The Kennedy Center

Bob Cohen with Szalonna and His Band


The joint performance of Bob Cohen with Szalonna and His Band offers a special opportunity to experience the multicultural heritage and musical legacy of Hungary and Eastern Europe. 

Bob Cohen’s repertoire includes Hungarian, Romanian, Moldavian, and Yiddish music, as well as traditional Hasidic tunes. He presents klezmer music as a living folk art—performing it in the style in which it was played in early-twentieth-century Eastern Europe. He was born in New York in 1956 to a Hungarian mother and Moldavian father. In the late 1980s, he commenced his research on Hungary’s Jewish musical heritage, including songs, dances, and musical instruments. In 1993, he founded Di Naye Kapelye (The New Band) with accordionist Christina Crowder and bassist Géza Pénzes. The musicians present klezmer music in the style in which it was originally performed in Eastern Europe in the early twentieth century. Their 2008 release Traktorist ranked high on Songline World Music Magazine’s “Top of the World” list of best new albums. 

Led by István Pál (known by the nickname of Szalonna), Szalonna and His Band currently accompany the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble. In their concerts, they play beautiful melodies from the Carpathian Basin. Along with their traditional folk music repertoire, they also perform folk music-inspired reinterpretations. Because maintaining traditions is very important to the band members, they also teach folk music. They are regular participants in the largest music festivals in Hungary, and have also performed throughout Europe and overseas—including in India, Venezuela, and the United States. In 2007, they received the Prima Primissima People’s Choice Award together with the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble.
Bob Cohen with Szalonna and His Band