Hungarian ambassador rocks the house at New York City's Knitting Factory


Hungarian diplomacy has struck a few good chords in the United States recently. You see Hungary's ambassador to the US - Andras Simonyi - represented his country in an unusual way - by performing in a rock concert. Radio Budapest called the rockin' diplomat and asked him if he played for diplomatic relations or for rock and roll....

"Of course I do it in my capacity as an ambassador but I do it also as a musician, as someone who has been in touch with rock and roll for forty years. We played at the Knitting Factory in New York City with my band, which consists of the US Ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Vershbow, Lincoln Bloomfield, who is an Assistant Secretary of State, Dan Poneman, who is a consultant with The Scowcroft Group, and Jeff Baxter, who is a superstar guitar player, who used to play with the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan."

It seems to me that your group is a steady group...

"It's steady spiritually but we of course cannot play very often because everybody has high-level political or diplomatic jobs. The real important thing about this is that you can perfectly be a serious ambassador, work in a very important job for the government, and still play rock and roll music seriously. Our motto is that the rock generation is in charge today. Whether you come from Hungary or from the United States, we grew up with the same kind of music. As far as I'm concerned, rock and roll music has meant so much to me when I was growing up behind the Iron Curtain. I want to convey a message to my friends in the United States."

Do you think such an activity of an ambassador can make Hungary better known among diplomats in Washington?

"Absolutely, but not only among diplomats. I think what's more important is that we are reaching out to the American public. Our message with playing rock and roll music is that there is a commonality of culture. Our message is that we Hungarians and you Americans are very much alike and it is so natural that you Americans and we Hungarians hold hands in the world today. By the way, the proceeds of the concert went to the victims of the tsunami."

That was the other purpose of your help the tsunami victims...

"Absolutely. We had a very good audience. There were some outstanding guests. From the political world there was Anthony Lake, who was the chief security advisor to Bill Clinton, there were a lot of people from the business world, and there was Tommy Ramone of The Ramones. So, there was a very good crowd and I hope they carried the message that rock and roll is universal and one of the universal languages."