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Hungarian pro-democracy icon Zsuzsa Koncz still going strong

Hungarian pro-democracy icon Zsuzsa Koncz still going strong
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Half a century on, Zsuzsa Koncz remains one of Hungary’s most popular singers.

Her lyrics, laced with double meaning, strongly criticised Hungary’s Soviet-era communist regime, calling for greater democracy.

Today, 25 years after the fall of communism, her songs are still a mirror of Hungarian society.

“I sing about historical situations, for example my song ‘The Daughter of Kárpáthys’ is about the 1956 revolution, it is about those who left the country and only returned when the last Soviet soldier was gone. This was a matter I was really interested in, so it was not a coincidence that I studied law because I was really interested in it,” she told our correspondent in Budapest.

In 1970, some of her songs were banned from state radio. Three years later, an entire album was censored. According to Koncz, state censorship was inconsistent, and no explanation was given over the decision to ban a song.

“On TV, we were allowed to sing it, but it was banned on state radio. They wanted to fire the entire leadership of the record factory, but in the end, there were just disciplinary action against them. They were told: ‘Comrades, you have to pay more attention to what these people are singing…’ By ‘these people’, they meant us (Zsuzsa and her lyricist, János Bródy) of course…,” she says with a laugh.

Their songs talked about the life-long rootlessness of those who left Hungary after the 1956 crackdown and returned after the fall of communism.

Other famous lyrics refer to a flag waving in the winds (of political extremism).

The singer’s popularity grew beyond the borders of her homeland, especially in former communist East Germany, and many of her songs have been translated into German and French.

“At that time, in France, I saw Gilbert Becaud, Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Vartan, Francoise Hardy – great French artists who influenced me, the little girl I was, still a student, I didn’t yet know what I wanted in life… those people showed me the values of this profession. That influenced my own values,” she said.

In 2001, Zsuzsa Koncz became a Knight of the French Legion of Honour. A few years later, she was awarded the Kossuth Prize, the most prestigious cultural award in Hungary.

Still going strong, The 68-year old icon is currently touring Hungary, Germany and Slovakia.