13.6.06

Festivale de Football Day 7: Czech Republic


We come now to one of the more girly-haired nations of the footballing world, the long, flowing, Swayze-esque locks of Pavel Nedved in particular proving a delight to all watching. It's also our first real Eastern bloc nation - I don't really count Croatia in that, as Marshall Tito was up his own backside rather than Russia's...

The music of the former states tends to be something of a mixed bag. Mostly towards the shrimp end of the 10p-mixup spectrum, so it's alright, if nothing spectacular. And the Czech Republic appears to be headed along similar lines, or it would if it wasn't for the major bluegrass influence.

Bluegrass, I hear you cry? Why yes, dear reader, for when the only radio available from the free world is US Armed Forces Radio, you're bound to pick up a little something. And so the story goes: the idealised Americana of the Tramping and Scouting movements in the country was accompanied by an amalgamation of early jazz, Czech folk and barbershop harmonies, and the addition of early country into this only augmented and developed the style.

However, the major turning point for the country was the 1964 visit of Pete Seeger, currently being eulogised by The Boss. Not just an influence aspirationally-speaking, but practically as well: photos taken of Seeger's five-string banjo enabled Czechs to build their own instruments, and in six years, Europe's first bluegrass festival was held in Kopidlno, Czechoslovakia.

Pete Seeger - How Can I Keep From Singing (with Arlo Guthrie - the original from which the Bruce Springsteen cover is taken, all songs available from PeteSeeger.net)
Pete Seeger - My Oklahoma Home

Bands such as Poutníci and most notably Druhá Tráva (touring the US as we speak, see website for details) are the major names, plus their frontmen/spinoffs, Teagrass and Robert Křesťan respectively, and Czech bluegrass keeps its popularity by consistently innovating while sticking rigidly to the bluegrass rulebook.

Druhá Tráva - Harp MedleyDruhá Tráva - The Parting Glass

For today's bluegrass, try the Petr Brandejs Band for size; going since '95, they've won a number of international awards as they continue to plow down the more traditional route.

Petr Brandejs Band - Midnight (by Chet Atkins, and everybody loves Chet Atkins)
Petr Brandejs Band - Chtěl bych tě mít tady

If you're pining for something in English, maybe these'll satiate ya soul.

The Dear Lick Holler Boys - Duelling Banjos
Hayseed Dixies - Duelling Banjos
Hayseed Dixies - Holiday (Green Day Cover)

Buy bluegrass here
Go to a festival here
Buy Pete Seeger/Druhá Tráva

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CIA Factbook: Czech Republic

PS: Call Me Mickey is also providing tracks on a World Cup theme, as well as national anthems - here's a Czech one, also featuring The Boss.

1 comment:

Lee said...

howdy! thanks for putting up this shout-out for CZ BG. I'm interested in the topic myself.
I recognize some of this content...perhaps it's been re-worded, but still seems familiar. Where'd you get your info?
thanks.