...and I felt happy within these songs, in which sorrow is not reckless, laughter is not crooked, love is not ridiculous and hate is not apprehensive, where people love with their bodies and souls, where they draw knives or sabres in hatred, dance in joy, throw themselves into the Danube in despair, where, for that matter, love is still love and pain is still pain, where the original emotion is not yet devoid of itself and where values are still unravaged; and it seemed to me that within these songs I was at home, that I had my roots in there. That their world was my primal point of reference... Milan Kundera, The Joke. Affection for old folk songs among the Czech urban population is common even four decades after first publication of Milan Kundera's The Joke, but unfortunately village folk music is becoming more scarce. Several generations of musicians have tried to bring it new life. Some of them have updated folk songs with electric guitars, some have fused local tradition with other world cultures. But I cannot think of any Czech or Moravian band with a sound quite like that of the Moberg Ensemble. Their music was born from sheer enchantment, and matured for twenty years. Their leader, Petr Laurych, explains:
"I discovered Moravian folk music with my wife during our honeymoon. We went to a village feast in Velka nad Velickou, close to the Moravian Slovak borderland, and it started to rain. Along with other visitors we found a shelter under the stage. The sound of 2 cymbalom bands playing and stomping above our heads was a memorable experience. Next day, when we heard stretchers rushing through Prague, I could still hear the Moravian singing within the noise."
That was in 1985. Twelve years later, Petr Laurych - along with his wife, the arranger and keyboard player Blanka Laurychova - began to teach a choir of more than 20 Prague singers how to sing in Moravian dialect.
"We even employ some City Opera members, but our priority is to forget all the training. Natural, straightforward voices are best for folk songs."
Petr Laurych finds some deep parallels between music and his second profession, improvisational theatre.
"Among Prague audiences there is a strong demand for 'genuine' theatre. We offer an alternative to polished musicals and overproduced megashows. No decorations, no multimedia, we stick to the basic ideas."
Laurych and his band already made a self-produced CD and in 2000 performed on a low budget tour of Norway, organised by his theatre-colleague Kjell Moberg, whose name served also as an inspiration for the band. But the "real" CD debut was recorded last year and released a couple of weeks ago.
You can get a taste in Magic Carpet on March 28th, 2004.
To see the Moberg Ensemble live, check their website and also the programme listing of the Delta venue in Prague 6.
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