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Most folks have come to know Marta Sebestyen's voice from the haunting theme song of the Oscar-winning film "The English Patient" or from the ethereal "Marta's Song" on "Boheme," the world beat album by Deep Forest. However, her work has been widely available for more than a decade.

The traditional Hungarian song heard under the opening credits of "The English Patient" -- "En Csak Azt Csodalom (Lullaby for Catherine)" -- is a perfect vehicle for the haunting melancholy and languorous ornamentation common to Central Europe. There are several similarly plaintive songs on the latest Muzsikas album, "Morning Star" (Hannibal/Rykodisc), but the album is also full of dance music and courtship songs that might be found in a Transylvanian village at the turn of a century.

That the year could be either 1900 or 2000 is a reflection of Muzsikas's role as a leading figure in the Hungarian folk movement of the '70s. Muzsikas's primary focus has been Transylvania, which was ceded to Romania after World War I but is to Hungarian culture what the Deep South is to America -- a place where diverse folk forms were centered and where they have somehow survived modernization and cultural assimilation.

"Morning Star" is very much a celebration of village life and its varied rhythms: sensual love ballads, spirited wedding dances, deliberate work songs.

Intermediate string overflow Cannot justify line --Richard Harrington
Washington Post

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