What is Vatafaka not? Not a drum performance group, because they are not playing on drums, they are not playing composed or prepared pieces (everything is spontaneous and improvised), and even not all of them are drummers or percussionists. Not a chaos group of independent rhythmic actions, because they listen and react to each other and – more often than not – they play tightly together. Is it a concert when they perform? No, if a concert is defined as some artists who have learnt something and present their knowledge to the enjoyment of other people. The performers did not learn anything to play together (there are no rehearsals or preparations), and they are performing rather more for their own enjoyment than for that of the audience. However, the audience is part of the story.
So what is then Vatafaka? The performers just play together, almost always in different configurations. In those performances they are rather like mentally sick folks (this is even a declared criterion to join the team :)). They are coming from very different daily activities of ordinary human creatures, who just act together to release their own energy and tension, and at the same catalyse the same process in the audience. There are very few fixed elements in these performances, all of which are certain trash tools that they carry with small vans, like, e.g., an engine (without the exhaust tube), some really big metal barrels, mechanical sirens from the 2nd world war, big hammers, some jaw harps,starling chaser cannon etc.
But, hey, instead of trying to define what they are, let’s look at their history and what other people think about them.
There were some early, short-lived formations, in which Gábor Huszár (the founder and leader of Vatafaka) participated, namely Koyanisqatzi (1988-90) and Metanoia (1991-1995). The first action of Vatafaka was in Fehér Akác upon the request of and contribution from Purgatórium, in 1995. Broken heating blocks, damaged walls and dust was left behind in the building after the performance.
Long silence and we are in 2010. Someone heard Vatafaka, maybe in Hódstock 5 Festival, Hódmezővásárhely
… and characterised them as “industrial shaman music”. Is there such a thing? I dunno, but these keywords are typical for what they are doing: subconscious energy release, barrels and metal bars, a “Zaporozhets car v4 engine, about a dozen hitting the metal, jaw harp players and smiths forming the iron. Three trucks, two semitrailers to move the metal rubbish, three hours to assemble the frame stage, 3×32 Amperes of current, lot of petrol, 50 kg Polish flame peas (the cole needed for the smithy).
Here are two documentaries from those times
and an artistic video
What about the name – Vatafaka? A radio reporter asked them about it (the name). One of the Vata members said something like this: “When people see us in action they are very surprised and they have no clue what all this action is about. And therefore we call ourselves Vatafaka, which comes to people’s mind automatically when seeing us.” The Hungarian radio reporter did not understand anything from this (you also don’t), but there was no further question asked, hence this explanation can be considered to be the official one.
There had been and are being permanent changes happening in the crew. In 2012, a (throat) singer and woodwind player joined. Only he and the the jaw harp players use actual musical instruments in Vatafaka. Later new jaw harp players and drummers showed up.
Finally, to illustrate the Vata feeling and way of thinking, here is the latest message from Gábor the leader to Vata members, terminating his announcement of the Vata participation in the upcoming Ozora Festival, 2014:
“Boys, please leave your wives at home. We are not going to make a lovely, relaxed family weekend. We are making a brutal Vata concert!”
But, hey, anyway you must hear and see them to understand what is Vatafaka …