The international service of Czech Radio 
20-5-2019, 22:59 UTC
Alon Raab, Oregon, USA


Vltava As a child in Jerusalem of the 1960s, Football was my true love. In addition to starring on the Lions of Judea team, I also went to many matches with my father. The chase after the ball, the elegant dribbling, the powerful shots on goal always were preceded, during international matches, by the playing of the national anthems. We stood to sing the Israeli "Hatikva" ("The Hope") with its evocative words about "being a free people in the land of Zion and Jerusalem," and beautiful music. Only in an eighth grade music class did I learn that the melody was adapted from Bedrich Smetana's "The Moldau," part of his "Ma Vlast". He was describing not the Jordan river I knew so well but the Vlatava/Moldau river of his land. Its flowing through Bohemia, over rapids, through Prague, and into the Elbe, were far from my homeland, but the sense of beauty he created was familiar.


The Plastic People of the
Universe My youth was a time of rebellion- against the constricting school, government policies, and everything that I understood to be "bourgeois." I found kindred spirits in literary and historical characters and one day, in an article in an "underground" paper shared with fellow rebels, also in "The Plastic People of the Universe." Their name reminded me of the scene in the film "The Graduate" where "plastic people"- those who have sold their souls for money, are mocked, but here it was with good-natured self-irony. A short time later I heard , on a late night music show, about them and their music. Several tracks from "Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned," which were smuggled to the west, were played and in spite of the language barrier, their mix of Jazz, Rock, Classical, and Folk, captivated me at once. My love intensified when I heard about how with humor they tried to create an original music and way of life. I rooted for them as they played, without a state license, in remote farmhouses, and how they and their fans hiked through the woods to evade the police, only to be attacked and arrested. I admired their courage and sense of solidarity with other banned artists, and though I was living in a western country, their desire to be true to their unique vision of music and life found a direct track to my heart.


From the New World In my early 20's, on the plane, leaving my country to live abroad, I heard Antonin Dvorak's Symphony number 9, "From the New World." I carried with me Kafka's "America" and Kerouac's "Lonesome Traveler" and they and the music were a perfect accompaniment to what I was feeling- a mixture of sadness, worry, and excitement about the unknown land and future facing me. The music was classical but with hints of Czech folk songs, Native American music, and African American spirituals, creating a melting pot, and a promise for a place where one could re-invent oneself anew, while still mainting ties to one's heritage and ancestors.


The Cunning Little Vixen A long lasting relationship had just ended and I am feeling a sense of abandonment and a yearning to be with the woman who for many years was my beloved. In the music library I find an album with the enticing name- "The Cunning Little Vixen" by Leon Janacek. Opera is not my favorite kind of music but the name draws me in. The first notes transform me to the world of animals where everything is possible. The badger, Dragonfly, and fox (called "sharp ears") become my friends. They are smart, resourceful, and free spirits, and the always-returning cycles of nature they experience, remind me that everything is possible, and that one day I again will find love.


Vaclav Havel 1989 I was happy when the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc collapsed, and especially when it was done with minimal bloodshed. I followed the "Velvet Revolution" and the way it showed that it is possible to bring change on a societal level in a way that is peaceful, imaginative, and with humor. The fact that many of those who played an important part in bringing about the change were writers, artists, and musicians whose works were once banned and they themselves were arrested or exiled, was even sweeter. When Vaclav Havel became president and invited the American rock musician Frank Zappa to his inauguration and later when Lou Reed appeared with Czech musicians to packed halls in Prague, I knew that the Czech Republic is on the right path: A country which invites such dreamers and rebels to its official ceremonies knows what is truly important in this life.

Hours with my father at Football matches, youthful rebellion, healing for a broken heart, humor- these are some of the faces of Czech music for me. I have never been to the Czech republic but at different times in my life its musical sounds were loyal friends , which I hope will continue to accompany me on this journey.

Alon Raab
Oregon, USA