“Texas-Czech, Bohemian-Moravian Bands: Historic Recordings, 1929-1959” is a wonderful compilation featuring groups such as the Joe Patek Orchestra, Bacova’s Ceska Kapela and Adolph Pavlas and His Bohemians. One of Tom Waits’s favourite 20 LPs, the album offers a fascinating take on the dechovka (brass band) music that the Lone Star State’s huge Czech community brought with them from the old country.
Standing in the centre of the Clementinum – if you can locate such a thing in the labyrinth – you are surrounded by around a millennium of history and millions of volumes of books inside one of the most beautifully preserved masterpieces of Baroque art the city of Prague has to offer. This is the seat of the Czech National Library and the whispering and rustling that echoes through its grand halls add perfectly to its natural mysteriousness.
The authorities in Prague 7 have fined an artist over a series of works combining the Czech national flag with that of the Romany people. He says the flags, which appeared on an embankment in the city last summer, were meant to foster debate on tensions between the two communities. However, the local town hall accuses him of defaming a Czech national symbol.
Singer and songwriter Zuzana Michnová is one of the most distinct vocalists of the Czech folk rock scene. For many years, she was part of the legendary band Marsyas, and has also released an acclaimed solo album. After a long break, the band recently made a comeback, and can again be seen – and heard – in clubs across the country.
Musician Tomáš Kelar’s career began as drummer with the Welsh band Mountaineers, who rubbed shoulders with some big names when they signed to Mute Records. Now living back home in the Czech Republic, Kelar is a member of the highly regarded electronic group Midi Lidi and also produces the female rappers Čokovoko.
The leading US guitar player Gary Lucas may be best known for his work with the cult musician and artist Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet). His biggest commercial impact may have been as co-writer of tracks on the debut LP by the much loved Jeff Buckley. But – Lucas told me on a recent visit to Prague – very early in his career he also got the opportunity to work under one of the true greats of 20th century music, Leonard Bernstein.