Letter from Prague

12-06-2005

I don't know how Czech folk music makes you feel but it certainly gives me goose bumps...not because I don't like it but on the contrary, I LOVE it. A few nights ago, a friend, who's a tour manager here in Prague took me to a folklore night on the outskirts of the city that's held just for tourists and I was taken back in time to when I was a little girl and spent New Year's Eve at my grandmother's.

I don't know how Czech folk music makes you feel but it certainly gives me goose bumps...not because I don't like it but on the contrary, I LOVE it. A few nights ago, a friend, who's a tour manager here in Prague took me to a folklore night on the outskirts of the city that's held just for tourists and I was taken back in time to when I was a little girl and spent New Year's Eve at my grandmother's. It was in Czechoslovakia and the country was still under Communist rule. My mother would drop me off at my granny's who had spent all day decorating the living room just for me. Just the sheer memory of the sweet smell of baked goods that always filled the room and the dinner table full of open-top sandwiches and filled "palacinky" or thin pancakes still makes my mouth water. But all of that was not what I had waited for all day.

It was the special New Year's Eve folklore programme on television, where groups from all corners of the country performed the most popular songs. My grandmother - and on special occasions my grandfather - would dance with me all night to the sound of the dulcimer, clarinet, and even a Bohemian bagpipe. I always had the time of my life dancing the polka, the mazurka, and the waltz...

And this is actually the memory that I treasured the most when I got to Germany, after a Christmas holiday at my grandmother's. It was only some twenty years later that I moved back to Prague for good. But what I remembered of the country was not what I found waiting for me. Folk music was only popular in the rural areas and sung by the older generation. My generation had trouble remembering the words, couldn't identify with the sound of the dulcimer or Bohemian bagpipe and those from the city wouldn't be caught dead wearing the traditional costume.

So, when I sat in the room full of tourists on Thursday night, my eyes filled up with tears. A million things raced through my mind. From the loving memory of my grandmother, who passed away not too long after I moved here, to today's younger generation, who prefer partying to music containing mostly swear words rather than songs of love and the appreciation for the little things in life.

12-06-2005