Can songs in different languages be good? A lot of us probably haven’t even looked into this question, listening only to the most popular songs in English, or whatever your native language is. The thing is, there are so many hidden musical gems that are in different languages and are from different countries. So yes, they can be great!
This has be proven many times before, where songs in different languages have made their way onto mainstream radio stations. The most popular example of this is probably “99 Luftballons” by German band Nena. Released in 1983, it became a huge international hit, reaching Number 1 on the music charts in the US and Australia. Although an English version was released, it never reached the popularity of the original German version in non-German speaking countries. So, theoretically, there must be other songs not in English that could potentially been popular in English-speaking countries, or even just enjoyed by English speakers. This got me thinking, especially because in my life I have been exposed to many songs not in English, but in Hungarian.
I am from Hungarian descent, with my dad’s parents both being born in Hungary before immigrating to Australia and having my dad and his brother. Throughout my childhood, my dad exposed me to many elements of Hungarian culture, including the food, movies, history and of course, the music. And after going back and listening to some of these songs, I realised that they really are jams! It is only the language barrier that probably prevented these from being popular outside of Hungary. I’m talking classic rock songs, pop ballads, and more! These songs are honestly very similar to many English songs that are played on repeat on Western radio stations. More people should know about these songs!
So, for this blog post, I’m going to tell you about some of my favourite Hungarian songs. There are a mix of rock and pop here, but all of them are excellent songs, musically. Anyway, here we go: my top Hungarian music picks:
- “Azok a Boldog Szep Napok” by Beatrice
The first Hungarian song I ever heard! The title of this song translates to “Those Beautiful Happy Days”, and the song is tells the story of a man who is reminiscing about his relationship with a woman, only to be happy that it is over. The main chorus translates to “Those happy, nice days, good bye! You don’t know, how nice it is without you”. This song is a classic rock song, plain and simple. It is extremely catchy and fun to listen to. The style of the band Beatrice has been described as a mix between AC-DC and punk bands such as The Cure, and this style really comes through in this song. An awesome rocky song!
2. “Mielott Elmegyek” by Bikini
Remember Beatrice? Well for a while, the band was broken up, and several members turned to create the band Bikini. As such, this song is in a very similar style to “Azok a Boldog Szep Napok”. Think Journey but in Hungarian. The song is called “Before I Go” in English, and similar to “Azok” it tells the story of someone about to leave a relationship. The narrator describes his relationship and the things he gained from it, before giving his partner a photograph which they can look at when they miss them, or “tear it apart”. Again, the musical elements are what makes this song so good. A true rock song, with consistent and rough guitars and drums throughout. Honestly, this song just makes me want to dance, it’s very upbeat and catchy!
However, the best version of this song is NOT the original! As a part of the CityRocks project in Hungary in 2019, 500 Hungarian musicians, including drummers, guitarists, singers and bassists, got together to perform this song together. Somehow this version is even rockier than the original, and the atmosphere really makes this version better. An annual project, CityRocks brings together Hungarian musicians to sing both English and Hungarian songs. Honestly worth checking out their entire library of performances. Freaking cool!
3. “Ahol a város őrzi a Dunát” by Keresztes Ildikó
“Where the City Guards the River” is the English name of this 2018 pop song, and it is all about the city of Budapest, the capital of Hungary. The lyrics are about a love story that took place in Budapest, with many famous landmarks including the Chain Bridge having a mention. It was written by Keresztes for the Budapest Song competition in 2018, and although it didn’t win it is still an extremely well written song. The bridge section “Budapest, Budapest” is extremely catchy, and easy to sing along to, whether you know Hungarian or not. A really happy pop song about a wonderfully beautiful city.
4. “Magyarország” by Oláh Ibolya
A very patriotic song adapted from an existing piece. The writer of the song, Peter Geszti, heard a singer performing a song called “Alegria”, and bought the rights to the music in order to add Hungarian lyrics to the melody. The song was performed by Olah on Hungary’s independence day in 2005. The title literally translates to “Hungary”, and it is a love song to the country. Catchy, emotional and interestingly produced, a nice song about the brilliant country of Hungary.
Interestingly, a version of this song was sung in “We Are the World” style by Hungary’s most famous musicians, in the fight against the violence occurring in the country at the time (2006). Probably the best version of this song, it’s so emotional and I love hearing and seeing the different musicians Hungary has to offer.
Well, that was my picks for some Hungarian songs! I hope you enjoy listening to them, and that it gives you a new appreciation for music outside of our usual realm of listening. Music in other languages is awesome! Let me know if there is any other country’s music I should look at, I honestly would love to explore some more languages.
Enjoy the jams,