Zsuzsa Koncz, Hungary’s iconic singer speaks out on not being subservient

Zsuzsa Koncz knows from personal experience what it’s like to be a performer, singer and artist in a dictatorial regime. In 1973, even though Hungary’s Kádár regime was more liberal than any other Eastern bloc country when it came to cultural and artistic expression, Zsuzsa Koncz’s album entitled Jelbeszéd (Sign Language) was suddenly pulled from the shelves of record stores and many of her songs barred from state radio. The 1973 album included songs that had implicit political messages critical of the one party regime, ones that almost any Hungarian would have immediately understood. These songs included ones like Kertész leszek (I will be a gardener), which spoke to those who went into ‘political emigration’ during the Kádár regime, as well as her iconic work, Ha én rózsa volnék (If I were a rose), which remains Hungary’s most popular protest song in pro-democracy circles. The latter was composed by János Bródy and the former was co-composed, with Levente Szörényi. The last two verses of If I were a rose speak about tanks rolling into Hungary and flags that serve the interests of ruling parties and politicians.

In recent years, Zsuzsa Koncz continued her tradition of speaking out against repression and injustice in implicit ways, through her music. In 2014, her song Tündérország (Fairyland) juxtaposed the language of  fairy tales to speak about very real issues haunting Hungarian society: abject poverty, especially among the elderly, a sense of alienation and a society at perpetual war with itself.

This week, the 71 year old Ms. Koncz went from implicit commentary on contemporary Hungarian society and politics to some very explicit statements, all in an interview she gave to a women’s publication called WMN. She gave this interview after a busy spring season, when she went on a national tour and filled the Papp László Sports Arena in Budapest to capacity during one of her concerts. In this interview, Ms. Koncz remarked that despite her continued popularity, she has been effectively barred from Hungarian state media.

“It does not matter that in the last seven years the official media has essentially concealed that we even existed,” noted Ms. Koncz. The journalist asked if her if she was on a black list, to which the singer replied: “I don’t know, because even in the past, black lists were not public. But one thing is for sure: in the last seven years, I have appeared more often on foreign television shows than on Hungarian television.”

Zsuzsa Koncz in 2017. Photo: Balogh Zoltán / MTI.

Ms. Koncz also spoke about the “pointless and endlessly irritating perpetual battles against newer and newer enemies.” Of course,  to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán this is hardly pointless: declaring war against new and imagined “enemies of the nation” every day (Brussels, George Soros, migrants, NGOs, teachers, students, journalists, etc.) has been a very successful political tactic in Hungary.

The Orbán regime has a rather low opinion of Hungarians indeed, to think that its extremely primitive hate campaigns are adequate for the “plebes.” Ms. Koncz recognizes this as well.

Ms. Koncz emphasized:

“I often feel that that they take us for fools–people who they can smile at and lie to their very face. They feel that they  can ‘legally’ rob people of their last fillér. Four years ago, when we produced Tündérország, we really did not believe our eyes. We honestly hoped that all of this was just an evil tale. But today we can clearly see that this is reality itself, even if this is difficult to accept. (…) I am not subservient. I am an adult citizen, with my own convictions, according to which I aim to live my life. For a certain period of time, we may be deceived and misled. But the moment of truth will come.”

One of the reasons why this interview on WMN.hu is so important is that it may reach a readership beyond the most politically engaged Hungarians who already read the country’s main dailies, weeklies and Budapest-based political news sites.

3 Comments

  1. Bendeguz79 says:

    She sure is an honest, free-thinking and a beautiful person, beside a talent artist. God bless her.

    P.S. She looks great at 71.

  2. Bendeguz79 says:

    Hm ?

    Nobody has any comment or opinion on Zsuzsa.

  3. I have three daughters and three grand-daughters; therefore women’s right is very important for me. It is a fact that in Hungary (and many other countries) we still live in a men dominated political system because women are not participating equally in the process. Have you ever thought of why Zsuzsa Koncz (and others like Janos Brody, etc,…) is not in the Parliament as an MP to voice her opinion and represent her believes to confront those she is accusing with working against the society? The so called intellectual community’s favoured method is to hide behind their celebrity status and keep snarling.

    Would somebody be kind to enlighten me why someone’s opinion worth more just because she can sing than the others’ who keep putting brick over brick to build the Country?

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