Saturday, January 27, 2007

Szia, Masta Killa!

The Magyar Ramone
Before leaving New York we spent about a month poring over Time Out Budapest. This excellent guidebook features a half-page article called “Meet the Magyars: Tommy Ramone,” revealing that Tommy Ramone is half-Hungarian. Rick, the universe’s hugest Ramones fan, was enchanted.

In a strange twist of fate, our last week in New York found my bluegrass band opening up for Tommy Ramone’s bluegrass project Uncle Monk. Tommy played mandolin, and his wife (?) played guitar. Disturbingly, Tommy Ramone’s wife looked and sounded exactly like Joey Ramone. They played original bluegrass songs about going through the mountains, or drinking moonshine, or whatever, that sounded exactly like Ramones songs. Same three chords, same “wanna wanna wanna” choruses, same catchy lyrics that you can kinda sing along to, but not really, because you can’t actually understand the words. If you can imagine the music then imagine it being played by Gandalf and a Ramones-themed garden gnome.

Rick brought his Time Out Budapest to the show and asked Tommy to sign. Tommy sort of grumblingly signed it, completely unimpressed with the weirdness of him being in this book. We were telling this story to Bob Cohen the other night. ”Did you know that Tommy Ramone is half-Hungarian? We read it in Time Out Budapest.” “Yeah,” Bob Cohen says, “I wrote that.”

In a lot of ways it’s a small city, and once upon a time there weren’t many Americans here. Those who arrived early met everyone, wrote everything, brushed by every passing star.

Nuthing to Fuck With
Expat American Sue is one of those ageless elegant women with white hair and zero wrinkles. She speaks gently and precisely, as if being in Budapest for so long (over a decade and a half) has given her a slight accent. She is many things: dance ethnographer, swing dance instructor, translator….

SUE: I was a translator for a rap group here a few years ago…Oh dear, I’m going to forget their name… It wasn’t just one guy, there were a lot of rappers. They had strange, strange names. Their group had some sort of Chinese name …
SARAH: Uh, could it be…WU TANG CLAN????
SUE: That sounds right... I remember one was named “Masta Killa”?
SARAH: Yes!!!
SUE: That’s them, then. I remember being in the lobby of the hotel and I had to call up to his room: “Hello, may I speak with…Masta Killa?” “That’s me” “I’m sorry Mr. Killa, but we’re going to be late to the venue …” The organizers asked me to show them around the city in this mini-van. I was pointing out the sights: “And this is the Opera…”

Despite the fact Rick and I were panting, eyes agog, mouths unhinged, standing puddles of our own drool like golden retrievers, Sue was reluctant to say more. Our questions about the Rza, the Gza, the Old Dirty Bza (RIP) were gently brushed aside.

File under More Reasons to Learn Hungarian, cross-reference: KILLA BEES!


barmaljova said...

bob cohen is the secret golden key that opens every door in b-town, isn't he? great story!

Anonymous said...

Inspectah Deck: Yeah, them n***as is us when Hip-Hop meant something to us. That’s so true man. I seen from the steps of Budapest know what I’m saying to the sands of San Juan. Like you name it, I was there. Germany, did it. [Some] places, I’m the only Black person there, man. I’m still mixing it up on the motherf**kers, thrilling ‘em. They got a genuine love for s**t, man. All the autographs mean something to ‘em, a picture of me, like they treasure that s**t. This dude that came five, six, seven years later with s**t taking pictures of me like, “Yo you took this the last time in Russia.” And in Moscow, they is f**king [crazy], like I’m from Staten Island, man. I’m from Park Hill. You seen my hood, it’s like… I made it to Budapest. I’m smoking Budapest weed like it’s Budapest birds, yeah. I’m a Park Hill n***a, I’m loving this s**t, though. When you say Wu-Tang Worldwide, man, that s**t is worldwide, bro. I even went to Hawaii for that “It’s Yours” video where you see [Ol'] Dirty going up the escalator.