EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT TODAY’S CZECH MUSIC SCENE, BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK…
…OR YOU COULDN’T SPEAK CZECH…
CZECH HARMONIES is an English language guide to just some of the fantastic music that has been coming out of the Czech Republic in recent years. The blog is mainly geared to UK readers, but anyone whose first language is English, and whose first love is great bands, should read on.
The area of central Europe now covered by the Czech Republic has always had a rich musical tradition stretching back centuries, and while classical music – from Zelenka, Stamitz and Dussek to Dvořák, Smetana and Janáček – has long had fair recognition in the English-speaking world, sadly the same cannot be said of most of today’s gems from the cutting edge of the Czech rock, indie, alternative and underground scene.
Mainland Europe in general has produced numerous bands that have found success in the English-speaking world: DAF, Propaganda, Cardigans, Wannadies, Air, Daft Punk, M83, to name but a handful.
But ask a typical young music fan in the UK or the US to name a decent Czech band or singer and, sadly, most would be lost for words. Not because there are none. There are piles of them. Lucie. Lenka Dusilová & Baromantika. Markéta Irglová. Lake Malawi. Vypsaná fiXa. Lanugo. Chinaski. Modrý Efekt. Anna K. Wohnout. Priessnitz. And I have barely scratched the surface.
No, the reason the average English-language punter hasn’t a clue about contemporary Czech music is because, for all the much-touted multiculturalism of our era, there are still numerous barriers that need breaking down between countries that have far more in common musically than current cross-pollination levels would suggest.
There seem to be six key barriers in dire need of dismantling.
(1): the average English-speaking music fan’s lingering culturally supremacist mindset. For some, Anglo-American music still rules supreme, and English is the only language suitable for singing rock and roll – the gutteral rasp of a Slavonic language is simply too ‘alien’ for these poor blinkered souls. They should open their minds. If you are reading this, you probably already have.
(2): the traditionally paltry coverage of Czech bands given by the UK/US music press, radio and TV. At the start of 2014 NME did publish a decent retrospective article on underground pioneers The Plastic People Of The Universe, but such coverage of serious Czech acts is still depressingly rare in the English-speaking music media. Thankfully, the degree to which the internet has democratised music and cut out the middleman means that the established music press outlets are now much less pivotal in their role as gatekeepers and tastemakers than they once were, and punters and bands alike no longer depend so heavily on their stamp of approval, if they ever did.
(3): the relative infrequency with which Czech artists come to play in the UK, which may or may not be linked to (1) and (2), as well as financial constraints, and their tendency to play only one gig in the capital, then head off straight back to mainland Europe.
(4): the overwhelming majority of information about Czech recording artists on the internet is written in Czech by Czechs.
(5): most people whose first language is English don’t speak Czech.
(6): what little information there is in English (eg Wikipedia entries) often gives only basic facts, and is not always conscientiously updated.
The sum total of all these factors is that there is (and in fact has been for years) a wealth of magnificent music coming out of the Czech Republic, of which most of the English speaking world is blissfully unaware.
It is the mission of this blog to try and help, in however small a way, to end this undeserved international obscurity for the Czech music scene, and to bring the best thereof to the English speaking world, at least via cyberspace if not physically. I am convinced that if great Czech music artists come to the UK, and the UK knows they are here, and if the UK has actually heard how fabulous they are, UK music fans will flock to their concerts and have their hearts stolen.
So: Brits, Yanks, English speakers, wherever you are, listen up and read on…
And calling all great Czech bands: get your asses over here and play for us!
(and not just in London…)
Email: alex (at) czechharmonies.net