Folk & Country
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.
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.
After a gap of five years the lyricist and singer Lada Šimíčková and the composer and musician (or songwriter) Ivo Cicvárek have brought out their second joint album. Thus the collection Hotel v tiché ulici (Hotel in a Quiet Street) from 2012 has not remained a one-off project. Taking the second album as the proverbial touchstone, the duo has passed with flying colours. Five years is plenty of time for putting together new material and the songs that made their way into the final selection and now have a chance to become public despite the name of the album.
The brilliant Moravian cimbalom player Dalibor Štrunc (1966) came from a folk environment in Wallachia and after graduating from the Brno Conservatory had a number of musical engagements – from classical through folk to being a member for many years of Hana and Petr Ulrych’s group Javory. It is an unbelievable twenty-five years since he formed the group Cimbal Classic, in which he began to make use of his song-writing as well as musical skills. In that time Cimbal Classic has become a fixture on our folk scene. This year they are celebrating their anniversary with a new CD and a tour.
The combination of modern jazz with tramp songs is insane at first glance or – as Vilém Spilka likes to say – a piece with a "Cimrman element". In reality, however, Spilka's new album Podvod (Deception) with adaptations of Honza Nedvěd's songs is a surprising but, in terms of musical tradition, a perfectly understandable project.