Folkové prázdniny [Folk Holidays] in Náměšť nad Oslavou is a festival standing out with its dramaturgy, structure and atmosphere. Every season has its own theme, every evening has its own theme, and even some individual performances have their own themes. The long-time programme director Michal Schmidt managed this year to excellently balance Czech premiéres and truly extraordinary projects with reappearances and sure bets. This year's theme of Folkové prázdniny was About the Soul; however, this week-long event has its soul every year.
The group Nebeztebe (a pun containing both "Not without You" and "Heaven from You) literally shone in the Brno scene a few years ago. The five-member line-up, with its marked rhythms, seemingly above styles, celebrated victory at Porta and headed for the giant multi-genre festivals. Under bandleader Štěpán Hulc seemingly the band went to sleep and only returned this year with a brand new, three-member line-up. The new Nebeztebe is made up of guitar, violin and mandolin and has not given up on taking a multi-genre approach. Once more they are giving concerts and are coming out with the concept album Zásobování duše (which might be translated as Supplying the Soul).
One of the musicians who will appear at Folkové prázdniny [Folk Holidays] in Náměšť nad Oslavou as part of a special programme called Harfy nad Oslavou [Harps upon Oslava], is the Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda. In Náměšť, he will also give a solo recital as part of an evening called O duši s lehkostí i naléhavostí [About Soul with Lightness and Urgency]. In our telephone conversation – we called him to New York where he lives – we talked to Edmar Castañeda, for example, about a harp specially constructed according to his requirements, or about his cooperation with the Czech singer Marta Töpferová.
The Slunce [Sun] Festival in Strážnice will be held for the twentieth time this year. Especially lovers of folk music and classical big beat have marked the dates of 12th and 13th July in their calendars. We talked to the director of the Slunce Festival Pavel Kopřiva about the history of the festival, its top moments and hardships, as well as what this year's festival season will be like.
Why be one of the many average bands when we can be a unique band? The ten-year history of the Brno group Kupodivu could be squeezed into this motto. In 2009, saxophonist Jaroslav Pilný and keyboard player Petr Šašinka first talked about forming a band. In 2019, the band Kupodivu [Surprisingly Enough] is releasing its first full-length album. Exactly in the middle of this ten-year period, in 2014, an important change took place when the original folk band was transformed into an interesting shape with keyboards, saxophone and bass, but without a guitar. The line-up, which resembles rather jazz bands in recent years, has scored at a lot of folk festivals in recent years. Kupodivu won the Porta award for authors, the Rada Notování [Council of Notation] award, won the Moravský vrabec [Moravian Sparrow], and won second place at the Mohelnický dostavník [Mohelnice Stagecoach]. At all these venues they performed music that rather than campfires fits into city clubs, and by far not only folk ones. The album Živočišné pudy [Animal Instincts] summarizes the band's work so far in a dignified way, underlined by the quality sound from the Zlín Studio V.
The title of this album is deceiving. Although the group Šarivary uses the Czech phonetic transcription of the French expressions charivari and mélange, it is not composed of any Czechs. The quartet that got together in Brno is headed by French singer, flutist and accordionist Aude Martin and American guitarist and singer Chris Coleman. Besides them, the band is formed by Swedish trumpeter Christopher Strandh and Slovak bass guitar player Tomáš Ulahel. The band's music is as colourful as its motley ethnic composition.
The Brno group Hrozně slowly approach forty years of age – they started to give concerts in 1982. After several cassettes and unofficial recordings, they released a CD with their debut album Už není čas [There Is No Time Left] in 2013. Their new album named Ticho [Silence], which the band was working on over the last two years in the Indies studio, brings a surprise with its cleaner sound and clearly audible tension in the structure of the songs.
Over the four years that divide the release of the first album Záhir, and the second one entitled O Písni [About the Song], Lee Band virtually moved on (previously they stated Adamov as their domicile, now it is Jedovnice), they got on a "wild card" to the Porta festival semifinals in Řevnice, and above all, they advanced slightly in their musical style. While the debut album was more about a folk-rock mainstream, benefiting from the sound of an electric guitar, the new album is dominated by acoustic guitars, often in combination with mandolin and other acoustic instruments.
This year's JazzFestBrno festival had several highlights – of course, it depended on each visitor's personal taste, their expectations, and of course on how many shows they managed to visit. For the author of this article, one of the highlights the evening with bassist Stanley Clark on 23 April, varied in genre and arrangement, as well as the last but one concert of the festival, the performance of "the other" Avishai Cohen in the Husa na provázku Theatre on 28 April. It was a musically pure essence of jazz with a message – imperative, heartbreaking and poetic.
This year, the JazzFestBrno festival has expanded its offer to include an "electronic" programme line named Tension. Within that series, the bands Zabelov Group and HRTL Spaghetti Ensemble appeared in the Praha space in Brno on 28 March. However, the two-hour concert, which took place on 5 April in the sold-out Sono Centre, was also ideologically close to this new series. The Manchester-based trio GoGo Penguin perhaps uses an instrumental layout of a jazz piano trio vetted by decades, but still oscillates around electronic music as a starting point in its albums and concerts.