Prague hosts two major pop-music concerts

21-11-2003

'You Shouldn't Talk to Communists', photo: CTK'You Shouldn't Talk to Communists', photo: CTK This week was marked by two major events in pop-music. On Tuesday a number of the Czech Republic's popular rock bands took part in a concert held in Prague called "S komunisty se nemluvi", or "You Shouldn't Talk to Communists". Precisely fourteen years after the fall of the communist regime in this country, the latest polls suggest an increase in the popularity of the Communist Party, making it now the country's second most popular political party.

'You Shouldn't Talk to Communists', photo: CTK'You Shouldn't Talk to Communists', photo: CTK This and the fact that the Communists are becoming an ever more significant force on the Czech political scene, worries some popular Czech musicians so much that they decided to hold a concert against the party. The organisers also said the current party was still the same old Stalinist Communist Party as before 1989. Tuesday's five-hour concert featured both artists who were dissidents during the Communist era and young musicians, many of whom witnessed the 1989 Velvet Revolution as teenagers.

Which cannot be said of most of the performers at a very different event which took place on Wednesday in the sold-out Lucerna concert hall in Prague. A concert to mark the 65th birthday of Czech pop-music composer and hit-maker Karel Svoboda featured a symbolic sixty-five singers and musicians - most of whom had reached the peak of their fame before the year 1989. To name but a few: Eva Pilarova, Jitka Zelenkova, Hana Zagorova, Vaclav Neckar, Jiri Korn and Karel Gott.

A number of them have been accused by critics of being loyal to the communist regime. Opinions on that apparently differ, as among the audiences and well-wishers was also former President and anti-communist dissident Vaclav Havel. Karel Svoboda who began his music career in the mid-1960s is the author of countless hits, among them "Lady Carneval" and "Mistral" that he wrote for Karel Gott or "Nechte zvony znit" sung by Marta Kubisova.

Karel Svoboda also composed music for around 900 films and TV series, many of them in German production. Karel Svoboda was one of just a handful of Czechoslovak artists who made it on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Firstly, because especially Germans were extremely keen on his music and secondly, because the communist authorities allowed Karel Svoboda to travel and cooperate with German producers. One of the reasons being that artists and sportsmen who were successful abroad brought the state substantial revenues.

After 1989, Karel Svoboda somehow withdrew into the background, stopped writing individual songs for Czech pop-singers and concentrated on larger pieces of music. He has been called the father of Czech musical: 1995 saw the premiere of his musical "The Dracula" and five years later Karel Svoboda's second musical, "The Count of Monte Cristo" was staged.

Some critics say, however, that Karel Svoboda wrote his best music before 1989 and his later work is too commercial and lacks inventiveness. But whatever the views on Karel Svoboda's recent outputs, there is common agreement that his songs written in the 1960s for Czech pop stars Karel Gott, Vaclav Neckar, Helena Vondrackova or Marta Kubisova have become the family silver of Czech pop-music. So happy 65th birthday, Karel Svoboda, and may there be many more such songs as for example the famous "Lady Carneval" sung by Karel Gott.

21-11-2003