This week’s Sunday Music show profiles a respected name on the Czech music scene -Dagmar Andrtova Vonkova. A self-taught guitarist, singer and song writer Vonkova seeks inspiration in folk music and draws on her own experiences, for a truly unique style that has captivated audiences at home and abroad.
The work of the novelist Marek Toman is diverse. It takes us from Jewish Prague in the 16th century all the way to the drama of the Velvet Revolution four hundred years later. He has even written one novel in which radio becomes a central character. His latest book, due to be published next year, again takes us back in time. It focuses on a notorious 17th century court case, but is far from being a mere costume drama. In the author’s work the past is always nearer to the present than you might expect. David Vaughan met the novelist.
Writer and youth movement activist Jaroslav Foglar left a deep trace in Czech popular culture. Besides more than 25 novels for children, Jaroslav Foglar is also the father of Rychlé šípy, or “Rapid Arrows”, a legendary comics that has earned a following with generations of Czech readers. Persecuted by the Nazis and the communists, the writer also single-handedly founded his own youth organization which, in its heyday, had tens of thousands of members across the country.
The hit BBC series The Office has been remade in many countries including the US, France Germany and even Chile. Last year, the first ever stage version of the comedy was produced in Prague, and now, Czechs can look forward to their very own TV version of The Office after Czech TV said it would air the fist six episodes next spring. I spoke to David Ondrůj, a co-author of the Czech version called Kancl.
This year is shaping up to be the second record year in a row for art auction houses in the Czech Republic. Although no single painting surpassed the top selling price from last year, the volume of artworks sold seems to have grown. According to Jan Skřivánek, the editor in chief of the specialized magazine Art and Antiques, says buyers in this country are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the offering at local auction houses.
Lubomír Dorůžka, who sadly died on Monday at the age of 89, was one of the all-time great Czech music writers. He started out during WWII, producing a clandestine magazine on his greatest passion, jazz, a genre that was also later frowned upon by the Communists. However, in the relatively liberal 1960s Mr. Dorůžka was able to edit music magazines and play a very active role in international jazz organisations. What’s more, he was also a renowned translator of American and British authors – and as a young man did many translations with his lifelong
US musician Lou Reed, who died in October, is set to be remembered at a special tribute concert at Prague’s Archa Theatre on Wednesday featuring local acts such as the Plastic People of the Universe. Entitled “From the Velvet Underground to the Velvet Revolution”, the event also marks the second anniversary of the death of Czech president Václav Havel, who was a friend of Reed’s.
Much travelled musician Gary Lucas was in Prague last week to provide live accompaniment to a screening of the cult 1930s horror movie known as Spanish Dracula. Described by Rolling Stone as “one of the best and most original guitarists in America”, Lucas also did a show reviving The Ghosts of Prague, an LP he recorded here in 1996 with local band Urfaust. The musician, perhaps best known for his work with Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley, has a long association with the city, and with Czech music. What’s more, Lucas has roots in this part of
Karel Och, who hails from a small town in the Vysočina region, is artistic director of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. For most of the year, Och and his colleagues are based in a building on Panská St. in downtown Prague, directly behind the Holy Cross Church on the bustling Na příkopě. Our tour of “his Prague” begins in his cosy office, which at present overlooks a construction site on Panská.
The Czech family has changed in many ways in the past two decades, with new values and gender models entering the homes, and Communist-era mentality and standards partly waning. One growing phenomenon that few want to talk about is the increasing number of single mothers. Currently, about one in every five children in this country grows up with a single parent. And most of the around 200,000 single caretakers are women. Within the EU, the Czech Republic has one of the highest percentages of single mothers within its population.