Czech Music Encore: Raduza - the emotional power of the accordion
When the "Year of Czech Music" was launched in January, the jazz flute player, Jiri Stivin, complained that this year's celebrations were focusing far too much on classical music. So I make no apology for departing from our usual classical themes in this week's Encore to look at a musician whose music comes closer to the beer hall than the concert platform. The thirty-year-old singer Raduza shot to fame a decade ago, when she shared a stage with Suzanne Vega here in Prague. She accompanies her songs on the accordion, and despite a huge and still growing following here in the Czech Republic, she prefers to play in the intimacy of pubs and clubs. Raduza's songs are powerful, raw and emotional, and are firmly rooted in the pub and folk tradition. My colleague Mark Fernandes caught up with her at one of her regular concerts in the Balbinova Club just round the corner from the radio here in the centre of Prague. He recorded some of her songs and she talked about her music.
"In the Czech Republic the accordion was a very popular instrument before the Second World War, and in the fifties as well, but then people didn't play it very much because it was also a very popular instrument in Russia and in the communist period we didn't like the Russians very much, so not many people played the accordion. Now it has come into fashion again.
"I think the biggest influence on me was my grandfather, who played the harmonica, and he was singing Czech traditional songs with me. So I think this is an influence in my music you can hear very much - Czech folk songs.
"I have been playing the accordion for about three or four years. When I was a child I played the flute and the French horn. Then, when I came to the conservatory I had to play the piano, but a friend of mine, the singer Zuzana Navarova, told me once that she had seen in the centre a very beautiful accordion, but because she's very small and doesn't have much strength, she couldn't play it. She said to me that I am a strong woman - 'Raduza buy it, you will play accordion.' I thought that she had gone crazy and forgot it. But a week later I was walking in the city and I saw this accordion in the shop window, and I fell in love with it. So I bought it and I called my father. It was a time when I was moving to a new flat and I had no chairs and no bed or anything there. I called my father and I said to him, 'Listen Pop, do you know what I have bought?' He said, 'A chair?' 'No, an accordion' - and he said - 'OK, and if you don't learn to play it, you can sit on it!' So I though it's better to learn to play.
"Most of my lyrics are about my life and my experience. Because I have led a very normal life, that's why many Czech people are finding themselves in my lyrics and that's maybe why they like my songs.
"The Czech Republic is a very small country so all the musicians know each other. It's in fashion to have a band and play in a band. There a many very talented and good young bands, but there are no people who play alone, as I do. I know only about two or three. But there are many musicians I like and I would like to work with them. It doesn't matter if they are young or not that young.
"Czech mythology is not very known - I mean mythology about gods and these things - there are many fairy-tales and that is something that I really like, and I have read many books about, and I really like it, so that's why it is in my lyrics.
"I was born in Prague. Then I moved many times. I changed my place of living eleven times, but the last apartment I am living in is only three streets away from the place where I was born. So I made a round. I hope I will stay there - I don't want to move."
Raduza's website is: www.raduza.wz.cz
Magic Carpet - world music in the heart of Europe
Magic Carpet is Radio Prague's monthly music magazine that looks at music from Czech, Moravian and Silesian towns and villages. The programme covers a wide selection of genres, from traditional folk to the exotic and experimental.
It is presented by Petr Doruzka, one of the Czech Republic's foremost music journalists.
25.4.2004:The six-member group Quakvarteto, led by the violinist Dorothea Kellerova,
relishes moving between different musical styles with wit and irony,
mixing piano and violin with woodwind, tuba and vocals. In Petr Doruzka's
Magic Carpet we hear from their latest CD, adapting Chick Corea's
28.3.2004:With village music in decline, Petr Doruzka introduces us to one of the
Czech Republic's most original and imaginative groups bringing new life to
traditional folk songs - the Moberg Ensemble.
For copyright reasons we are unable to archive the programmes in audio, but here at least are a few words about some of the recordings featured recently in the programme.
29.2.2004: The gypsy settlements in Slovakia are probably the nearest place to the Czech Republic where Roma are still able to maintain their lifestyle untouched by urban life. In past years, the Slovak song collector Jana Belisova from Bratislava made several field recording trips to these villages, produced two CDs, and two books (in Prague you'll find them in the Romen Shop, Nerudova Street 32). In the programme: a Gypsy Christmas song from Slovakia, plus Zuzana Navarova with Mario Bihari, the blind Gypsy accordion player, and The Devil Fiddlers from Bratislava meet Andalusian flamenco.
1.2.2004: Up in north-eastern part of the Czech Republic, close to the Polish border, lies the city of Ostrava, formerly a heavy industry centre, now developing a new identity. One of the most important artists of this region is Jaromir Nohavica - a singer, songwriter and poet. His latest CD, titled Babylon, was one of the most successful and also most interesting albums of past year. Also in the programme: Salute Zappa, a homage to the American composer Frank Zappa by Czech bands.
4.1.2004: Petr looks at some new releases by Czech independent labels. Well be hearing the Czech guitarist Pavel Richter as well as the amazing Romany musician Iva Bittova, with the re-release of a fantastic recording from 15 years ago with her half-sister, Ida Kellarova. Listen out as well for the new album of the band Gothart, entitled "Rakija 'n' Roll". Gothart are a group of Czech musicians who've become enamoured of the Balkans and draw from Serbian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Armenian tradition.
7.12.2003: Petr Doruzka introduces us to Tarafuki a very unusual band, made up of two young women cellists who sing their own songs ranging from quiet intimacy to load ecstasy. Dorota Barova and Andrea Konstankiewicz are of mixed Czech-Polish ancestry and sing in both languages. They have just released their second CD Kapka meaning a drop - and are rapidly becoming well known, throughout Europe and especially in France. At the end of the programme, listen out from the most unusual song on the CD Quiet Weeping.
09.11.2003: To this day in Moravia you still come across traditional cimbalom-and-fiddle village wedding bands. In the last ten years this music has enjoyed a revival. Established artists like Iva Bittova now compete with a new generation of young, fresh and creative musicians. In Magic Carpet we hear music from the CD sampler "Magic Playing Moravian Roots", introducing new discoveries and featuring a rare recording of Iva Bittova and her sister Ida Kellarova.
12.10.2003: Katka Sarkozi, singer, songwriter and guitarist started her career almost ten years ago, but her latest CD seems to be a breakthrough. It is titled "Magorie", translated as Insanity, Rage or Ferocity, and its impact is like that of a hushed scream that keeps haunting you for the rest of the day.
See also The History of Music.