As the new year arrives we look back at some of the biggest Czech hits of 2019 in Radio Prague International’s New Year’s Eve music show. The bands and artists include the award winning music legend Karel Gott, Xindl X, Czechoslovak Superstar finalists Ben Cristovao, Miro Smajda and Emma Drobná, as well as accomplished veterans Support Lesbiens. Last but not least, there is Lake Malawi who got into last year’s Eurovision Song Contest Finals in Tel-Aviv with their song Friend of a Friend.
The sons of a respected classical music composer, the Eben brothers -Kryštof, Marek and David- grew up surrounded by music and musical instruments. They received an education in classical music, but sought inspiration from folk, jazz and rock as they searched for their own style of expression. They formed their first folk-rock band in the late 1970s and their ability to combine different music styles and musical instruments created the unique "Eben style“ which captivates audiences.
Czech Christmas wouldn’t be complete without traditional Christmas carols. To mark the occasion, we’ll be listening to an album entitled Christmas for Grown-Ups or Vánoce dospělých. The album was recorded by the Concept Art Orchestra, a leading Czech jazz band, and offers a slightly different take on the traditional seasonal repertoire.
Puppet theater in Czechia and Slovakia is a way of conveying a vision of the world. That is one of the main reasons why UNESCO inscribed the art on its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity three years ago. In the Christmas season, many a theater and community hall across the country is filled with young audiences out to enjoy holiday performances by professional as well as amateur companies.
Woody Vašulka, one of the pioneers of electronic and video art, has died at the age of 82. The Czech-born artist, who had lived in the United States since the 1960s, inspired generations of video artists all around the world. Together with his wife Steina, he established the legendary art space The Kitchen in New York City, dedicated to electronic media of all sorts.
Mikuláš Bryan – alias Mr. Folxlide – is a Prague-born poet, award-winning translator of French literature, and musician steeped in blues and folk traditions. He plays on an American cigar box guitar, tuned to an open chord, adapting old time blues for balfolk dancing (“the ultimate balfolk-blues crossover”). This edition of the Sunday Music Show features tracks from Mr. Folxlide’s album “1-4-5”, sung in English and French, replete and resplendent with the “drone, ostinato and simple riffs” found in folk music around the globe.
Despite the practice being stopped by City Hall earlier this year, Praguers will get to see a special fireworks show on New Year’s Eve, albeit privately organised by an initiative that seeks to keep the tradition alive. According to Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib, City Hall is not banning anyone from using fireworks, but simply wants to set a good example in not using environmentally damaging pyrotechnics that are also a cause of stress for many people and animals.
An exhibition marking 200 years of portraiture in the Czech lands gets underway at Prague Castle today. The curators have brought together exquisite works by the nation’s most celebrated painters, covering all major genres and movements up to the present day. I went along for a special tour ahead of the official opening.