In Britain there’s BBC Radio 1 for all (well, some of) the latest music. And the Czech Republic has its very own ‘RADIO 1’, broadcasting 24/7 from Prague. CzechHarmonies introduces you to the biggest single Czech radio station dedicated to promoting cutting edge music with an independent spirit.
There’s a Radio 1 in London…and there’s a Radio 1 in Prague. However, there are some important differences between the BBC’s flagship new music station and its Czech namesake.
For starters, Radio 1 (or ‘Radio Jedna‘, as they say in the ČR), is exclusively and constantly geared to innovative, experimental and independently-minded music whereas BBC Radio 1 mainly plays ‘The Interesting Stuff’ at night, reserving the daytime predominantly for ‘The Commercial Stuff’ – including the disposable Simon Cowell-type nonsense.
You could say Radio Jedna is more Huw Stephens and Benji B than Fearne Cotton and Scott Mills, in terms of pushing the creative envelope. And certainly Radio Jedna presenters would rather throw themselves off Charles Bridge into a watery grave than give so much as a second’s airplay to any X-Factor-style crap.
If anything, the Czech Republic’s Radio 1 – an independent radio station and not part of Český Rozhlas, the main Czech broadcasting company – is perhaps closer in spirit to BBC 6 Music, though probably with less 1980s indie on its playlist, and with a wider and more colourful palette of genres.
Although the bulk of the station’s output consists of new, recent, and not-so-recent indie, alternative and generally left-field tracks hosted by a variety of presenters each with their own show, there are also a number of specialist programmes covering fields like electronica, techno, breakbeat, hip-hop, jazz, swing and dancehall.
And those looking to get their teeth into something really substantial can savour the hour-long feature CD Nonstop (Mondays to Fridays, 19:00 Czech time/18:00 UK time), in which a critically acclaimed album from recent times is played in its entirety from start to finish without interruption. Recent airings have included full albums by Vashti Bunyan, Interpol, Kasabian, Aphex Twin and the Ukelele Orchestra Of Great Britain, as well as from the Czech Republic’s own Jan Burian, The Prostitutes, Vypsaná fiXa and Jasná Páka.
You won’t get CDs broadcast nonstop like this on BBC Radio 1…well, apart from very, very occasionally on Zane Lowe’s programme.
‘But what’s in the Czech Radio 1 charts?’ I hear you cry. Depends which charts you mean. There are two: the ‘Hitparáda Radia 1’, and the ‘Velká Sedma’.
The Hitparáda Radia 1 is comprised mainly of successful mainstream alternative/indie/electronic acts, many of them familiar names from the UK and US (including, at time of writing, Lamb, TV On The Radio, Thom Yorke, Submotion Orchestra, the Drums, Cathedrals, Total Science and Royal Blood) – evidence that most of the Czech music-buying public, despite the flourishing of domestic acts since the end of the Communist era in 1989, still look mainly to the West for inspiration.
The Velká Sedma, meanwhile, is a kind of Indie Chart for homegrown Czech (and a few Slovakian) acts that mainly, as yet, don’t have a high enough profile to make the Hitparáda Radia 1, so it is very unusual to see the same names in both charts. ‘Velká Sedma’ translates as ‘The Big Seven’: there were seven songs when the chart started back in the early 90s, but they’ve kept the name despite gradually expanding the chart to 15 places. As I write, No 1 on the Velká Sedma chart is the second single from Lenka Dusilová & Baromantika’s new album ‘V Hodině Smrti’. Other Velká Sedma high flyers currently include Zrní, Monokino Kino, Lanugo, Bad Karma Boy, Kubatko and Tara Fuki. Genrewise, these and other names on the chart encompass everything from atmospheric acoustic dream-pop to indie guitar rock via ambient electronics, reggae-pop, lo-fi folk, punk-country and cello improvisations!
Radio 1 listeners who register with the station’s website can vote (hlasovat) for their favourite tracks, thereby helping to shape the following week’s charts. Currently the Hitparáda Radia 1 is featured during two-hour timeslots on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings, while the Velká Sedma chart also gets a couple of two-hour windows, on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings.
If you’re feeling daunted by the plethora of music emanating from the Czech Republic, or by your inabilty to understand the Czech language, Radio 1 is one good place to start exploring. On both the Hitparáda Radia 1 and the Velká Sedma web pages, clicking on the artists’ names will take you either to the artists’ official websites or to their Facebook/ Twitter/ YouTube/ Soundcloud/ Bandzone etc pages for more information.
The current Hitparáda Radia 1 can be viewed here.
The current Velká Sedma chart can be viewed here.
The web address for Radio 1 is www.radio1.cz