Artist Profiles: Čechomor

Čechomor

During the decade of the 1990s, Čechomor established as a premier band exploring the wedding dances and folk songs of their native Czech Republic, combining violin, cello, electric and acoustic guitar with accordion and occasionally Czech bagpipe.

The band benefits from its unique location on the map of Europe; its music draws its strength from both Eastern and Western sources: the Breton “fest-noz meets the Moravian “verbunk”. The line that cuts the Czech Republic in its middle in the south-north direction does not only separate rivers running westward to Elbe from the eastbound streams of the Danubian basinit also divides the historical territory of the Kingdom of Bohemia from the Margravate of Moravia, and on a larger scale, the Western folk music tradition from the East European family of styles, which reaches as far as Romania and Balkans.

While the band’s name Čechomor points to both Czech and Moravian cultural sources, the Moravian eastern flavored songs are the most notable in its repertory. Some of them come directly from the research done by František Sušil who was employed as Professor at the Institute of Theology in the principal Moravian town of Brno, although he has gone down in the history books rather as a collector of folk songs. More than one hundred and fifty years after its publication his collection of melodies and texts still lives on as the most important source of Moravian traditional music.

CzechoMor was started as The First Czech-Moravian Independent Musical Company in 1988 by part time musicians, part time theater performers. Soon they discovered the nasty consequences of a long name: their fans called them CzechoMor, which incidentally means The Czech Torture.

Despite their straightforward, easy, low key profile, the band recorded 2 CDs and performed in the foyer of the Royal Albert Hall during the Week of Czech Culture in 1993. Since the mid 1990s they established themselves as major ambassadors of Moravian music in Prague. As one of the favorite bands of President Václav Havel, they were asked twice to perform at Havel’s late wife Olga’s Goodwill Foundation charity meetings. They have also played at some of the top European world music festivals.

In 1999 Čechomor performed at the Rudolstadt Festival in Germany and at the EBU Folk Festival in Dranouter in Belgium. That same year the band was invited to front Czech Republic’s most popular rock band: Lucie. While playing for rock audiences, Čechomor proved themselves as the ultimate live band. Their music explodes with raw energy, but also maintains integrity and honesty – virtues very rare in today’s showbiz. During the tour, thousands of new fans converted to Čechomor’s brand of music.

By the end of 2000, their new album Čechomor was a platinum success and sold over 20 000 copies. Reaching a mainstream audience was a challenge. After “updating” traditional songs, Čechomorembarked on an ambitious project. The musicians met up with Jaz Coleman from the British punk band Killing Joke, who had turned to classical music. Coleman helped them produce their next album, Transformations, recorded with the Czech Philharmonic Collegium. The album was a tremendous success with over 80 000 copies sold.

Transformations went on to win three Czech Music Academy Awards for Best Album, Best Group, Best Song. In 2002 Čechomor starred in a fiction-documentary called The Year of the Devil which won the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and went on to win a total of 7 Czech Lion awards (the Czech equivalent of the Oscar Academy Awards) including Best Soundtrack. The band spent much of 2003 touring with the Czech Philharmonic Collegium. In April their Prague concert was recorded for TV and the resulting DVD Transformations Tour became a bestseller.

With 4 platinum releases to their credit, Čechomor was one of the Czech Republic’s most popular bands and performed all over the Czech and Slovak republics, in Germany, Belgium, England, Ireland, USA, France, Russia, Luxembourg, Poland, Rumania, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain.

In May 2005 Čechomor released What Happened Next? which spent 6 weeks at No. 1 on the Czech hit parade and three months later was still No. 3. It sold 20000 copies within the first week of its release. What Happened Next? features world music artists Iarla O Lionaird (Ireland) and Joji Hirota (Japan) as well as the renowned Czech female vocalist Lenka Dusilova, Dan Valis (uilleann pipes), Jan Mikusek (cimbalom) and Mirek Zidlicky (flute).

Discography:

Dovecnosti (1991)
Mezi horami (1996)
Cechomor (2000)
Promeny (2001)
Rok dábla (2002)
Cechomor Live (2002)
Promeny tour 2003 (2003)
Cechomor 1991–1996 (2004)
Co sa stalo nové (2005)
Stalo sa žive (2006)
Svátecní Cechomor (2007)
Povesti moravských hradu a zámku (2008)
Povesti ceských hradu a zámku (2009)
Povesti slezských hradu a zámku (Supraphon, 2009)
Písne z hradu a zámku (Supraphon, 2010)
Místecko (2011)
Cechomor v Národním (2011)
Cechomor 25 – Ceský Krumlov live (2013)
Svátecnejší (2015)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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