Many Czechs remember the concert of American folk musician Joan Baez’s in Bratislava on 10 June 1989 as one of the signs of the approaching fall of communism. During the concert Baez openly expressed her support for Czechoslovak opposition groups and to Václav Havel, who managed to smuggle himself into the concert hall pretending to be a roadie. Her stay in Bratislava was closely observed by the communist State Security services, but they missed the Czechoslovak dissident who fit into his pretended role by carrying her guitar.
Long before the term world music became widely used the brother-and sister duo Petr and Hana Ulrychovi played Moravian folk songs with electric guitars. Later, in search of a more authentic sound, they introduced acoustic instruments as well. The band Javory, which they established 45 years ago, is still going strong largely because of their ability to merge different genres and present Moravian folk songs in a different light, making them attractive to a younger audience. This year Hana and Petr are celebrating 55 years on stage and more than 30
Karel Kryl, perhaps the greatest Czech protest singer ever, was born on this day 75 years ago. Kryl’s spare and highly poetic songs such as Bratříčku zavírej vrátka (Close the Gate, Little Brother), composed in the wake of the Soviet-led invasion of 1968, reflected the frustrations of many Czechoslovaks and remain popular to this day. This year is also the 25th anniversary of the folk artist’s premature death at the age of 49.
Czech vocalist, banjo player, composer and translator Robert Křesťan is one of the bright lights on the Czech folk, country and bluegrass scene. In the course of a career spanning more than three decades he has played in several ensembles, coproduced close to twenty CDs and performed at thousands of concerts, including annual tours of the US with his current ensemble Druhá tráva.
Tramping is a phenomenon that influenced the lives of tens of thousands of Czechs. Young people who dreamed of the freedom of the Wild West, spent time outdoors, engaging in sporting activities, building log cabins and settlements. The birth of tramping is in fact linked to the tramp settlement Lost Hope near Svatojánské proudy (one of the most picturesque stretches of the Vltava River) in 1918.
The legendary Czech folk singer Wabi Daněk died last week at the age of 70. In the course of a career spanning close to half a century he composed over 100 songs, recorded over a dozen CDs and performed at thousands of concerts and festivals. His biggest hit Rosa na kolejích (Dew on the Tracks) recorded in 1970 became a staple around Czech campfires and a radio evergreen.