How Fekete Zaj grew the most tenacious community

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Delta Stage at Fekete Zaj 2020
Delta Stage at Fekete Zaj 2020. Photo credit: Bands Through The Lens, provided by Fekete Zaj Press

Fekete Zaj is a well-established name in the Hungarian festival scene. Focusing on niche and obscure genres, the festival is one of the main destinations for fans of underground music. Throughout the years they grew an extremely tenacious community. In this article we explore the history of the festival, which certainly had its ups and downs.

The beginning

In the 2000s, organizer Negative Art hosted a weekly concert series. They mostly focused on dark, goth, industrial and metal music. These events were organized in a small club, with an amazing regular audience. However, Negative Art have always felt that these music genres don’t really have a decent festival in Hungary. So they set out to organize one.

Balázs Varga from Negative Arts looked for a festival location for years. Once, he helped Hungarian band The Moon and the Nightspirit at their festival gig in Mátra and stayed after the show. On the camping, he saw that the location was amazing. The festival he visited had their last edition that year. The organizers helped him to get in touch with the owners, so he could start a new festival there.

Up to this day, Varga considers the Mátra-Sástó venue the most ideal festival location ever. In 2009 Negative Art started Fekete Zaj (“Black Noise” in English) with a group of volunteers. Even in the first year they had foreign acts, like Negura Bunget and The Last Days of Jesus playing the festival. 

Moon and the Nightspirit at Fekete Zaj 2010
Moon and the Nightspirit at Fekete Zaj 2010. Photo provided by Fekete Zaj Press via gothic.hu

Fekete Zaj ‘School Trip’

From 2014 through 2017 the festival had to take a break because the camping at Mátra-Sástó needed to be refurbished. Also, after renovation the owners didn’t want to host festivals there. But in the meantime, something magical happened. Regulars of the festival decided to keep Fekete Zaj alive by organizing a smaller scale event in Mátra, in a smaller camp with one stage. Only Hungarian groups played at these events, and they were financed on an honesty box basis.

Varga helped the regulars with a few ideas and contacts. But it is important to note that this was a completely voluntary organization by people who had never organized a festival before. They were fans of Fekete Zaj, and wanted to keep the name alive in the hope that the festival would one day return. These events were called ‘Fekete Zaj School Trip’.  

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When the regular festival resumed in 2017, the organizers of Fekete Zaj decided to name the small stage on the festival the ‘School Trip Stage’, as a tribute to the School Trip events. They wanted to honour the fans that organized events to keep the festival alive. Most underground bands that attend Fekete Zaj now, play on this stage.

Fekete Zaj osztálykirándulás 2015
Fekete Zaj Osztálykirándulás (‘School Trip’) 2015. Photo provided by Fekete Zaj Press via gothic.hu

Restarting the festival

By 2017, Varga had a clear vision to restart Fekete Zaj. The camping finally said yes and the festival could return to Mátra-Sástó. But there were serious financial risks in restarting the festival. One of the main concerns was the higher fee of the location. In order to start again, the organizers started a community support campaign.

In this campaign, the organizers assessed needs and suggestions from the audience to see how they could provide the best possible experience with their return. This campaign, as well as the ‘Fekete Zaj School Trip’ events, extremely strengthened the festival’s community feeling.

Igorrr at Fekete Zaj 2018
Igorrr at Fekete Zaj 2018. Photo credit: Bands Through The Lens, provided by Fekete Zaj Press

The challenges of 2020

The relaunch of the festival came with an international focus. They invited more international acts, and Fekete Zaj also became a more important festival in the underground scene of the region. When it came to making plans for 2020, going on with Hungarian bands only was considered as option C. Option A was to have the original line-up. Option B was to cancel the festival.

It was only the third possible option to have the festival with local bands only. But in the end, the bookers managed to put together an amazing line-up, including many artists who usually would not necessarily fit in. Fekete Zaj broadened their horizons in genres, and managed to put together a great line-up in less than a week. Fortunately, the audience welcomed this new line-up as well.

Delta Stage at Fekete Zaj 2020
Delta Stage at Fekete Zaj 2020. Photo credit: Bands Through The Lens, provided by Fekete Zaj Press

There were, naturally, COVID-restrictions in Hungary during the 2020 edition of the festival. Open air music events could only host 500 people, so the organizers put barriers around each stage. And the chip in the wristband, that guests use for cashless payments, also tracked how many people enter the stage areas. This way, they could make sure no more than 500 people gathered in front of any stage.

The whole thing received positive remarks from the press, including international media, like Euronews. Since Fekete Zaj was the most popular one from the very few festivals to go through in 2020 in Hungary, the Hungarian press was more interested than usual. Varga explained they put a lot of effort into it. Regulations were not fully clear, which made planning difficult. They also put off many ideas due to the lack of time or money. However, they plan to save these for the coming editions.

Fekete Zaj 2021

Fekete Zaj 2021

Fekete Zaj returns to Mátra-Sástó between 18-21 August 2021. This year’s festival brings special shows, like Mezolit – tales from Thy Catafalque, The Devil’s Trade, VHK and Aron Andras & The Black Circle Orchestra. Furthermore, international acts will play at the festival too, including Deathsomnia, Dordeduh and Ottone Pesante. These acts are just some of the few treats the full lineup has to offer, not to mention the amazing off-programmes. Fekete Zaj is an experience that fans of underground music should not miss by any chance. Excellent artists, beautiful venue in the mountains with a lake, and an amazing, tenacious community will definitely provide memories one will never forget. It is still not too late to pick up tickets, weekend pass and day tickets are available through the official website.

I am a concert and festival enthusiast from Hungary, living in the United Kingdom studying History and International Relations. I've been to various festivals in Europe, and my optimal number of festivals I need to visit a year is 3, but we all know that the more the merrier! My favourite genres are rock and metal, but I am open to all different kinds of music. Favourite bands? Name the sub-genre and I tell you my choice! ;)