Magic Carpet Archive
12.3. 2006:Camael: roots with grace
Every season half a dozen new Czech bands "rediscover" the heritage of Moravian folk music - so what makes the latest addition, Camael, so special? First, it's combination of three fresh and natural female voices, who are also members of Triny ensemble, known for their adaptations of Gypsy songs. In Camael they are accompanied by players (strings, woodwind) from top classical ensembles, who provide imagination and spontaneity and never sink to boring academism.
12.2. 2006:A Babel of voices from the Czech lands
A selection of music recorded in Prague and Brno by foreign language artists. The Colombian songwriter Ivan Gutierrez played for many years with one of the most beloved Czech singers, Zuzana Navarova, and recently he made his first debut album, Madera; the Mongolian singer Urna performed in Prague with Pavel Fajt and his Gathering of Drummers; the Chinese singer Feng Jun Song recorded with Ingwe; the Czech Celtic band Irish Dew features a kora player from Senegal.
Links for Ivan Gutierrez: http://www.radio.cz/es/articulo/73213
Link for Urna: www.urna.de
Link for Feng Jun Song: http://www.fengjunsong.cz
15.1. 2006:Zuzana Homolova - The fine art of the dark ballad
Zuzana Homolova works in Bratislava as an art teacher, and for many decades she was considered to be the most important singer of Slovak ballads. Like related genres from other parts of Europe, these songs were traditionally sung during the long winter nights by old and wise women without any accompaniment - but Zuzana Homolova breaks this rule on every CD she makes. In the past she has made albums with the jazz flutist Jiri Stivin and folksinger Vlasta Redl. Her most recent one, "I Won't Let Your Soul Pass Away", was produced by the Bratislava guitarist Daniel Salontay.
11.12. 2005:Czaldy Waldy Quartet: a new Czech band playing music from Ruthenia
The most scenic region of pre-war Czechoslovakia was in the far east of the country, an area known at that time as Subcarpathian Ruthenia. Today it is part of Ukraine, but many Czech people love to go there as tourists or even to research and collect local folk songs. Czaldy Waldy Quartet is one of the new Czech bands who enjoy playing music from this very special part of Europe.
13.11. 2005:Njorek: folk with talent and finesse
Njorek, an innovative Czech trio, plays folk songs adapted for a very unusual combination of string instruments: cello, guitar and zither. Compared to other local bands playing traditional material, Njorek plays in a very natural way thanks to the talent and finesse of cello player Olin Nejezchleba, who is alsso a gifted singer. Nejezchleba, a long-time member of the seminal Czech groups Marsyas and ETC..., seems to have achieved musical maturity in this small but focused band.
16.10. 2005: Benedikta - sisters drawing from their family's rich cultural heritage
Sisters Michaela and Petra Vanu are founding members of the band Benedikta. Both their parents are rooted outside Czech Republic: their mother came here from a part of Western Ukraine which was a part of prewar Czechoslovakia, while their father is from Slovenia. This rich cultural heritage makes it very easy for them to draw inspiration from the folk traditions of neighbouring countries and blend them with modern musical styles. Their new album's title consists of two words from two different languages: while the first one, Punky, is well understood all over the world, the second part, Dumky, can be roughly translated as melancholy, or alternatively a kind of sad music that can be quite adventurous.
18.9. 2005: Iva Bittova's long awaited new album with Bang on a Can
For Prague audiences, the autumn season started with a rare performance: one of the Czech Republic?s most beloved singers and musicians Iva Bittova launched her new album Elida and gave two concerts in the Archa Theatre with Bang on a Can, a renowned band from New York City. The album's title was inspired by the poet Vera Chase, who used to live in Prague. In one of her texts she writes about a woman taking a bath and washing herself with Elida soap; Iva Bittova found this story very erotic and inspiring. The album offers a rich spectrum of songs and instrumental pieces drawing both from the gentle folk melodies and contemporary experimental music.
21.8. 2005: Irony and humour in "An Old Lady's Boudoir"
The French word boudoir specifies a woman's dressing room. So if a band calls themselves "An old lady's boudoir," what kind of a message do you expect? Obviously they combine irony and humour, and plenty of originality. "We are not modern. We are not virtuosi," you can read on their website. 3 of the 5 members of the band are female, all of them sing, and they play violin, guitars, drums and bass. Yet the most original essence of their music is in their songs and especially in their attitude. Their latest album, "Talking About The Wolf", includes several texts by well known Czech poets put to music. "But we can never catch the wolf, who is disappearing in distance," they explain. Many of their songs feel like dreams put to music. If they had lived 80 years earlier, they would certainly have been called "surrealists", but today they are described as "alternative punkrock".
24.7. 2005: Czechomor: Czech and Moravian folk plus a taste of Japan and Ireland
Czech and Moravian: these two adjectives define the two distinct regions of what is today called the Czech Republic. Moravia, situated in the eastern part, is well known for its beautiful folk songs, vineyards and wine cellars. For a band playing traditional music it was very natural to call themselves the "Czech and Moravian Musical Society". During the past decade they shortened this rather uncomfortable name to Czechomor, and this June they released their new album: "What Happened Next". As a producer, Czechomor hired Ben Mandelson from London, one of the busiest and most respected world music professionals. "I already had a clue about Czech music from before: at home I have albums of the composer Leos Janacek," says Mandelson. Czechomor also invited two foreign guest artists: the Japanese flute and taiko drums player Joji Hirota, and the Irish traditional singer Iarla O'Lionaird. Karel Holas, Czechomor's violin player, explains: "We love Irish music, and also we wanted to record a song in English, but in the end Iarla decided he will sing in Irish Gaelic."
26.6. 2005: Raduza: energy that transcends barriers
Raduza, accompanying herself on accordion, is a very surprising artist. Her music can not be placed in any single category, like urban folk, punkrock or cabaret songs, but without any doubt she is inspired by all of them. Her new album "V hore", Inside a Mountain, finds her at a crossroads: Raduza uses more instrumental variety, sometimes replacing her accordion with guitar. Her songs are deeply rooted in her native language, but at the same time their energy transcends all barriers. A young woman with accordion and a very emotional voice - what a contrast to the mainstream artists that were dominating Czech music industry for the past decades! No wonder everybody was surprised when she won several Czech Academy awards - but even now she prefers to play small clubs where she can establish personal bond with her audience.
29.5.2005: Marta Topferova - Czech roots but a Latin sound
"One of the best Latin records I've heard so far this year comes from Marta Topferova who was born in the Czech Republic, but has learned the traditions she draws from, and come up with her own original interpretation. Plus she's got an extraordinary voice, and surrounds herself with truly excellent musicians," says Bill Bragin, programme director of the renowned Joe's Pub in NYC. You can judge her abilities as a singer, arranger and composer for yourself from her latest album, La Marea (The Tide). Her spring tour includes dates in Germany, France, UK, Spain. On Saturday 28 May she plays in the Stara pekarna club in Brno, on Monday 30 May in the Atrium in Prague.
On a spring night in early April two female singers of magnificent appearance gave a remarkable concert in the Lucerna ballroom in Prague: Cesaria Evora from the Cape Verde Islands, and the Queen of the Czech Gypsy singers Vera Bila. Last time they performed on a stage together was in 1997 at the Printemps de Bourges in France. Bila was also busy this spring recording her new album after a 4-year interval. Titled "C'est comme ca" (that's how it is), it is "a balance of the current outline of the band," as explained by Vera Bila's manager Jiri Smetana. One of the secrets revealed on the album is that the men in black shirts in her band are not only competent musicians, but convincing lead singers as well.
27.3.2005: Prague meets China and Bangladesh
Fifteen years of freedom have opened Prague to parallel cultures and to cultural exchange. Foreign artists living in Prague are discovering Czech culture and at the same time contributing their own ideas and qualities. The Chinese singer Feng-Yün Song originally came to Prague 20 years ago, to study Czech language, and recently she completed her third album, recorded with Czech musicians.
Mohsin Mortaba moved from Bangladesh to Brno, where he studied at the Technical University. For the past 5 years he held a very demanding job, replacing the Senegalese singer in Hypnotix, a hard working and internationally successful band from Prague. Recently he started to work with the pianist Zdenek Kral, recording an album of catchy yet clever songs, combining Bengali melodies and lyrics with European dance beats.
27.2.2005: Iva Bittova celebrates Moravian folk music
2005 seems to be a crucial year for Iva Bittova, one of the best known Czech musicians internationally. On 29 April, she plays in Carnegie Hall in NYC, and has enough work planned for the next two years: an adaptation of the famous Mozart opera called "Don Juan in Prague", where she plays Donna Elvira, and her own chamber opera, which she plans to start writing in 2007 in New York City. Her most recent project, a CD of Moravian Folk Poetry, reflects her lifelong affection for the folk music from Moravia. The album is based on transcriptions by the Czech composer Leos Janacek. When I asked her about it, she explained: "For me, folk music was always a source of inspiration, an oasis of purity and honesty. I do not think I could write better lyrics than those you find in folk poetry."
10.10.2004: Anybody who travelled east before the fall of the Iron Curtain remembers the Trabant. A funny little car with a motorcycle engine manufactured in Eastern Germany. The word Trabant was used in many jokes. In a slightly transformed form, it serves as a name for a band. Yes, Traband, with a D, is a band with a strong sense of humour, and contrary to the Trabant car, they have a lot of energy to spare - and also some remarkable musical ideas. Recently Traband finished a new album, which is ready for release. On their past albums Traband have always used a unifying theme behind their songs, so I asked the leader, singer and composer Jarda Svoboda, what is the concept of their new CD? "It's called Hyje, which means 'Go horses!'. The songs are full of knights, horsemen of Apocalypse, riders and golden chariots." Despite the fact that Traband has existed for 10 years, they are not a band who can fill a stadium, and I am also sure this is not their ambition. Yet they are quite successful abroad - they often play in France and recently they returned from the first tour of Japan. Even though Traband put a great deal of energy into their lyrics, you do not have to speak Czech to enjoy their music.
15.08.2004: In the era of major companies and global pop it takes a lot of courage to be independent. The fretless bass guitar player Sina and her partner, guitarist Daniel Salontay, formed Slnko Records in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. In the beginning, they burned the CDs on their home computer, packaged them and sent by mail - but with growing success of their company this became harder more difficult. With their band, Dlhe Diely, they were one of the brightest surprises of last years Colours of Ostrava festival. Magic Carpet features both Dlhe Diely and Sina's solo albums.
18.07.2004: The history of the Prague band Jablkon reaches deep into the past. In 1977 they started as an acoustic trio with two guitars and percussion and their music was in stark contrast to every existing fashion.Jablkon blended instruments with voices in very unorthodox way. The musicians invented a wide spectrum of howls, wails, screams, grunts and other deeply human sounds, and used just the right amount of this vocal seasoning to build a pattern, a momntum of a non-verbal message, or just a joke. Their music was like a well crafted building with a wild back yard; in the large scale architecture you can feel delicate melodies and musical forms of a sophisticated European origin.As years went by, the classical elements of their music became more apparent in 90's, when the band played with the classical violinist Jaroslav Sveceny, and made a rare appearance with a symphonic orchestra. Last year, the band celebrated the first 25 years of it's existence. On a memorable concert in the Prague Archa theatre, Jablkon performed with the Moravian Symphony orchestra and other guest players. Magic Carpet features the live CD from this concert.
20.6.2004:For generations the zither was one of the best loved instruments in Czech households. But now the delicate wooden box with a generous array of strings looks more like an antiquity than an instrument people play. The decline of zither in the Czech lands started with independence from the Habsburg Empire. The instrument was often identified as a German import, and the next generation choose to play guitar instead. Now the zither is coming back. One of the most gifted Czech players, Michal Müller, chose to study the instrument at the Vienna conservatory. He graduated 3 years ago, and now he's the one and only Czech zither teacher with a diploma - and also an adventurous and prolific musician.
23.5.2004:At the beginning of May the Czech nation celebrated joining the European Union. In Prague a big festival was held: The United Islands, with live music played on the 10 islands on the course of the Vltava River in the city. Yet the final concert took place on the mainland, with the Gypsy Kings, the world famous band from Southern France topping the bill, plus two promising local Roma bands as support, Gulo Car and Bengas. Why are the Gypsy bands so popular? Is this just a short lived fashion, or are Czech audiences bored with the non-Roma mainstream? And what can the Roma bands offer to international audiences?
25.4.2004:The six-member group Quakvarteto, led by the violinist Dorothea Kellerova, relishes moving between different musical styles with wit and irony, mixing piano and violin with woodwind, tuba and vocals. In Petr Doruzka's Magic Carpet we hear from their latest CD, adapting Chick Corea's Children's Songs.
28.3.2004:With village music in decline, Petr Doruzka introduces us to one of the Czech Republic's most original and imaginative groups bringing new life to traditional folk songs - the Moberg Ensemble.
29.2.2004: The gypsy settlements in Slovakia are probably the nearest place to the Czech Republic where Roma are still able to maintain their lifestyle untouched by urban life. In past years, the Slovak song collector Jana Belisova from Bratislava made several field recording trips to these villages, produced two CDs, and two books (in Prague you'll find them in the Romen Shop, Nerudova Street 32). In the programme: a Gypsy Christmas song from Slovakia, plus Zuzana Navarova with Mario Bihari, the blind Gypsy accordion player, and The Devil Fiddlers from Bratislava meet Andalusian flamenco.
1.2.2004: Up in north-eastern part of the Czech Republic, close to the Polish border, lies the city of Ostrava, formerly a heavy industry centre, now developing a new identity. One of the most important artists of this region is Jaromir Nohavica - a singer, songwriter and poet. His latest CD, titled Babylon, was one of the most successful and also most interesting albums of past year. Also in the programme: Salute Zappa, a homage to the American composer Frank Zappa by Czech bands.
4.1.2004: Petr looks at some new releases by Czech independent labels. Well be hearing the Czech guitarist Pavel Richter as well as the amazing Romany musician Iva Bittova, with the re-release of a fantastic recording from 15 years ago with her half-sister, Ida Kellarova. Listen out as well for the new album of the band Gothart, entitled "Rakija 'n' Roll". Gothart are a group of Czech musicians who've become enamoured of the Balkans and draw from Serbian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Armenian tradition.
7.12.2003: Petr Doruzka introduces us to Tarafuki a very unusual band, made up of two young women cellists who sing their own songs ranging from quiet intimacy to load ecstasy. Dorota Barova and Andrea Konstankiewicz are of mixed Czech-Polish ancestry and sing in both languages. They have just released their second CD Kapka meaning a drop - and are rapidly becoming well known, throughout Europe and especially in France. At the end of the programme, listen out from the most unusual song on the CD Quiet Weeping.
09.11.2003: To this day in Moravia you still come across traditional cimbalom-and-fiddle village wedding bands. In the last ten years this music has enjoyed a revival. Established artists like Iva Bittova now compete with a new generation of young, fresh and creative musicians. In Magic Carpet we hear music from the CD sampler "Magic Playing Moravian Roots", introducing new discoveries and featuring a rare recording of Iva Bittova and her sister Ida Kellarova.
12.10.2003: Katka Sarkozi, singer, songwriter and guitarist started her career almost ten years ago, but her latest CD seems to be a breakthrough. It is titled "Magorie", translated as Insanity, Rage or Ferocity, and its impact is like that of a hushed scream that keeps haunting you for the rest of the day.
See also The History of Music.
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