Traditional Czech music falls into two fairly distinct categories–“high culture” (opera and symphonies) and village folk. The two developed simultaneously, with the reigning monarchs from the 14th century forward, starting with the Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, introducing Italian, Spanish, German and English composers to the court (including the Czech-born Antonín Dvořák and Gustav Mahler and occasional Prague resident Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), while villagers far from the monarchy, especially those in the Bohemian forests, developed their own traditional instruments and sounds.
During the Nazi occupation and post-War Soviet rule, those in power ruled Czechoslovakia’s music as well; they “celebrated” Czech traditions by organizing state-run ensembles which ultimately did little but rehash music that was politically safe. Anti-establishment music continued to exist in the Czech underground, ultimately playing a role in the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
Today Czech musicians celebrate their freedom by reviving traditional forms of music and innovating by exploring modern styles like rock, hip-hop and punk. The Bohemian highland plateau, birthplace of polka, is home to some of the Republic’s most invigorating brass bands. Musicians from rolling, green Moravia are more likely to play the national instrument, the cimbalom, and organize into string ensembles.
Wikipedia on Czech music
Some notable modern Czech musicians:
Neoĉekávaný Dýchánek: Roma/klezmer/neo-folk | Czech.cz: Czech Gipsy hip-hop | Al-Yaman: Yemeni, Arabic and Czech together | Iva Bittová: eclectic Moravian violist
In class we’re going to listen to:
— Vera Bila: “Amen” from the album, “Rovava.”
Vera Bila is the lead singer of the Czech Romani band, Kale. Bila and her Kale bandmates are family members from a small Romani village called Rokycany, and have lived the complex “gypsy” lives about which they sing. This not only imbues their music with a rich
sense of cultural authenticity, but it also gives world music lovers a reason to gush: “Gypsy music when performed by true gypsies,” writes Calabash Music “has a special quality that stems from the performers’ easy, rambling way of life. As with the blues, where you can’t sing them if you’ve never felt them, you can’t perform gypsy music if you have not led the life.”
Vera Bila’s biography on Last Call Records | Vera Bila performing live at “International Gypsy Fest 2009”
— “Kustino Oro” by Čankišou from the album “Le La”
Čankišou is a Czech band that plays “ethno world music,” an energizing mix of Eastern European, African and Arabian styles. They claim to be channeling the spirit of the legendary Canki (single-legged) people of the Middle Ages, a multicultural nation that wandered because others deemed it undesirable and therefore had no fixed home. The band expresses this sense of struggle and global wandering by performing their music using instruments from all over the world, such as didjeridoos, djembes, flutes, saxophones, mandolins, bass guitars, and an abundance of percussion.
Čankišou performs “Jeba Ma Miluna”
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