Kornél Fekete-Kovács, Modern Art Orchestra Foundations – Yamas and Niyamas

BMCCD297 2020

Foundations, the big band suite composed by flugelhorn and trumpet player Kornél FeketeKovács was inspired by the philosophy of yoga. The leader of the Modern Art Orchestra created a contemporary music rendition of the first two of yoga’s eight branches, Yamas and Niyamas, in 10+1 compositions. Yamas and Niyamas serve not only as a guide to yogic existence, but also contain concepts familiar to the European mind. Thus, the music is not dominated by elements referring to the East. Instead, it bears the hallmarks of Western contemporary music. In addition to MAO’s members, singer Veronika Harcsa, percussionist András Dés, guitarist Márton Fenyvesi, pianist Béla Szakcsi Lakatos can be heard during the guided improvisations connecting the written compositions.


Modern Art Orchestra
Kornél Fekete-Kovács – conductor, trumpet, flugelhorn, electronics

Guest soloists:
Veronika Harcsa – voice
Béla Szakcsi Lakatos – piano
András Dés – percussion, electronics
Márton Fenyvesi – guitar, electronics

Artistic director, conductor: Kornél Fekete-Kovács

Kristóf Bacsó – soprano sax, alto sax, flute
Dávid Ülkei – alto sax, clarinet
János Ávéd – tenor sax, flute, bansuri
Balázs Cserta – tenor sax, flute, clarinet, piccolo
Mihály Bajusznács – bass clarinet, clarinet
Zoltán Bacsa – trumpet, flugelhorn
Gábor Subicz – trumpet, flugelhorn
Balázs Bukovinszki – trumpet, flugelhorn
Ferenc Magyar – trumpet, flugelhorn
Zoltán Varga – French horn
Attila Korb – trombone
Gábor Barbinek – trombone
Miklós Csáthy / Nándor Kasza – bass trombone
Péter Kovács – tuba
Áron Komjáti – acoustic guitar
Gábor Cseke – piano
Ádám Bögöthy – acoustic bass, bass guitar
László Csízi – drums

Sándor Balogh – musical director
Ábris Blaskó – assistant
Anna Gáspár – manager
Eszter Ágoston – manager

About the album

All composed music by Kornél Fekete-Kovács
Interlude #1, #2, #6, #8 by Kornél Fekete-Kovács, András Dés, Márton Fenyvesi and Veronika Harcsa
Interlude #3 by Kornél Fekete-Kovács, Béla Szakcsi Lakatos, Gábor Cseke, Ádám Bögöthy, László Csízi
Interlude #4 by Béla Szakcsi Lakatos
Interlude #5 by Kornél Fekete-Kovács, Kristóf Bacsó, András Dés, Márton Fenyvesi and Veronika Harcsa
Interlude #7 by Kornél Fekete-Kovács, János Ávéd, András Dés, Márton Fenyvesi and Veronika Harcsa

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Viktor Szabó

Artwork: László Huszár / Greenroom

Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár

Supported by the National Cultural Fund of Hungary


delarue - New York Music Daily (en)

George W. Harris - jazzweekly.com (en)

Gilles Gaujarengues - citizenjazz.com (fr)

Laco Zach - skjazz.sk (sk) interview

Patrick Španko - skjazz.sk (sk)

Krzysztof Komorek - Donos Kulturalny (pl)

Dionizy Piątkowski - Jazz.pl (pl)

Olasz Sándor - Riff.hu (hu)

Gáspár Károly - Jazzma.hu (hu)

Czékus Mihály - HFP online (hu)

Csabai Máté - Fidelio (hu)

Komlós József JR - Alföldi Régió Magazin (hu)

Fittler Katalin - parlando.hu (hu)

Győrffy Ákos - Magyar Krónika (hu)

Szabó Károly - hangzasvilag.hu (hu)

Pallai Péter - magyarjazz.hu (hu)

3500 HUF 11 EUR

Kornél Fekete-Kovács, Modern Art Orchestra: Foundations – Yamas and Niyamas

01 PURVAHUTI – Morning prayer (Dr. Vigneshwar Bhat – chanting) 7:33
02 YAMAS 0:15
03 AHIMSA – Non-violence 2:53
04 Interlude #1 3:10
05 SATYA – Truthfulness (Kristóf Bacsó – soprano saxophone) 6:49
06 Interlude #2 3:31
07 ASTEYA – Non-stealing 2:39
08 Interlude #3 (Béla Szakcsi Lakatos – piano [right], Gábor Cseke – piano [left], Veronika Harcsa – voice) 4:13
09 BRAHMACHARYA – Non-excess 1:25
10 Interlude #4 (Béla Szakcsi Lakatos – piano) 2:40
11 APARIGRAHA – Non-possess (Mihály Bajusznács – clarinet, Zoltán Varga – French horn, János Ávéd – bansuri) 4:34
12 NIYAMAS (Dr. Vigneshwar Bhat – chanting) 0:14
13 SHAUCHA – Purity (Áron Komjáti – acoustic guitar, Veronika Harcsa – voice) 5:37
14 Interlude #5 (Kristóf Bacsó – soprano saxophone, electronics) 4:57
15 SANTOSHA – Contentment (Attila Korb – trombone, Gábor Cseke – piano, Veronika Harcsa – voice) 4:57
16 Interlude #6 2:57
17 TAPAS – Self-discipline (Kornél Fekete-Kovács – flugelhorn) 3:35
18 Interlude #7 (János Ávéd – tenor saxophone) 1:44
19 SVADHYAYA – Self-study (Veronika Harcsa – voice) 6:11
20 Interlude #8 2:50
21 ISHVARA PRANIDHANA – Surrender (Veronika Harcsa – voice) 4:15
Total time 76:59

The album is available in digital form at our retail partners

The Yama and Niyama are often interpreted as a series of behavioural “rules” by which to live one’s life…
We live in a very materialistic and superficial culture now…
Thus, it’s difficult to truly see or understand the deeper dimensions of truth…
We see most everything through the filter of language and intellect, not realizing that deep truth is far
beyond the simplistic constructs of language and intellect… Sanskrit is a language that is constructed to transmit deep truth… It is not based in intellect but in more pure vibration…
That’s why any kind of translation or interpretation is problematic… Deep truth is not something to be talked about or thought about…
It is certainly not an action…
Deep truth is something to be experienced or felt directly...
(Govinda Kai)


The Sanskrit expression Sutra (सूत्र) means guiding thread. It refers not only to the thread that linked the pages, originally made of palm-leaves, containing the condensed teachings, but also to the formal peculiarity, in which a work containing such fundamental human truths as the Patanjali Yoga-sutra does not give complete knowledge and enlightenment – merely a canvas the missing parts of which are complemented by the conversations between the master and the disciple. This is the guiding thread that Kornél Fekete-Kovács has taken up and made an organizing principle in his work Foundations. The leader of the Modern Art Orchestra has studied yoga philosophy and asanas for years, and on his journeys to India he himself has ascertained that what the Hindu sage Patanjali set down in his Yoga teachings was not so alien even to the European mind. “When we improvise, we are actually meditating in some way. The two processes are very similar: you shut out the events occurring around you, and concentrate on one thing” says Kornél, confirming the oft-cited parallel between the fields of music and meditation. Jazz musicians discovered this similarity at about the time when in the middle of the last century the cult of the self-destructive artist began to wane: then many exchanged the drip for prayer beads and meditation, to find the mental openness necessary for a state of inspiration through spiritual means. According to one anecdote, John Coltrane for instance meditated for one week at home, then, like Moses coming down from the mountain, withdrew into his study, with the entire musical material of A Love Supreme in his head, ever since held to be a crucial piece in jazz history. Many since then have followed his example, and now the material, textual, and musical attributes of eastern teachings have become saleable items in the consumer society, so in terms of authenticity anyone who writes music based on a spiritual basis is treading on thin ice.

In Foundations Kornél Fekete-Kovács does not join the didactic movement searching for India; this piece does not promise samadhi, or the immediate attainment of the highest state of consciousness and enlightenment, its purpose is not to entice the listener onto an “exciting musical journey” to India, and singer Veronika Harcsa featured on the album does not guide us to “our deep inner selves” with Sanskrit mantras. Although the musical elements referring to the East first strike the listener with the power of Indian spices, after stepping inside it soon becomes clear we are in Europe after all. As a composer, the leader of the MAO has taken pains with both the illustrative texts and the music that the authentic eastern quality be separate from the reflections from a western viewpoint. When for instance János Ávéd plays the bansuri, at Kornél’s express request he did so not in the Indian manner – due to the tone colour of the instrument we cannot think of it as non-Indian. Even when we hear a Sanskrit text, we are the victims of a trick; two cases aside, the mantras sound not in their original form, but each one melded into some texture, or with their sound intentionally modified.

Foundations seems to be flowing process music – which in terms of form too, mirrors the oriental approach to existence according to which the journey itself is the purpose – while still being strongly structured and having many layers. Kornél Fekete-Kovács based the suite on the first two limbs of the eight branches of yoga philosophy laid out by Patanjali: the Yamas (abstinences), and the Niyamas (observances). These include fundamental human principles the following of which would enable us to live in an ideal society, and which show close kinship with the basic tenets of other cultural and religious trends. Of his motivation for the composition Kornél says, “I make no secret of the fact that in this piece my intention is to bring nuance to the stereotypes surrounding yoga, and to show how human the entire system is. I am not trying to translate the ancient culture of a distant country to the western way of thinking, but to show how distant we have become from the thinking necessary for a valuable and liveable lifestyle”. The Yamas and the Niyamas divide the material into two parts, which are introduced and separated by a sutra by Dr. Vigneshwar Bhat in Sanskrit. The Yamas present in the form of sound are the requirements that man should have in regard to his environment, such as non-violence, true being, non-stealing, moderation, and overcoming the desire for possession. The Niyamas heard in the second part of the CD translate into music the criteria that we must demand from ourselves in order to be at one. The guiding motifs are outer and inner purity, contentment, self-discipline, study of the self, and the submission of the self to a superior power. Kornél Fekete-Kovács is thus offering us an ethical codex in sound: in place of the imperative-declarative moods he uses the tone of the sutras themselves, which are built up of aphorisms: the compositions do not make unambiguous the links between music and text, and in many cases they are inaccessible to logical thought. Rather, we experience this in a kind of contemplative, meditative listening, intuitively, overcoming the grasping nature of the mind. These are the unknown, intermediary spaces (if you will, the invisible threads linking the palm leaves together) through which the soloists roam in the guided improvisations interposed between the written compositions.

In these Interludes the soloists each personify a different concept “with which, wherever you live on the planet, you can make your own life happier, more liveable, and in which there is actually nothing ‘spiritual’” – as the composer puts it.

Precisely because of what is expressed in the introduction, the impact of the disc cannot be avoided even by someone who rejects any form of spirituality. To a certain extent, it has an impact at the physical level too:

“The human voice is very important part of this music. I for one believe that when we say a word or play a note, it has a vibration which changes the state of our selves and our environment” says the composer, justifying the dominant presence of the human voice. Keeping in mind the criterion of authenticity, however, alongside the authentically performed matras, or those from archive recordings, from Veronika Harcsa we hear only parts either in English or with no text, and with the variety of tone-colour characteristic of her she interprets texts by Lao-Tse, William Blake, Shakespeare, and the thirteenth- century Persian mystic Jalaluddin Rumi, which also show that the basic principles of yogi existence are not specific to time or place. Only in one place, in the nineteenth movement, SVĀDHYĀYA, or “self-study”, does Veronika come close to being beguiled: in a kind of insensible ecstasy she begins to articulate the Sanskrit mantra Asato ma sadgamaya, breathing a prayer to the divinity leading us out of illusion, while this eventually turns into a murmuring similar to throat singing. The English text gives the answer to the “why”: “Prayer means you are trying to talk to God, / Meditation means you are willing to listen to God. / You have nothing to say, just simply listen”. This is what the CD urges us to do: to listen, and listen again, without interrogating, pleading, or trying to coax the music to speak. For its purpose is precisely the same as the invisible threads of the Yoga sutras: to reveal that for which words are inadequate.

Emese Szász
Translated by Richard Robinson


(The yamas are non-violence, truthfulness, refrainment from stealing, celibacy, and renunciation of unnecessary possessions.)

AHIMSA – Non-violence (3)
What is the most superior Dharma?
Ahimsa is the most superior Dharma
For those who establish themselves in ahimsa
Even the devas will salute them.

SATYA – Truthfulness (5)
Honesty, is a truthfulness
Self-indulgence is not truthfulness
Self-expression is a truthfulness
Self-development that is truthfulness
As long, as we stay within the approval of the group, we experience the innocence of belonging. However, when we begin to grow in direction beyond the group, we experience guilt in regards to the group.
The truth of our freedom carries the price of guilt.

Interlude #2 (6) before ASTEYA – Non-stealing (7)
We steal from others, we steal from the earth, we steal from the future and we steal from ourselves.
We steal from our own opportunity to grow ourselves into the person who has a right to have the life they want.

Interlude #3 (8) before BRAHMACHARYA – Non-excess (9)
Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings.
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty & frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
(Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks)

Interlude #4 (10) before APARIGRAHA – Non-possess (11) 
There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of Spirit on the body.
Seawater begs the pearl
to break its shell.
And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild Darling!
At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face into mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language-door,
and open the love-window.
The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.
(Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks)

APARIGRAHA – Non-possess (11)
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise
(William Blake)

śauca-santośa-tapaḥ-svādhyāyeśvara-praṇidhānāni niyamāḥ
(The observances are cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study, and devotion to God.)

SHAUCHA – Purity (13)
Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
At the first gate, ask yourself “Is it true?”
At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”
At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”
(Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks)

Interlude #5 (14) before SANTOSHA – Contentment (15) 
Be content with what you have.
Rejoice in the way things are.
When you realise there is nothing lacking.
The whole world belongs to you.

SANTOSHA – Contentment
KING HENRY VI, Part 3.1.84
My crown is in my heart, not on my head;
not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, nor to be seen:
my crown is called content, a crown it is that seldom kings enjoy.
(William Shakespeare)

TAPAS – Self-discipline (17)
Living tapas, you are like a burning arrow.
Swift and direct in reaching your goals.
With single-pointed focus, you burn away everything in the way…
Consumed by the fire within, you are disciplined in overcoming destructive desires.
You strive past all obstacles…

SVADHYAYA – Self-study (19)
Waiting is the greatest virtue,
Not expecting anything…
Wait forever…
Prayer means you are trying to talk to God,
Meditation means you are willing to listen to God.
You have nothing to say, just simply listen.
Sit, alert, not sleepy,
Full of alertness, full of life, just being!

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
(Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks)

Thanks / Köszönet:

Govinda Kai – spiritual supervision
Arvind Pare – philosophical support, mantra chanting
Péter Szalai – musical supervision
Ravi Shankar Mishra – bansuri player, maker and teacher
Dániel Dobai and Anett Huck – continuous support and friendship
Zsófia Endrődy – support and encouragement
Péter Erdélyi – bansuri sound design

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