Mardi Gras celebrations have been taking place around the country ahead of Ash Wednesday. The Czech Republic may be one of the most secular countries in Europe but Czechs love to observe traditions and while few people are likely to fast during the 40 day Lent period they celebrate Mardi Gras (or Masopust as it is called in Czech) with a vengeance.
These Semi Feelings, They Are Everywhere by dné (AKA Ondřej Holý) recently won the Vinyla alternative music prize for Czech LP of the year and is also in the running for the Apollo award. Recorded in large part in Holý’s Prague bedroom, the mesmerising, keyboard-based album came out on German label Majestic Casual and has been making waves internationally in a way most Czech artists can only dream of. When I stopped by at Ondřej Holý’s home, I first asked him about his beginnings in music.
Toxique are a Czech electronic pop and R&B band who have been around for a number of years (the group was founded by five graduates from Prague's Institute of Chemical Technology) whose lead singer Klára Vytisková is also a well-known TV personality (as a jury member on the Czech and Slovak version of Pop Idol) and all around fashion trendsetter. In 2013, she also embarked on a solo career.
Few pieces of music could be said to capture the spirit of the Czech landscape more vividly than Bedřich Smetana’s symphonic cycle, Má vlast – My Homeland. The cycle is also a symbol of triumph over adversity. By the time he completed the work at the end of the 1870s, Smetana was almost totally deaf, living in isolation and far from the musical life of Prague. This and other aspects of the composer’s eventful life are captured in a new play by the American writer Stephan Delbos, which will be premiering in Prague at the beginning of March. David
Talented up-and-coming Czech designers presented their work at London’s International Fashion Showcase for the fourth year now. Following last year’s huge success with their Fata Morgana collection, they pulled out all the stops in order to stand out amidst tough competition in one of the leading fashion capitals of the world.
Fifteen buildings were just recently added to the list of Czech Cultural Monuments, including an early 20th century power station in Poděbrady and Prague’s famous Lucerna Palace. The list also includes buildings from earlier periods, such as the Invalidovna complex, which featured prominently in Miloš Forman’s Amadeus.
Czech folk legend Jarmila Šuláková, who died this week at the age of 87, brought Moravian folk music to audiences around the world. The „queen of folk“ sang from the heart as she liked to say and she had the same esprit at 30 as she did at 80, singing both with traditional folk ensembles as well as the folk-rock group Fleret which opened the world of folk music to younger audiences. In the course of a career spanning more than six decades she recorded over a dozen albums and performed thousands of concerts at home and abroad.
The great Czech film director Miloš Forman – who turned 85 today – is perhaps best-known around the world for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, massive movies that won him Best Director Academy Awards in 1976 and 1985. Prior to his Hollywood career Forman had been a prime mover in the groundbreaking 1960s Czechoslovak New Wave. With movies like Black Peter, Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen’s Ball, he developed a remarkably fresh, vérité style, frequently casting non-professional actors.
Fans of contemporary art should not miss an exhibition of paintings currently on show at the Gallery of Fine Arts in Ostrava. An exhibition titled Disruptive Imagination, and subtitled Making Windows Where There Were Once Walls, shows 36 paintings by leading European contemporary artists, among them Jonathan Wateridge, Martin Eder, Tim Eitel, Robert Fekete, Michael Kunze, or Justin Mortimer.