'the Diplomats' Pursue Rock & Roll Outreach (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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'The Diplomats' Pursue Rock-And-Roll Outreach

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and today we're talking Diplomacy. So far in the show we've covered international diplomacy, political diplomacy and in just a few minutes, we'll engage in a bit of plant diplomacy. Yes, plant diplomacy. But first, we'll meet some folks who are immersed in what I guess you could call musical diplomacy.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:34
We're in Northwest Washington at the Embassy of Hungary, where a four-member band is rehearsing for an upcoming gig.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:51
The band is called The Diplomats and initially it consisted solely of Hungarian embassy staffers.

MR. AKOS VEISZ

00:00:56
But that's the nature of diplomacy, it's about change. People come and go and most of the band members left and are now back in Hungary.

SHEIR

00:01:08
Except for this guy.

VEISZ

00:01:09
I'm Akos Veisz and I'm a diplomat at the Hungarian Embassy dealing with political and economic issues.

SHEIR

00:01:16
Veisz started The Diplomats last year when the long-time saxophonist came to the U.S. and realized so many of his new colleagues dabbled in music too.

VEISZ

00:01:24
We had a drum, we had a guitar player, we had a piano player, we had singers, but no bass player so I've decided to learn the bass.

SHEIR

00:01:34
Nowadays, not all members of The Diplomats work in the Hungarian Embassy, but they do have diplomatic and/or Hungarian ties. First up, on vocals Bryan Dawson.

MR. BRYAN DAWSON

00:01:43
I'm executive chairman of the American-Hungarian Federation.

SHEIR

00:01:46
And on guitar, David Rakviashvili.

MR. DAVID RAKVIASHVILI

00:01:52
My name is very complicated to pronounce, a family name, Rakviashvili. I'm diplomat the Embassy of Georgia.

SHEIR

00:02:00
And on drums, The Diplomats newest member...

MR. RIGO JANTY

00:02:02
Rigo Askosh (sp?) .

SHEIR

00:02:05
Did we just make this name?

JANTY

00:02:07
Given name, given diplomatic name. It's a rock name.

DAWSON

00:02:12
Rigo Janty.

JANTY

00:02:13
Try again, all right. Rigo Janty.

SHEIR

00:02:18
Rigo Janty, as he requested we call him, as only been with The Diplomats a couple of weeks. The Diplomats just lost a drummer, at the Hungarian embassy and with less than a month before their first gig outside Washington, a Hungarian Festival in Sarasota, Fla., Veisz says they scrambled to find a replacement.

VEISZ

00:02:35
We had Craig's List, we had the same emails that we have sent when we found our singers and that's how we found Rigo Janty, his Hungarian name.

SHEIR

00:02:49
Okay, so Rigo Janty may not have actual Hungarian roots, but he says he loves rehearsing here at the embassy.

JANTY

00:02:56
Even, like, the ambassador came by. I mean, the ambassador’s working and we’re bashing away, playing rock and roll covers.

VEISZ

00:03:02
We have a cool ambassador, Ambassador Gyorgy Szapáry. He's going to be there in Sarasota, Fla. with us.

SHEIR

00:03:09
So like a roadie.

DAWSON

00:03:10
Yes, the manager. Let's give him -- we'll give him a little.

SHEIR

00:03:14
The Diplomats perform American and Hungarian songs like this one by Bikini, a Hungarian band which formed in 1982 when the Communist regime was suppressing freedom of speech.

VEISZ

00:03:25
The Hungarian title is "Adj helyet magad mellett," which is, like, "Give Me a Place Right Next To You." So they were trying to write songs, which had these double meanings. So this one is about love, one meaning, the other is the love for freedom.

SHEIR

00:03:51
Singer Bryan Dawson says he's spent years trying to reconnect with his Hungarian roots and so this music means a lot to him.

DAWSON

00:03:59
My mother was very affected by all that happened. The multiple wars, the revolution, she was kicked out of school because of her family name. And so she largely wanted to forget when she came here and never really instilled anything in me. But my grandparents, whom I spent a lot of time with, from that, the love of my heritage really grew and I really tried to do what I can to give back what this country gave to me and my family.

SHEIR

00:04:23
That's why he joined up with the American Hungarian Federation, an interest group representing the Hungarian-American community. It’s also why he joined The Diplomats.

DAWSON

00:04:32
A lot of folks have seen movies about the importance of music to the folks stuck behind the Iron Curtain. David talks about how he was not allowed to listen to rock and roll and so he would practice in secret. When I was in Hungary in '89, I was amazed by all the little clubs that were popping up, the little jazz clubs and salsa clubs and young people coming in just hitting the piano. And so it's an amazing experience to sit here in freedom and play rock and roll.

SHEIR

00:04:58
Not that The Diplomats just play rock and roll. They do blues too, including a tune inspired by Bryan Dawson's father. It's called "Baby Blues."

SHEIR

00:05:31
The band hasn't recorded an album, though it hopes to eventually. It also hopes to expand its Washington venues beyond the embassy.

SHEIR

00:05:38
So you do think maybe you'll like play gigs around town?

DAWSON

00:05:41
We're looking for a manager. Rebecca? 10 percent in for you, just for you.

SHEIR

00:05:47
Yes?

VEISZ

00:05:49
We are looking for an audience, guys, out there.

SHEIR

00:05:52
Yes, there is that.

SHEIR

00:05:54
And part of the reason they want an audience so badly, says Akos Veisz, is to lift that shroud of mystery that's surrounded diplomacy through the years.

VEISZ

00:06:02
There is a part which has that secrecy and intimacy. But on the other hand, you have something else as well, which is the people-to-people diplomacy or public diplomacy. To understand the civilization of two countries, you know, to have a better understanding at the end of the day. And part of this effort is the rock and roll, what we are having here with The Diplomats.

SHEIR

00:06:27
Because ideally, Veisz says, this public diplomacy will bring the world together so it can sing as the old tune, "in perfect harmony." The Diplomats will be performing in Sarasota, Fla. at the 6th Annual Hungarian Festival this weekend.
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