Hungarian Slovak Gypsies in the United States
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Hungarian Slovak Gypsies immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century, many from (Sáros and Zemplén counties) Kassa, Hungary. They settled in the cities of Braddock, Homestead, Johnstown, and Uniontown, Pennsylvania; Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit and Delray, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; and New York City. The Hungarian Slovak Gypsies were a community of settled Roma, and in the United States were well known for playing music for the Central European immigrant communities in which they settled. For the first time, Americans were seeing Gypsies different than the stereotype they only knew from literature. These Roma never told fortunes, traveled in caravans, or performed in a circus. There is very little written about them, and what was written was spread out in different publications. These Roma were known as Bashaldo Gypsies, and in Hungary they are called Romange Roma; portions of them were also known as Romungre. In the early 1900s the Roma in Braddock, Pennsylvania, purchased an entire block of homes, making them the largest population of settled Roma in the United States.
The Hungarian Gypsy Orchestra consist of a lead violin referred to as a Primas, a second violin or viola, tenor violin, bass fiddle and a cimbalom. Their music was an important part of world roots music, and they performed throughout America in Hungarian music and all genres of music. In 1887, the first of these Roma immigrated to America,they brought to America the traditional Hungarian Gypsy music they and their ancestors played in Europe for hundreds of years. These Gypsy musicians were descendants of famous Gypsy orchestras such as János Bihari, whose descendants today are the Lakatos family; female Gypsy violinist Czinka Panna; Pista Dankó; Rigó Jancsi; Imre Magyari; and Racz Laci. They created the Csárdás, which influenced such composers as Joseph Haydn; Franz List, who wrote fifteen Hungarian rhapsodies; Johannes Brahms, who wrote twenty-one Hungarian dances; Antonín Dvořák; Pablo de Sarasate, who wrote Zigeunerweisen; George Bizet, who wrote Carmen; and Maurice Ravel, who wrote Tzigane.
By 1920, Cleveland had the largest population of Hungarians in America, second to Budapest. Cleveland Hungarians held hundreds of events every year and the Gypsies were the entertainment for all of these events. Detroit's Delray district had many Hungarian restaurants such as the Hungarian Village, where as many as four cimbaloms would be set up to play, and in Braddock, Pennsylvania, journalists from all over the world were writing about them. These Hungarian Gypsy musicians played all the major Hungarian events, and many American events for over 100 years, and in the finest restaurants in the country. They also played many weddings and special occasions. For over 100 years, newspaper articles, books, and journals documented them and their traditions. One tradition is the Hungarian Gypsy funeral were as many as fifty to seventy-five musicians would play for the deceased in a funeral procession. Many of the funerals news reporters covered went through the Associated Press in newspapers all over the world. The best known Primas' (lead violin) came from this group such as Joska Rabb, Ernie Kiraly, Max Bandy, Kal Bandy, Maxie Rigo, Martze Ballog, William Garber, John Brenkacs, Louis Ballog, Albert Balog, Geza Duna, Rudy Rigo, Emery Deutsch, Frank Richko, Maxie Fransko,Rudy Balog, Rudy Ziga, Ziggy Bella, Arthur Rakoczi, Gusty Horvath, Alex Udvary, George Batyi, Tony Ballog, Billy Rose, Martze Ballog, Willie Horvath, Bill Yedla, Albert Duna, Albert Horvath, and Bella (Bendy) Ballog.
The Gypsy Countess Verona, was one of the most famous of these Hungarian Slovak Gypsies. She married the Count Dean Szechy de Szechy Favla, of Budapest. She was one of the greatest cimbalom players in the world; she toured the world, made records and wrote music.
In 1924 Henry Ford, in an effort to get the young people away from jazz and back into the old music, started his Old Fashion Dance Band. Musicians from all over the world auditioned for a spot in the band. The cimbalom player was a Hungarian Gypsy from Braddock, William Hallup. They made records, traveled the world and played at all Ford's events. His cimbalom is in the Henry Ford Museum.
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