The Vampisoul label is bringing back music from various countries and genres in a series of compilations. Czech Up! Vol. 2: We’d Be Happyy is a collection of widely-diverse tracks extracted from the Supraphon label in the former Czechoslovakia.
Although Czechoslovakia was behind the Iron Curtain, the artists at the time were deeply influenced by western music: pop, rock, psychedelia, funk and jazz.
On Czech Up! Vol. 2: We’d Be Happy you’ll find primarily a set of catchy pop and rock songs with psychedelic guitars and the classic brass sounds of the era, as well as some great funk jazz and contemporary jazz pieces.
The highlights on the album are the tasty funk jazz of Mahagon; the rhythm of Blues of Blue Effect, a band that later evolved towards progressive rock and became on the leading prog rock acts in Central Europe; the organ-fueled jazz of SHQ; the progressive jazz band Jazz Q featuring Joan Duggan; the blues and funk rock of Flamingo featuring Narie Rotrová; the quirky global fusion and prog rock of Barnodaj; and the Procol Harum-inspired sound of Hana Zagorová.
The CD booklet includes vintage photos and album covers with biographies of the artists featured, with in depth liner notes by Lukás Machata.
BraAgas is an all-female ensemble and one of the finest performers of contemporary Czech folk music. Even though they are known for playing music from various parts of the world, on O ptácích a rybách (About birds and fish) they focus on fascinating recreations of Moravian songs.
O ptácích a rybách contains a set of engaging songs where BraAgas treats the listener to a mix of solo and harmony vocals along with a wide range of traditional musical instruments from the Czech Republic and other cultures, such as dudy (bagpipes), nyckelharpa, frame drums, shepherd’s flutes, fiddle and various types of percussion.
The lineup on O ptácích a rybách includes Kateřina Göttlichová on vocals, guitar, nyckelharpa, bagpipes; Michaela Krbcová on vocals, drums, percussion; Karla Braunová on vocals, flute, clarinet, bagpipes, wind instruments; and Michala Hrbková on vocals and violin. Guests: Jan Hrbek on bass; Jan Balcar on guitar and didgeridoo; Jan Klíma on vocals; and Jan Hrbek on vocals.
O ptácích a rybách features remarkably expressive vocals, all enhanced by a masterful and lush mix of Medieval and Czech folk music. Highly recommended.
Kocko & Orchestr is peculiar songster, singer, composer and speculator in the area of traditional Moravian and Slavonic artistic creation, history and religion.
He and his group play a combination of Middle-Eastern and European world music. Their music is acoustic: guitars, violin, cimbalom and flutes, as well as percussion and traditional folk instruments. It has expressive strains and rhythmic background with elements of rock and folk music and jazz.
They have appeared at the most important festivals in the Czech republic and at world festivals (EBU – European broadcasting union, Nowa tradycja, Colours of Ostrava, United Islands of Prague, Le village europ?en des nouvelles musiques traditionnelles, Ethnosfera 2002 … etc.).
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.”
Violinist, singer and composer, Iva Bittová recognizes no boundaries in music. She is one of the most significant and original personalities of contemporary Czech music. Her musical projects are events not only in the Czech arts scene, but worldwide.
Foremost of Czech artists she has won international recognition. She has staged successful concerts throughout Europe, the United States and Japan. Her records have aroused a lot of interest internationally.
Iva Bittová was born in 1958 into a musical family and lives in a small village near Brno called Lelekovice. She studied acting at secondary school. From 1975 through 1988 she was involved with the theater group Na provázku. She also performed as a duet with Pavel Fajt (1985 – 1991), as a vocalist with the rock group Dunaj (1985 – 1988), with French musicians guitarist F. Richard and P. Fajt (1989) and in 1991 she was involved with a gathering of selected avant-garde musicians from all over the world (i.e. Fred Frith, Tom Cora, Chris Cutler).
In 1995 Iva Bittová performed several concerts of 44 Duets for two violins by Béla Bartók with violinist Dorothea Kellerová (a member of the Brno State Orchestra). In 1996 she won two prizes in the prestigious competition organized by the Academy of Popular Music. She came first in the category “Singer of the Year” and in the alternative music category.
The association of musicians Cikori was set up in 1999 by Iva Bittová and Vladimír Václavek. They are involved in improvisational music for the sequel to the successful recording “White Inferno”. The other members of Cikori, František Kucera (trumpet) and Jaromír Honzák (double bass) also took part in this new recording. Miloš Dvorácek has taken up drums and percussion and the high quality soundtrack was provided by the sound engineer Ivo Viktorin. This resulted in the fresh, expressive and original music which combines the alternative elements of jazz and world music.
Most of the lyrics are written by Karel David and Vladimír Václavek and some other writers. Another interesting addition to the band’s concerts is the girls’ choir Lelky led by Iva Bittová.
In the year 2000 Iva Bittová recorded with the Roma (Gypsy) band Taraf de Haidouks. She also presented a concert of Gregorian chants with Schola Gregoriana Pragensis.The following year Iva Bittová performed with Škampa Quartet for the Prague Spring (music originally composed for Kronos Quartet)
Iva Bittová, EP (Panton, 1986)
Balada pro banditu – A Ballad for a Bandit, EP (Panton,1986)
Iva Bittová (Pavian, 1991)
River of Milk (EVA, 1991)
Ne, nehledej – No, Do Not Seek (BMG, 1994)
Kolednice – Carol singer (BMG, 1995)
Divná slecinka – A Strange Young Lady (BMG, 1996) Iva Bittová (Nonesuch, 1997) Elida, with Bang on a Can (Cantaloupe, 2005) Bile Inferno (Indies Scope Records, 2009) Iva Bittová (ECM, 2013)
Entwine – Proplétám (Pavian Records, 2014)
The cymbalom band Hudci z Kyjova was founded in 1994 by musicians who were already well-experienced players in other cymbalom bands. The first album called “Putovali Hudci” was recorded by the band in 1996 in the English town of High Wycombe. At the beginning of September 1998 Hudci z KyjovaA recorded their second CD “Jede forman dolin” again in England.
Hudci z Kyjova comment on their roots: “We proceed from the song richness of Kyjov but we at the same time add also songs from other folklore regions, taking inspiration also from abroad, for example from Hungary or Romania to borrow and play something from their instrumental jewels. We thus “wander” by our playing around different folklore areas and select more or less known melodies.”
The third album, Proc kalino nerozkvétáš was a boxed set with a bonus DVD.
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).
Dovecnosti (1991) Mezi horami (1996)
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)
Cechomor v Národním (2011)
Cechomor 25 – Ceský Krumlov live (2013)
Druha Trava (Second Grass) was formed in 1991 in the Czech Republic. Their musical heritage comes from a place far from the Appalachian communities where bluegrass originated.
Since its formation, Druha Trava has achieved star status in their Czech homeland and the group is one of the most awarded and internationally acclaimed European bands. Each of the five members is a masterful multi-instrumentalist whose influences include bluegrass, jazz, rock, country, folk and classical music.
Druha Trava was co-founded by Robert Krestan, the group’s lead singer and principal writer. In the Czech Republic, Krestan is recognized as one of the premiere stars of bluegrass and country music. He credits the “tramp movement” with the extraordinary popularity that bluegrass music is presently enoying in his country. (In the Czech Republic, the expression “tramp music” refers to an ever-evolving style that combines such Western influences as swing, country and bluegrass.)
Krestan explains that this affinity for Western music was inspired further by Pete Seeger who toured Czechoslovakia in 1962 and introduced the 5string banjo to a population that was unfamiliar with the instrument. As a result of Seeger’s musical ambassadorship, many musicians began to play stringed instruments, learn the melodies of traditional American folk and bluegrass songs and adapt Czech lyrics to fit the melody lines. Robert Krestan and Druha Trava are expanding that trend by performing songs in both Enghsh and Czech languages.
Druha Trava came together in 1991, and have become known as one of the most successful international “bluegrass” bands of all time. They have been voted Band of the Year by the Czech Recording Industry (formerly Czech “Grammy” awards), as well as by the Banjo Jamboree Festival in Strakonice. In addition to Krestan, Druha Trava includes the following members: Lubos Malina (banjo player and co-founder, who Dirty Linen Magazine describes as “unquestionably one of the best banjo players in Europe”), Lubos Novotny (Dobro), Martin Ledvina (guitar), and Jiri Meisner (bass).
Individually, each of these musicians has received numerous yearly awards as Instrumentalist of the Year on his respective instrument. Together, they have created their own exciting brand of progressive bluegrass which has made them one of the best selling bands of any genre in the Czech Republic, and has earned them appearances or recording collaborations with Ricky Skaggs, Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck, Peter Rowan, Andy Owens and the Irish superstar, Davy Spillane.
Czechmate was Druha Trava’s sixth album and first US release.
Robert Křesťan a Druhá Tráva (Bonton, 1991)
Revival (Monitor, 1992) Starodávný svět (Venkow, 1994)
Druhá Tráva s Pavlínou Jíšovou (Venkow, 1995)
Second Grass Live (Venkow, 1995)
Postcard (Venkow/Polygram, 1997) Czechmate (Venkow, 1998) New Freedom Bell, with Peter Rowan (Compass Records, 1999)
Best and Last (Venkow, 2001)
Nech svět, ať se točí dál (Venkow, 2002)
Live in Brno (with Charlie McCoy Venkow, 2004) Good Morning, Friend (Universal, 2004)
Dylanovky (Universal, 2007)
Marcipán z Toleda (Universal, 2011)
Czaldy Waldy is the name of an old Czech dance originated in 14th century. Four musicians decided to use the same name for their quartet. Some of them were academically educated and made their living performing classical music. But when they got together as a Czaldy Waldy Quartet they fully indulged in delights of contemporary world music. Namely in ethnic songs from eastern part of Slovakia and western Ukraine, the region known as Zakarpatian Russia.
Lyrics were left in their authentic form or slightly adjusted according to musical needs. Ales Mrazek composes the instrumental pieces, some of which are based on old European folk songs. We could also trace a range of influences from Spanish, Balkan or Arabic music to jazz, tango or chanson in his music. Ales also has a lot of experience with composing musical scores for local theaters.
Czaldy Waldy Quartet was formed in 2000. In 2005 the band released its debut album Ethno-chansons featuring music from Slovakia and Ukraine (Black Point Music 2005).
Czech band Čankišou was formed in 1999. Several musicians, who until that time played in various bands, decided to play world music. The band dug up an old legend about Canki people, learned its language and collected musical instruments from all around the world: didjeridu, jembe, yabbara, flutes, saxophones, percussion, mandolin, bass guitar, drums etc. The band is influenced by many global sounds, Arabic, African, Balkan. All these influences combined with the rock history of each band member created a new genre called ethnobigbeat brass band.
Čankišou’s music is based on energy and substantial wind instruments which force everybody to dance. Concerts are often accompanied by belly dancers.
The first CD was called Music of the Canki people and was released in 2000 and the second one, Dense ju, two years later. The third CD, Gamagaj, which is inspired by the book Baudolina by Umberto Eco, was released in September 2004 by FT Records. The band also released various music videos.
The band: Karel Herman – vocals; Zdenek Kluka – vocals, drums, percussion; Jan Kluka – drums, jembe, percussion; David Synak – flutes, didjeridu, saxophone; Roman Mrazek – bass; Rene Senko – tenor saxophone; Martin Krajicek – mandolin.