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Hungarian Slovak Gypsies immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century, many from (Sáros in Hungary and Zemplín counties) Košice, Slovakia. They settled in the cities of Braddock, Homestead, Johnstown, and Uniontown, Pennsylvania; Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit and Delray, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; Chicago, 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.[1] These Roma were known for playing in cafes and restaurants, the name associating these Romani as Bashaldé was made up in late 20th century, and in Hungary they are called Romungro Romani; 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.

John Brenkacs Hungarian Gypsy Orchestra c. 1925, with Albert Balog, Geza Duna bass, Louis Balog cimbalom, Rudy Rigo Violin
John Brenkacs Hungarian Gypsy Orchestra c. 1925, with Albert Balog, Geza Duna bass, Louis Balog cimbalom, Rudy Rigo Violin

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 Liszt, who wrote fifteen Hungarian rhapsodies; Johannes Brahms, who wrote twenty-one Hungarian dances; Antonín Dvořák; Pablo de Sarasate, who wrote Zigeunerweisen; Georges 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.[2] Detroit's Delray district[3][4] 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.[5] They also played many weddings and special occasions, including movies. 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,[6] Ernie Kiraly, Max Bandy, Kal Bandy, Maxie Rigo, Martze Ballog, William Garber, John Brenkacs,[4] Louis Ballog,[7] Albert Balog, Geza Duna, Rudy Rigo, Emery Deutsch, Frank Richko, Maxie Fransko, Rudy Balog, Rudy Ziga, Arthur Rakoczi, Gusty Horvath,[8] Alex Udvary,[9] George Batyi, Tony Ballog,[10] Billy Rose, Martze Ballog, Willie Horvath, Bill Yedla, Albert Duna, Albert Horvath, and Bella (Bendy) Ballog.

The Gypsy Countess Verona,[11] 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.[12] Musicians from all over the world auditioned for a spot in the band. The cimbalom player was a Hungarian Gypsy from Braddock, William Hallup.[13] They made records, traveled the world and played at all Ford's events. His cimbalom is in the Henry Ford Museum.

Notable people


  1. ^ David Levinson (1991). Encyclopedia of World Cultures: North America. G.K. Hall. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-8161-1808-3. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  2. ^ Susan M. Papp (1981). Hungarian Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland. Cleveland State University. p. 229. Retrieved 2012-09-30.. Available through the Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Libraries.
  3. ^ "Hungarian Families".
  4. ^ a b "Growing up in Old Delray, by Robert Takacs". Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  5. ^ "Hungarian-American Restaurants". Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  6. ^ "Rabb Joska's Gypsy Cellar Records - Home". Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  7. ^ "Dulcimer Player's Forum - Cimbalom Links - (18)". Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  8. ^ "MTAP The Gus Horvath Hungarian Gypsy Collection". Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  9. ^ "Alex Udvary". Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  10. ^ "Tony Ballog and his Gypsy Orchestra". Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  11. ^ "'The Big Show' Its Title – New Hippodrome Spectacle to Have a Minstrel First Part" (PDF). New York Times. 1916-08-17. Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  12. ^ "Madore's Obscure Music Blog: Henry Ford's Old Fashioned/Old Time Dance Orchestra (Two 1926 Columbia 78s & One 1926 Victor 78)". Retrieved 2012-09-30.
  13. ^ "FolkWorld Article: T:-)M's Night Shift - Books". Retrieved 2012-09-30.