“The history of the band Gazdina roba goes back to the 1990’s, when most of the current members would meet up in the local Brno bands. […] Gazdina roba functioned for years as a studio project. The turning point happened ten years after its creation with the release of their first regular album under the fitting title Deset let jsme se neviděli (We Haven’t Seen Each Other for Ten Years) in 2004 […] In 2017, the band released their second album První poslední (From Beginning to End)”. That is the basic information found on their website www.gazdinaroba.cz. These are bare facts, which doesn’t really tell us that Gazdina roba (which could be translated as Farmer’s Wench), an almost secret band in the Brno scene, is in its genre of rock song-writing one of the best to be found. Their musical energy brilliantly ties together with their poetic texts.
“Up until now, I recorded instrumental songs – with a few exceptions but most of them were instrumental. This is truly the first album where I sing 100% of the songs from beginning to end, which is a big change for me. I needed to make such a step, so I had a bit of fun and I recorded a vocal album,” Avishai Cohen, the Israeli bass player told me a few months ago over the phone. We were talking of course about his current album 1970, where he includes his own songs inspired by the popular music of the seventies, Eddie Palmieri’s classic Vamos Pa’l Monte, the American gospel Motherless Child or folk songs from the Middle East. The album 1970 in its context leans toward pop maybe as an exception, but also references the bass player’s personal history and his love of jazz and traditional Jewish music. The current tour, which included the concert in the Boby Centre in Brno as part of JazzFestBrno, corresponds with the album’s topic, and yet differs a bit. It is even more pop and can surprise even experienced listeners.
Donny McCaslin and his then band Perpetual Motion was a great attraction already in 2012, when the organisers of JazzFest Brno presented him as a foreign star who was to bring his energetic, jazz/funk music to Brno. This year was totally different. Czech audiences know McCaslin well from his concert at Colours of Ostrava and other appearances here, but mainly as the man who worked with David Bowie on his last, critically acclaimed, album Blackstar. Though Bowie’s shadow dogs McCaslin, he doesn’t try to escape it. His album Beyond Now (2016) includes his own version of the singer’s dark piece Warszawa from 1976 and the twenty-years-younger song A Small Plot Of Land (with singer Jeff Taylor). And Bowie could be heard (though as an addition) at the Brno concert too.
The three musketeers in fact numbered four. In the same way 3fo3 (which reads as “three fotři” – a play on words since ‘fotr’ is an unflattering term for father) is made up of four members. To the founding members of Bombarďák, Michal Dalecký, Jiří Jelínek and Filip Nebřenský, Matěj Pospíšil was added as a kind of d’Artagnan. However otherwise everything has stayed the same. Bombarďák – or rather the lyricist Jiří Jelínek – speaks to kids with a dynamic language full of fashionable and modern expressions. In the space of very brief songs (on average under two minutes) they are able to tell humorous tales full of wordplay and situational humour. One song follows on from another, mostly upbeat, with speaking as well as singing, on the borders of song and theatrical sketch, but all fitting together well.
When you mention “Greek song”, someone might think of Děti z Pirea (called Never on Sunday in English) as performed by Yvetta Simonová and Milan Chladil (or the even older version by Eva Martinová and Karel Duda). Somewhat closer to the present are Martha and Tena Elefteriadu, who are still giving concerts even in the 2018 season and what is more organising courses in Greek dance. The sisters, who alongside Greek music were also active in the field of rock and pop (and Martha’s album Kresby tuší – ‘Ink Drawings’ - is a treasure), according to the young Brno author and musician Jannis Moras “prepared the way” for a new generation of Greek interpreters. In Brno at present there are a number of active groups singing in Greek and a central figure for this community of musicians is Jannis himself, one of three musically active Moras brothers. All three play with their father in the group I Parea, Jannis plays in rebetiko style in the group Anatoli and aside from that has his own group Jannis Moras & banda. There, alongside his brothers Alexis (bass guitar) and Markos (drums) there are two young ladies – Iva Oulehlová (flute and clarinet) and Zuzana Mitrengová (vocals). While Jannis Moras & banda in their vocals, harmonies and of course lyrics in what is for us the exotic language of Greek remind us of traditional music, in reality it is a folk-rock group, which plays exclusively the songs of its leader. And at present Jannis Moras is one of Brno’s most interesting singer-songwriters.
Julia Ulehla is an American singer, grand-daughter of Vladimír Úlehla, the Moravian musicologist and collector of folk songs and author of the legendary book Živá píseň (Living Song). Together with her husband, the guitarist with Armenian roots Aram Bajakian and former player with Lou Reed and Diana Krall, Julia set up the group Dálava, which works in a non-traditional way with Moravian folk music. They have recorded what is already their second album, The Book of Transfiguration, and we talked about it with Julia and Aram during their recent stay in Brno.
Since the album Sme len hostia na zemi (We Are Only Guests on the Earth) (2009) Tomáš Kytnar and his group Tady To Máš has brought out a new album every two years. In a time when U2 completes a disc three years after the previous one and reviewers think it is too soon, this can seem like overproduction, but that is nothing compared to Neil Young, who even into his seventies is providing his fans with more than an album a year … However frequency is a relative term, in this case linked to the fact that Kytnar – once a rock pianist, and today more in the genre blues-chanson – still has something to express in music. Some years back he came under the spell of Slovak as a very musical language, and so his albums, even though created in Brno in the circles around the Stará Pekárna club and the Indies studio, contain Slovak poetry put to music. At the same time the new album directly follows on from the previous title Srdiečka tiché (Quiet Heart) and is dedicated solely to the verse of the Bratislava native and wonderful poet of the city Erika Ondrejičky (*1964). Kytnar has drawn on his poetry over the long term – alongside both single-theme albums his poetry also found a place on the preceding recordings Vôňa rána (Fragrant Morning) (2011) and Krátkovlasá čembalistka (Short-haired Harpsichordist) (2013).
As part of the tour which has been in progress since the spring, on 28 November the group Zrní (which translates as Grain) will be coming to Fléda in Brno. They are performing their latest album called Jiskřící (Sparkling). The members of the group (four Honzas and one Ondra) reacted to our questions collectively, with only the responses of Honza Unger as the author of the lyrics sometimes coming to the forefront.
Přístav, many times winners of Porta and other folk festivals, are not prolific with new albums. In 2001 they made their debut with the recording Prašná cesta (Dirt Road), in 2008 they brought out Papírový drak (Paper Kite) and as recently as in 2017 their third disc PřiHrátky. This average of eight years between LP recordings has one advantage. In between the group plays intensively, work on themselves and so a certain progress should be visible in each new album. Theoretically this should be the case and fortunately with Přístav it is. And just as with the previous disc I stated that Přístav is becoming steadily more convincing, with this new one that feeling has deepened.
Budoár staré dámy used to be a Brno-based band with a mostly female line-up. Both of these things have changed over the years. These days, the charismatic band-leader and singer Marta Kovářová (neé Svobodová) is currently accompanied by three men. And although part of the band still lives in the South Moravian capital, Marta herself got married and now lives in a “village in a cold gorge”. Her new role of married woman and housewife is projected into several songs “about cooking”. Life in the inhospitable countryside might be connected with the choice of Lubor Kasala’s poem Z ježatých hor (From the Spiky Mountains) (“Mrazem to mrská a zimu pase” – “The whip of frost herds the winter”), the musical version of which the band used at the very start of their new album. It was a good move, because it is an energetic song with a very specific and colourful text (“…kde jektají mývalové umývadel a syčí hadi sprch” – “… where chattering raccoons was in basins and hissing snakes shower”). The dynamics, rhythm and track timing is masterful. The band, despite the fact that these days they no longer have a chance to rehearse together as much as they used to, presents itself in top form – energetic, aggressive, but through all the chaos still organised. There is not a single surplus note to be heard.