Folk & Country
As the designated UNESCO City of Music, Brno is all set to be filled with harmonious sounds of music once again. Hundreds of musicians will perform in the city over the four days of the festival, with dozens of concerts scheduled that shall make the squares, streets and concert halls resound with music. Encompassing a variety of genres, this year’s Brno Music Marathon will take place in mid-August, just like before, and it’s going to be one of the few public events to happen this year. The line-up includes Lenka Dusilová, Juwana Jenkins, Sisa Feher, Fanfara Transilvania, Malalata, Circus Brothers, Horňácká cimbálová muzika Petra Mičky (the Horňácko Cimbalom Band of Petr Mička), Javory and a host of others. Street “rooms” by Kateřina Šedá is not absent from it, either.
For the fifth time already, the centre of Brno will be transformed into one big music stage. From Thursday to Sunday, the multi-genre Brno Music Marathon festival will take place here. The programme will surely please fans of rock, pop, groove, dance music, opera, folk, ethno, world music, classics or musicals. Brno is the only UNESCO City of Music to welcome 300 musicians in our country, among others, for example, Magdalena Kožená, Katarína Knechtová or Jan Bendig. You also should not miss Pianoštafeta, The Endless Organ and concerts in street rooms of Kateřina Šedá.
The world celebration of music, known as Fête de la Musique, will be held on this particular day of 21 June. The current situation does not allow for mass celebrations in the form of concerts, happenings and performances in the streets of UNESCO Music Cities. That is why this year's celebrations of music will take place in the form of an online concert. Today's virtual music festival, which starts at 12:00, is jointly held by more than 20 cities from all around the world. You can watch the concert on the Facebook page UNESCO Cities of Music and on YouTube.
The multi-genre Brno Music Marathon festival is about to enter its fourth season. In August, Brno will have four days full of music that will sound in the city squares, in the festival rooms of Kateřina Šedá, and traditionally in the Alfa pasáž shopping mall. The genre representation in the programme ranges from groove, dance and Romani music through opera, folklore, world music, classics and musicals. Performers will include Pavel Fischer & Jakub Jedlinský, VUS Ondráš with a project by Jiří Slavík, the Indigo Quartet, Monika Načeva, the Epoque Quartet and many others.
TIC Brno responds to the current state of society and culture by launching an online project entitled (ni)KAM v Brně [(no)WHERE TO in Brno], which follows on the printed KAM (WHERE TO) magazine. The portal will gather and promote cultural activities in Brno so that supporters of culture can stay together even during this quarantine period.
A summer walk around Brno's downtown where music sounds at every step? That was and will be the Marathon of Music Festival in Brno. The centre of Brno will resound with the festival already for the fifth time this August. The programme promises a great variety of genres, reputed names of artists, but also space for young talent. Once again, music will be played at unconventional venues and in rooms by Kateřina Šedá; concerts will newly be staged, for example, in a kitchen storage room or a in a children's room.
“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.
Two years after the monothematic album Bleděmodré město (Pale Blue City), for which the Brno-based group Nevermore & Kosmonaut received a nomination for the genre-specific Anděl Award, the band released a new album with a mysterious name XCR-9. The subheading Písně do rakety (Songs for a Space Shuttle) reveal more. While on the last album we walked through the streets of the city of Brno together with Michal Šimíček and his band, this time the singer-songwriter, who has been using the nickname Kosmonaut for years, is taking us on a fictitious journey into space.
The album Folk Swings of the Brno-based B-Side Band is being vividly discussed on social networks. Can a big band take the liberty of to playing the "sacred" songs of Czech folk? And what if these compositions are sung along with the band directly by their authors such as Jaromír Nohavica, Vlasta Redl or Slávek Janoušek? However, while the above might have been able to have their say concerning the arrangements, Karel Kryl, Zuzana Navarová or Wabi Ryvola could no longer make any comments regarding the makeovers of their songs… We talked to Petr Kovařík and Pavel Zlámal, members of the orchestra, about how the album was created, why Ryvola's song 'Tereza' sounds like a Cuban dance, and why 'Podvod' ('Scam') by Honza Nedvěd is played only as an instrumental piece. The two guys have actually created new arrangements for widely famed as well as less well-known folk songs, which now appear on this album.
Tiché lodi ('Silent Ships') is not a band, but a project of the guitarist and singer René Müller, who lives in Brno. While he recorded his previous album Časy vody ('Times of Water' – 2015) working together with Roman Cipísek Cerman, his former colleague from the band Hynkovy zámky ('Hynek's Locks'), Müller is now appearing all by himself on the new album – as writer of the music and lyrics, guitarist and singer, or – in his case more precisely – narrator.
Oldřich Veselý, a Brno-based singer, composer and keyboard player, died in January 2018. In February 2019, the 10th Brno Beatfest, dedicated to his memory, took place in the Semilasso music hall. And a year later, a CD recording of this concert was released under the title Malý princ [The Little Prince], complemented by several bonus items.
When pronouncing the name Jiří ‘moravský’ Brabec (1955-2018) (the name is partly a pun referring to a typical Moravian dish called "moravský vrabec", which is pork roast with braised cabbage and dumplings – translator's note), anyone, who until recently had any business concerning the Czech-Moravian folk and country scene, is reminded of the unmistakeable figure of a mighty man wearing a beard, with a strong voice and an inexhaustible source of information, and an enviable general knowledge of not only the above-mentioned music genre. We are speaking here about a complicated but deservedly respected personality who was able to surprise us with his knowledge in a number of disciplines, but also with his self-deprecating humour and unexpected physical dexterity. Unfortunately, for the last time he surprised people around him with his sudden departure, only a few days before his sixty-third birthday in June 2018, almost unnoticed by the public media, for which he had worked for so many years.
”It’s a long journey to the West, / Pointless, fruitless is the longing,” began the first cowboy song recording issued by R. A. Dvorský’s publishing house in 1939. The theme and tone reflect the “tramping” movement, with its idealized vision of “America” and its unspoiled “nature”, which led Czechs to take to the woods, where they hiked, met round campfires and sang songs modelled on American folk songs and country music. So widespread was the tramping phenomenon that it made its way into popular music, where it long remained. Over time, the romance of the cowboy and the idea of a free life on the Great Plains found their way not only into songs sung by such late twenti- eth-century stars as Karel Gott, Helena Vondráčková and Waldemar Matuška but into social life itself: very few countries in Europe have such liberal laws when it comes to sleeping overnight, or even setting up camp, in the woods. In the past young people in Brno could choose whether to be “city slickers” hooked on discotheques or “wander- ers”, who would head for the main train station every Friday afternoon or Saturday and from there set out on the first train for wherever in the countryside it was heading to.
Bands that have been present on the scene for several decades have two options: Either they make a living from their own substance, and therefore from hits of the past. Or they are still trying to come up with something new, sometimes with the wishes of conservative fans in spite of it. The "Brno-based" group Poutníci (meaning Pilgrims in Czech), who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, are somewhere halfway in between. They still play Panenka [The Doll], which the audience demands, but fortunately they didn't get stuck and – maybe after a long time, but still – they come up with a new serial album, which should not pass unbeknown to the fans of Czech country and bluegrass.
To write a guide to music in Brno in the past and present means digging deep into one’s own recollections and those of others as well as into sources with varying degrees of reliability, and as far as possible not believing anything automatically but always asking “Did this really happen just like that?” And in doing so, to be very, very suspicious of one’s own memory. Two basic questions that cropped up in connection with almost every sentence were “What is it about this band or that event that makes them special? Would someone who’s never been to Brno and has no ties with the city find it interesting?”
Due to the impact of extraordinary measures taken because of the Covid-19 pandemic on stakeholders of the cultural and creative industries in Brno, Brno leaders and the Department of Culture of the Brno City Municipality are working intensively on a set of precautions for minimizing the damages. At the same time, communication is conducted on all levels of public administration, predominantly in collaboration with the Institut umění – Divadelní ústav [Arts and Theatre Institute], which is mapping the situation on the nationwide level. Until 22 March 2020 you can help assess the current situation by means of an online survey (the link is provided below). Further steps will be taken according to the results of the survey.