For many years Kale performed as Vera Bila & Kale (Vera White and The Blacks, as it translates). This relationship lasted until September 2005.
Kale come from a small town in Bohemia (Czech Republic), Rokycany, about 70 kilometers west of Prague, in the heart of Eastern Europe. As with most Roma (Gypsy) groups, all of the band members belong to the same family.
In the mid-1980s the top Czech folk band, Nerez, saw Vera performing with Kale at a folk festival and were so impressed that they began inviting them to guest at their sold out concerts.
When the time came to record their first album, Rom-Pop, Kale had to choose from their vast repertoire. With the help of the producers, Zuzana Navarova and Vit Sazavsky from Nerez, they selected 16 songs which they felt expressed their roots as well as others which represented a development and natural progression of traditional Gypsy music. Lyrically, the songs describe the trials and tribulations of Gypsy life. While their sound is based on acoustic guitars supplemented here and there by fiddle, saxophone or drums, the rich vocals of Vera and the four male members of the band set the band apart from their Roma colleagues. Rom-Pop was released to great critical acclaim which culminated in Kale’s nomination for the Czech Grammy as Newcomer of the Year.
With Rom-Pop still very much alive, the band was so full of new ideas that the record company could no longer hold them back and thus sent them to the studio to record a follow-up album, Kale Kaloré. The main development from the debut album, which is heavy with contributions from guest musicians and other people’s compositions, is that the band felt confident enough in their own abilities to write and record it all themselves, helped only by the producer, Zuzana Navarova, and a guest violinist. The result is more compact and closer to the roots and further confirms the band’s international potential.
In the beginning of September 2005, Vera Bila left the band. Kale replaced its most charismatic performer with Dezider Lucka, a member of Kale.
Says band member Emil “Pupa” Miko about the importance of music in Gypsy culture: “Music belongs to our lives, it’s tied to our history. It is a living part of us.”
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.