My house in Budapest
My hidden treasure chest
Golden grand piano
My beautiful Castillo
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Blue Danube, which separates Buda from Pest
(thanks, Justin Novelli)
In 2013 British singer/songwriter George Ezra was backpacking across Europe by rail. He had every intention of getting to Budapest in Eastern Europe, but he never got there. Instead, he opted to write a song about the city that isn’t really about the city at all. Lyrically, the song is more of a laundry list of things he would give up for somebody, probably a lover – even giving up a trip to Hungary. Ezra said jokingly to Q
Magazine, while on tour in Budapest after the song hit the charts, “If only I had based the song in a Caribbean town, we could have traveled there.”
En route to Budapest, Ezra met up with some friends for the Eurovision finals in Malmo, Sweden, and ended up getting too drunk to travel to Hungary; which is really a shame, because I have been to Budapest and it’s quite a beautiful place to visit. I am positive Ezra would have loved visiting there during his travels.
The Danube River cuts the city into two halves: Buda and Pest, so it's actually a city of two
cities, having been joined as one city in 1873, following being named the capital of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Part of what's special about Budapest is its location. Centrally positioned, sandwiched between proverbial superpowers, Budapest became a battleground for the Nazis and the Soviets prior to, during, and after World War II. In fact, the Siege of Budapest lasted years and claimed thousands of lives. Additionally, the Holocaust took millions more from within the country, most of whom were residents of the capital city.
Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park, Budapest, Hungary
(thanks, Szvitek Peter)
If you can get past its bloody history, the city has a lot of character and charm. Most of its buildings have been remodeled and/or rebuilt, though there are still remnants of the past struggles. The Danube itself is possibly the most easygoing and peaceful river on the continent. While I was there, my wife and I decided to take a candlelit cruise up and down the river. Seeing the various landmarks lit up (Parliament, Buda Castle Hill, and Fisherman’s Bastion to name a few) was reminiscent of Christmas at home. I didn’t know of George Ezra’s song when I visited the city, but I hope since the release of his album, Wanted on Voyage
, his touring has brought him to the Pearl of the Danube.
George Ezra’s baby face is difficult to reconcile with raspy baritone voice. Sounding older than his 23-or-so odd years, with that young visage, it's hard to envision him as the owner of such a polished baritone. He cites one of his major influences as Woody Guthrie, and one can hear the folk aspect shining through in his music, an influence which began with Bob Dylan, but quickly spread into previous American blues and folk artists. He said he liked the idea of singing with a big voice, so he tried it. And let me tell you, for such a young and diminutive guy, his voice packs a wallop!
For instance, when Ezra delivers his oohs in the middle of his verses, he harkens back to the greats of the past like Rusted Root and, going further back, even Mungo Jerry. And when he sings, “Give me one good reason why I should never make a change,” his rasp becomes more of a belting-out sound that impresses and makes the listener want to sing along. As his first single, "Budapest" did the up-and-coming artist wonders. The track peaked at #3 on the UK charts and reached into the top ten in many other countries. Two years later, the song peaked at #32 in the US. But he has time to hit it big across the pond.
Keep going, Mr. Ezra: the world is expecting big things from you.
~ Justin Novelli
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