Under the “cipher” 29/2 (reads as “Twenty-ninth February”) there is a band that was created for a bit of fun. They used compositional techniques that should not work in songwriting at all. It has united musicians who, by definition, perhaps can never understand each other. And yet the result is an album of very strong songs that, despite all the experimentalism, makes sense and works as a whole.
The Brno Music Marathon Festival will include a world music scene for the first time this year. In addition to the award-winning Bosnian singer-songwriter Damir Imamović and the female vocal group Kata from the exotic Faroe Islands, the group Spilar from Belgium will perform in the Biskupský dvůr venue on Saturday 14 August. Its first album Stormweere reached number eight on the World Music Charts Europe, the official partner of the scene and compiled by leading radio music writers from across Europe, last November. We interviewed Maarten Decombel, one of the founders of the group.
American singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla is claiming her Haitian roots. She lives in Louisiana and connects the traditional musical genres of the U.S. South with the culture of the island where her ancestors came from. On Tuesday, 27 July, we will be able to hear her voice and songs live at the festival of Folkové prázdniny (Folk Holidays) in Náměšt' nad Oslavou.
Ód ... The artistic name evokes singing, narration, poetry, odes… It is also a guide to pronounce the first name in Czech of the protagonist, a French singer settled in Brno, Aude Stulírová Martin. She has been living in Moravia for ten years and is an excellent Czech speaker. In that time she has co-founded a band called Šarivary as well as the theatre company of Le Cabaret Nomade. She was also active as an artistic director of the Bonjour Brno festival. Bébé Lune is her current, second album – a collection of lullabies from around the world, it was created by Ód as a result of her winning Expats for Brno, a competition seeking innovative projects. So, while the project is international in its content, it is very closely related to Brno.
Anyone who knows the B-Side Band, especially through performing international hit songs with the singer Vojtěch Dyk, or last year’s album Folk Swing, may be surprised by their unique take on a production of Jaromír Hnilička’s Missa Jazz. In fact, the big band’s history is tightly interwoven with the composer’s legendary Jazz Mass.
On the occasion of his 66th birthday last year, documentary film-maker, singer-songwriter, musician, author of theatre plays and writer Jiří Vondrák released a double album, one representative of his musical activities at large rather than a selection of his best-known material. Despite the title this is no “best of” collection, instead it’s a noteworthy mix of hits and rare pieces, old songs and new songs, and modern folk and rock pieces. As such it serves as a great introduction to Vondrák, a Renaissance man of culture in Brno, as well as a collector’s item featuring recordings not released elsewhere or almost impossible to find. The first half of the double CD really packs a punch, too.
“It’s absolutely perfect, I play it all the time and it plays in my head all the time,” commented Matěj H., a music studies graduate and Brno politician. In another Facebook debate, a musical editor with a pen name of Max B. depicts it to be “totally horrible stuff.” Few domestic albums recorded in 2020 received such varied responses as Folk Swings, a collection of what were initially contemporary folk songs, re-arranged to become big-band pieces and performed by B-Side Band with Josef Buchta as the bandmaster.
The coronavirus crisis of 2020 (and 2021) has had such an impact on the form of the musical market that researchers, with hindsight, will probably ask whether there are any recordings released at that time and not affected by it. Robert Křesťan and Druhá tráva (Second Grass) wanted to work on a double album containing cover versions of songs by his favourites and new own works next to each other. The British producer Eddie Stevens became a part of this ambitious project but the interrupted opportunity of travelling between the Czech Republic and London also stopped work on the 2CD. The band decided not to wait for the easing and released the Díl první (Part One) separately. This is not the exact form of the initially intended first disc. “Releasing cover versions only without any apparent relationship between them and the original works seemed inadequate to us and the production style of Eddie Stevens is individual and unifying in a specific way to such an extent that we decided to release a mix of the two on the first medium and delay the second part,” explains Křesťan. Therefore, we have Díl první in front of us, but this is not any half-hearted recording or unfinished work. In spite of the Act of God, Druhá tráva has succeeded in recording one of the strongest Czech discs of 2020.
One older - not quite typical – Květy´s album began with the words: "The quietest band in the world so as not to disturb the neighbours." The newest album, called a bit mysteriously Květy Květy (Flowers Flowers) begins with this text: “We are heading into the dark at the highest speed.” Can one deduce anything from the fact that the band around Martin E. Kyšperský in the slowest year, at the time of the lockdown, came up with the fastest and perhaps the most energetic album in their career? Or is it more important that, despite all the pressure that emanates from Květy Květy (Flowers Flowers) as a collective work, it is actually a very solitary and intimate record?
Tomáš Kytnar, the manager of the Stará Pekárna club in Brno and bandleader of the group Tady To Máš (a pun containing Kytnar's given name 'Tomáš' but meaning 'Here You Are') has been setting Slovak lyrics to music for years. He based several of his albums on the poetry of contemporary Slovak poets Judita Kaššovicová and Erik Ondrejička. When asked if he deliberately avoided Czech lyrics, he replied in an interview for Brno – City of Music in 2013: "I really am thinking a little about Czech, but I will definitely not look for something in a systematic way or place an advertisement. As Slovak poets actually came to me by themselves, the Czech ones should come by way of chance, shouldn't they?" Seven years have passed. Since then, Kytnar and his band have released the "Slovak" albums Srdiečka tiché (Silent Hearts) and Krajina diamantov (Land of Diamonds), and... this year a change is coming. The novelty Ryba Květovoň (loosely translated as Flowerscent Fish) combines Kytnar's typical composing signature with Czech poetry written by Bogdan Trojak.