Interview with Izabella Caussanel, lead-singer of the Hungarian music group Ötödik Évszak (Fifth Season): “We have to remember what a magnificent culture we have. Rediscover magnificent texts which really do tell us something.”
At the end of 2020, the group released “Ne rejtsd el” (Don’ Hid It), its inaugural album with 13 songs mixing different musical styles as well as the Hungarian and French languages. Whilst the majority of the album is inspired by Hungarian folksongs, certain songs have a more jazzy feel and the cultural mix put forward, whilst easily dismissed as a hotchpotch of “world music”, is more in step with a “Franco-Hungarian” theme.
Ferenc Almássy, who himself is of Franco-Hungarian ancestry, couldn’t miss to opportunity to interview the lead-singer of the group, Izabelle Caussanel, writer, translator and interpreter which gives her new group such a unique identity that has been very well received by the press and Hungarian music industry.
Hungarian and French poems – Our readers will recognise, or discover, the texts of Victor Hugo or Attila József – and jazzy Transylvanian acoustics. Discover Ötödik Évszak (Fifth Season), that has got everything to excite people both in Paris and Budapest.
Ferenc Almássy: I am very happy that you accepted to do this interview. Even more so since you tell me that it is your first interview in French. Before talking about your group and music, can you tell our readers, who might not yet be familiar with you, a little bit about yourself?
Izabella Caussanel: I’m Franco-Hungarian and I have lived in Hungary for four years now. My other, Gyenis Kati, was part of táncház, the Hungarian folk revival movement. Whilst she had left everything behind to live with my father in France, she continued to support and promote this aspect of Hungarian culture throughout Paris and other regions. She managed to bring together a Hungarian community by her work and became an ambassador of traditional Hungarian folk dances, songs, attire and food. With the Hungarian Institute of Paris, she organised a táncház once a month. Therefore, I have been bathed in this cultural identity since I was little and I was always happy when my mother organised dancing and singing demonstrations at school.
Having completed my schooling and having lived in the Paris suburbs all my life, I decided to move to Hungary. I had to attend a language school in Budapest for a year in order to shore up my Hungarian and then studied jazz at the Béla Bartok Music Academy in Budapest for two years. I have been in my group for about a year now.
Ferenc Almássy: As fan of folk music, notably Hungarian folk music, I immediately got hooked to your style. However, it is a style that is difficult to label. Whilst the musical influence of the Carpathian Bassin – notably Hungary and Transylvania – is evident, there are other influences that give it its own style. How would you define Ötödik Évszak‘s musical style?
Izabella Caussanel: That’s difficult! I have often asked myself that question. To make it simple, I’d say that it is world fusion music. A fusion of French and Hungarian but also a fusion of jazz and traditional Hungarian music, all the while using traditional Hungarian instruments for its acoustics.
To be frank, we never really thought about it that much. We didn’t start out by saying “we’re going to do such-and-such a style”. From the start, we only knew that we wanted to play together and that we had a certain distinctiveness being that I was Franco-Hungarian and that they played traditional Hungarian music. But we also were influenced by other things, be it Freddy Mercury, Santana, Louis Armstrong, or even contemporary pop music, for my band mates whilst I am clearly influenced by pop and rap.
But to answer your question, we aren’t looking to have a particular style. I think that this is also reflected in our choice of name: Fifth Season. It’s something that is indefinable, even by ourselves, yet allows many different possibilities! Who knows what we’ll be doing in five years, perhaps we’ll do a techno album with folk instruments! In any case, we don’t want to be pigeon-holed. We want to be able to try everything.
However, what is unchangeable is our identity, which is based on singing both in French and in Hungarian, and the use of Hungarian instruments. I couldn’t sing in English or Spanish in the same way I sing in French or Hungarian, which are the languages I grew up with and into which I can pour all my heart.