge3WIX5mUNjddF
  12. Recorded by Kodály, Zoltán in 1910, Gyergyóalfalu, Szekler land (RO). Notes and other versions, with audiorecord see: http://systems.zti.hu/br/hu/browse/19/3264
  13. Sung by Szakáll Józsefné (1900), Nemespátró, Transdanubia (HU), recorded by Olsvai, Imre & Sztanó, Pál in 1969. Archive record No. AP-6681l in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/6681l.mp3)
  14. https://open.spotify.com/album/3FQgtx8lge3WIX5mUNjddF
  15. A recent videorecord in Moldavia (RO): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hL4Yb9e-O8. The quoted strophe starts at 1:20 in the video.
  16. Sang by Horváth Rózsa, Válaszút, Transylvania (RO). Recorded by Jagamas János. Record: https://folkradio.hu/feltoltes/kotta/045k.jpg
  17. This is a commonly occurring text theme in Hungarian folk poetry.
  18. Sang by Bodor Györgyné Tankó Berta (1921), Gyimesfelsőlok (RO), recorded by Kallós, Zoltán, 1975. Archive record No. AP-13308b in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/13308b.mp3).In my interpretation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg_gmy2h5Cg
  19. Sang by Zerkula János (1927), Gyimesközéplok (RO), recorded by Sára, Ferenc, 1987. Archive record No. MNÉI2083 in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/MN%C3%89I2_083.mp3).In my interpretation: Inner Voice CD, Track 3. Fire: https://open.spotify.com/album/3FQgtx8lge3WIX5mUNjddF
  20. Sang by Baracsi Menyhértné Kiss Julianna (1891), Tunyog (East HU), recorded by Lajtha, László, 1937. Archive record No. Gr019Bb in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/Gr019Bb.mp3) In my interpretation:Inner Voice CD, Track 3. Fire:  https://open.spotify.com/album/3FQgtx8lge3WIX5mUNjddF
  21. Pentecost ritual song. My interpretation was inspired by the following archive recordings. Kapospula (Transdanubia, HU), sang by Gyurkó Jánosné Vörös Rozália (1892), recorded by Gábor, Judit & Kerényi, György, 1962.Archive record No. Gr4574b in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/4574b.mp3); Tápé (South HU), sang by Török Ferencné Molnár Viktória (1883), recorded by Kertész, Gyula & Péczely, Attila in 1955. Archive record No. AP-01284d1 in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/01284d1.mp3); Vitnyéd (Nord-West HU), sang by girls, recorded by Borsai, Ilona & Sztanó, Pál in 1962. Archive record No. AP-10726b in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/10726b.mp3).
  22. https://open.spotify.com/album/3FQgtx8lge3WIX5mUNjddF One can hear my version in my interpretation on the Inner Voic cd . Track no: 3: Tűz/Fire
  23. For original record see footnote 13.
  24. For original record see footnote 4.
  25. Hungarian folksong from Lészped (Moldavia, RO), sang by Jakab Istvánné Fazakas Anna (1905), recorded by Domokos, Pál Péter, 1969. Archive record No. AP-9027b in the Folk Music Archive of the Institute for Musicology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (mp3: http://db.zti.hu/24ora/mp3/9027b.mp3).
  26. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpOi8V5M7lU
  27. www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-kccCXEb2o (Live recording of the record promotion concert of Inner Voice cd, 2007.)
  28. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dST0e1MS6GA
  29. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjKfcNVfvhM
  30. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsqlZMGFAvQ
  31. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6kre_Agyps; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBdx7M5TzEo


Austin,J.L. How to do things with words. Cambridge, Mass 1962.

Bloch, M.:: „Symbols, Songs, Dance and Features of Articulation”… Archives Europénes de Sociology, 5, 1974. 55–81.

Lovász, I.: Szakrális kommunikáció, Budapest, L’Harmattan 2011. 36–42.)

Lovász I.: Hagyománypedagógia és lelkiegészség nevelés. Az emberi hang és a dalolás gyógyító ereje napjainkban. in: Lázár Imre – Szenczi Árpád (szerk.) A nevelés kozmológusai. Kodály Zoltán, Karácsony Sándor, Német László megújító öröksége. Bp. KRE- L’Harmattan, 2012. 147-169.

Lovász I.: A népzene mint művészeti kommunikáció

In: Spannraft Marcellina , Sepsi Enikő, Bagdy Emőke , Komlósi Piroska , Grezsa Ferenc (szerk.) Ki látott engem? Buda Béla 75.  Budapest: Károli Gáspár Református Egyetem; L’Harmattan Kiadó, 2014. pp. 289-305.

MakkaiÁ. (ed): In Quest of the mircle stag, Atlantis-Kentaur, Chicago – Corvina, Budapest 1996., 668-670.

Searle,J.: Speech Acts. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press, 1969.


Lovász,I.: Égi hang/ Sacred Voice cd, Budapest, SIRENVOICES, SVCD01. 2006,

LovászI.: Belső Hang/Inner Voice cd, Budapest, SIRENVOICES, SVCD02, 2007.

LovászI.: Női hang /Female Voicecd, Budapest, SIRENVOICES, SVCD03. 2017.


[2]Translated by Peter Zolmann. See Makkai 1996: 668–670.

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