Folk & Country
This international festival is entering its second year. Along with Martin Krajíček and his trio there will be appearances from the Mandolin Orchestra, Vítek Hanulík and Karel Začal, Tři grácie, Megafon and Michal Müller as well as Jiří Plocek and Jitka Šuranská. The festival will include workshops for the participants.
The album Moravské hlasy (Moravian Voices) captures the phenomenon of the South Moravian art of singing
The second year of the multi-genre festival Brno Music Marathon is approaching. The biggest summer festival in Brno will welcome dozens of international participants. Space will be given to various musical genres within the festival, from Balkan Brass bands via classical chamber and orchestral, jazz, folk, world music, rock, groups for children all the way to off-street busking. The musical programme will be supplemented by three performances of the new circus Collectif Malunés, street theatre, a magician and an acrobatic helium balloon.
On Monday 30 July the guest of Folk Holidays in Náměšť nad Oslavou will be the English singer-songwriter John Smith. The organisers speak of him as a “hidden treasure of exquisite folk singing” and emphasise his album from last year Headlong with its personal confessions to his wife Joanne. We spoke with Smith, who his guitar idol and model John Renbourn called “the future of folk”, by telephone.
The group D.N.A. Brno, winners of the final of Porta in 2011, after a gap of four years have brought out a new album. Alongside a new surname for the bass guitarist (but it is still the same Barbora who years ago cofounded the then children’s and girls’ group) there was an important change in the line-up. Ondra Bojanovský (son of Aleš Bojanovský of FT Prima) has become a new member, playing rhythmic instruments. This has made it possible for the former percussionist Lenka Ručková to move over to the piano. Otherwise they remain as they were: D.N.A. is a group of young people, mostly classically trained, who like folk as well as classical. On the musical side they play it masterfully – there can be no objections to their skill, which is made evident in individual songs. The actual repertoire already on the last album has grown up from the childhood years and the innovation is of course, in this respect, a bit more mature. The band has not surprised us with any a sudden shift. But the result is a bit more mature and confident. And what has also been added are serious but at the same time credible themes.
After a gap of three years Rózinky (which could be translated as Raisins) from the South Moravian village of Kozojídky have recorded their second album. The girls attend elementary art school together and their teacher Kateřina Mičková, who put the group together, still writes songs for them. The girls also perform together on radio and television shows and have played at various festivals from Folk Holidays in Náměšť nad Oslavou to TrutnOff. The question of whether the group will still be viable once its members grow up and mature (and probably have other musical interests and tastes) still hangs in the air. A little doubt already hangs over the disc Cvrkot (which could be translated as Chirp), but not as a threat but rather as a reason for the greater diversity on the album.
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.
An interview between Kateřina Bajo, the main coordinator for the membership of Prague as a city of literature in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and David Dittrich, main coordinator for the membership of Brno as a city of music in the same network. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was set up in 2004 and its main aim is to support cooperation and international cooperation and creativity. Now it brings together 180 member cities from 72 countries from around the world. The cities fall into 7 creative areas – literature, music, design, film, gastronomy, traditional crafts and media. A city applying for membership in the network has to fulfil very strict criteria, and it must be supported not only by the commission of experts but also by all the member cities.
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).
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.
Brno is now one of the 180 cities from around the world that belongs to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Only some three dozen of these are focused on music. After Prague it is the second city in the Czech Republic to be accepted into this network. The awarded title recognises the work of artists, people working in culture, the diversity of genres and cooperation with the surrounding region.
At Folk Holidays 2017 in Náměšt nad Oslavou two significant groups from Denmark are appearing, among others. On Monday July 24 it will be the instrumental ensemble Dreamers’ Circus and on Thursday 27 July the quartet Nordens Tone. This is made up of three jazz musicians (piano, double bass and saxophone) and the singer Jullie Hjetland, who sings in eight different Nordic languages. And it was with her that we spoke by telephone.