|Magic Carpet: exploring the wealth of Czech 'world music', breaking down the barriers of traditional genres|
Magic Carpet is Radio Prague's monthly music magazine that looks at music from Czech, Moravian and Silesian towns and villages. The programme covers a wide selection of genres, from traditional folk to the exotic and experimental.
It is presented by Petr Dorůžka, one of the Czech Republic's foremost music journalists.
20.09.2009: The Allstar Refjúdží band
The Allstar Refjúdží band was created in Prague emerging from a
theatre project called Dancing across the fence. Later the band
started to perform independently, and a few months ago they
released their debut album.
For copyright reasons we are unable to archive the programmes in audio, but here at least are a few words about some of the recordings featured recently in the programme.
When Jablkoň appeared on the scene 30 years ago as an acoustic
trio with two guitars and percussion their music ran counter to
every existing fashion. For their last album, provocatively
titled Půlpes, Halfdog, they added drums, bass guitar and a
26.07.2009: Lucie Redlová
Lucie Redlová has a band called Docuku, which is strongly
inspired by the folk music from the eastern regions of the Czech
Republic. This year, she released her debut as a solo artist,
První poslední, recorded with Steve Wall from the Irish band The
28.06.2009: Shahab Tolouie
Shahab Tolouie was born in Tehran, and has chosen Prague as his
adopted home. He studied the classical music of Iran in his home
country, and flamenco in southern Spain. His music combines both,
and his debut album Flamenco Perso was released in the spring of
2009 in the Czech Republic. Also in the programme: Ležérně a
vleže, Bardolino, Liam Ó Maonlaí.
31.05.2009: Beata Hlavenková
Jazz composer and pianist Beata Hlavenková recorded her album Joy
for Joel in New York City with several renowned jazz players:
Ingrid Jensen (trumpet, flugelhorn), Rich Perry (tenor
saxophone), Dave Easley (pedal steel guitar), Matt Clohesy
(double bass) and Jon Wikan (drums).
3.05.2009: Dáša Voňková
Four decades ago, singers-songwriters were the main force of
resistance against communist oppression. Recently, one of these
veteran musicians, Dáša Voňková, released her comeback album,
rich in poetic symbols and images, with songs about the joys of
living in the countryside, inspired by trees, fresh air and
In the Czech language, Dva means Two. Since three years ago it is
also the name of a very special music team: Bára Kratochvílová
sings and plays various wind instruments, while her husband Jan
plays the guitar. After 3 years of being an attraction on the
Czech club scene, they released their first album, Fonok.
8.03.2009: Stanislav Gabriel's Cimbalom band
Stanislav Gabriel's Cimbalom band was established more than 15
years ago in a setting very typical for Moravian folk musicians:
playing at parties in Moravian wine cellars. This year they
released their first album intended for general distribution,
titled From Hungary to Moravia.
8.02.2009: Iva Bittova & Ida Kelarova
At a packed concert in Lucerna Hall last year, the sisters Iva
Bittova and Ida Kelarova were backed by equally prominent
musicians, like George Mraz, one of the best living jazz double
bass players, who was born Jiří Mraz in southern Czechoslovakia
65 years ago.
11.01.2009: Eternal Seekers
The Czech singer Lenka Dusilova is one of the rare artists who
manages to cover a wide range of styles. Beata Hlavenkova is a
jazz pianist and a very sophisticated composer. Together with
four musicians known as Clarinet Factory they assembled The
Eternal Seekers and recorded one of the best Czech albums of
Daniel Salontay plays the guitar, his partner, the young lady
known as Shina plays bass, they both sing and write songs, and
themselves Longital. Despite they perform as a duo, step by step
they have developed a rich and sophisticated sound, using some
very clever devices.
19.10.2008: Feng-yűn Song
The Chinese female singer Feng-yűn Song settled down in Prague sixteen years ago and chose jazz players as her backing band. But her last album, which was just released, is a step in a completely different direction: Feng-yűn Song is backed by a symphony orchestra.
Camael is the name of an ensemble combining a trio of female voices, known for their fondness of Gypsy songs, and a six piece backing band. Their new album, Do skoku, offers adventurous violin playing by the Skampa quartet founding member Pavel Fischer and inventive vocal arrangements.
21.09.2008: Zuzana Novak
The Folk Holidays festival is held in a small castle in the Moravian town of Namest. The most surprising performer of the past two years was a young lady with a Czech name who lives in the UK, Zuzana Novak. The instrument of her choice is mbira, a thumb piano originally used at night rituals in rural Zimbabwe.
Gipsy.cz are fronted by a skinny, yet very witty and loud rapper and MC Radek Banga, while the musical mastermind of the band is violin player Vojta Lavicka, who paid his dues performing at weddings and serving as a "primas" of the cimbalom band Rosénka.
27.07.2008: Terne Chave
Gypsy music is one of the main east European exports and
the best bands usually come from the poorest and
most remote countries, like Romania and Macedonia. In
this comparison, what does the Czech gypsy music sound
like? In this programme we introduce you to one of the most experienced,
but still relatively little-known Czech gypsy bands, Terne Chave.
29.06.2008: Trio de Janeiro
Colours of Ostrava is one of most important Czech summer
open air festivals. Besides holding the festival itself,
organizers also invite local bands to enter their demo
recordings in a competition. The lucky winner this year is a band with a
tricky name: Trio de Janeiro. In reality, the "trio" has doubled
its line-up and now includes six members, and their repertoire is much
broader then Brazilian bossa nova. Actually, they prefer
Moravian and Slovak folks songs.
1.06.2008: Věra Bílá & Kale
One of the most successful Czech musical exports of the past
years was the Gypsy singer Věra Bílá. Her fruitful collaboration
with the all-star band Kale terminated three years ago, but
highlights from that era were recently released on the CD
The city of Brno has a long tradition of original bands, who are
often more inventive than their Prague rivals. Cankisou, one of
Brno's brightest hopes, draws inspiration from its recent trips
to La Reunion and Pakistan.
6.04.2008: Jiří Pavlica
Jiří Pavlica is known as a violinist-bandleader of Hradišťan, a traditional cymbalom village dance band, but his versatile talents cover a much wider area - from classical music to fragile poems set to music. All of that is covered on his latest album, Chvění, Trembling.
The Prague band Braagas consists of 4 young ladies, playing shawms, medieval fiddles and other ancient instruments, and singing songs from medieval songbooks. A few weeks ago they released their debut album.
10.02.2008: Jan Burian
Among Czech singers-songwriters, Jan Burian is a jack of all trades. He
used to host his own TV show for more than a decade, and his favourite
hobby is travelling to faraway places like Iceland or Chile, and writing
books about his experiences. Also, he invents very curious themes to write
songs about. His last double-album is called Men are fragile, 21 stories
about men's imperfection.
13.01.2008: Pavol Hammel
One of the most gifted singers-songwriters of the former Czechoslovakia
and current Slovakia, Pavol Hammel, recently made a comeback and recorded a
live album with another veteran musician, guitar virtuoso Radim Hladík
from Prague. Their unplugged live album Deja vu was recorded in May 2007 in
a well known club in Brno, Stará Pekárna, The Old Bakery.
If you grew up during the Communist era, you would not have learned about
Bohuslav Reynek in lessons of Czech literature. Yet in his native country,
he was one of the most important poets, writers and translators of the 20th
century. Thirty-five years after his death, his work is being rediscovered
by the young generation, and some of his texts have been set to music.
Earlier this year, the Czech band Hukl recorded an album made up solely of
17.11.2007: Iva Bittova
Iva Bittová, a renowned singer, violin player and improviser, is deeply
rooted in folk songs from Moravia and Slovakia, though she very often works
with players from other music genres. Recently she made a new album
entitled Moravian Gems with a jazz trio led by Bittova's compatriot George
21.10.2007: Petr Micka
It has been often said that the genuine musical tradition survives especially in the isolated regions of remote islands or highlands. Unfortunately, the Czech Republic, as a land-locked country, does not have any remote islands, although there are plenty of highlands. One of the country's most musically fertile regions is regions is Hornacko, home to a Hornacka muzika Petra Micky, a traditional village fiddlers' band with an edge.
In the past, Raduza was known for her loud and raw songs accompanied by the accordion. However, on her latest album the singer has changed her style. Besides being a very spontaneous improviser, Raduza is also a classically trained musician. At the Prague conservatory she studied composition, so unlike on her previous albums, this time she has used a wide array of instruments including woodwinds, organ and spinet. The title of her new album is V salonu barokních dam, which means In the Baroque Ladies' Parlour.
19.8.2007: Daniel Meier
What makes Czech alternative music different is the hardcore
individualists who do their own thing not caring about fashion, and in the
final stage, win over their own audiences. The solo violinist Daniel Meier
named his debut album Violin Improvisations - but unlike the free-form
improvisation of many of his colleagues, his playing is disciplined and
The Czech band Traband became quite popular with it's mix of punk and
folk, so it was very surprising to hear the band decided to change their
style a few months ago. Even if the tempo is slower, the lyrics
haven't lost any of their old satirical bite. And the band's
leader Jarda Svoboda has also switched instruments: instead of the
accordion he now plays the harmonium, an instrument which is not very
common now, though it breathes like a human being.
24.6.2007: Yellow Sisters
Yellow Sisters are a female a cappella quartet with a strong affection for
the music of Africa. The nucleus of the band travelled a few years ago
across Europe to the African country of Gambia.
Seven years ago, two young cello players from the Northern part of the
Czech Republic started a duo called Tarafuki. Their third and latest
album, Auris ('ear' in Latin) is their most advanced yet, featuring a
variety of guest musicians.
The band Maraca is led by two very diverse musicians: the female singer
and viola player Gabriela Vermelho and Petr Filak, who plays guitar and
also the oud. Sometimes they are joined by a special guest, the Indian
born guitarist Amit Chatterjee, who spent 11 years playing with Joe
Zawinul's Syndicate. Besides offering his fluid guitar lines, Chatterjee
also joins the band as a singer.
The Czech singer Raduza is an unlikely pop star: she plays accordion
and her songs are loud and wild. She started as a busker, making a living
in the streets of Prague. It was probably during the cold and rainy days
that she learned how to use the strength and energy that is still so
clearly heard in her songs.
4.3.2007: Kateryna Kolcova
Kateryna Kolcova was born and raised in Ukraine before coming to study at
the Conservatory in Prague. The strongest moments of her new album
Inspiration Klezmer are slow emotional hymn-like songs, sung in Yiddish
with a gentle piano accompaniment.
Gothart are one of a number of leading Prague bands who have been inspired
by the music of the Czech Republic's eastern neighbours. Their German
sounding name is a throwback to their early days, when they played
medieval music. In recent years, however, they have been totally devoted
to the playful rhythms of the Balkans.
10.12.2006: Sestry Steinovy
(The Stein Sisters) are a pair
of singer songwriters who have now released several albums together under
that name. Lenka Lichtenberg, meanwhile, was born in the Czech Republic
but now lives in Canada, where she records in Yiddish - indeed, most of
the songs on her latest album are adapted from poems by the Polish-born
Jewish poet Sam Simchovitch.
12.11.2006: Pavla Milcova
You could easily label Pavla Milcová as singer songwriter, but more
precise description would be a musical puzzle. Originally she studied
philosophy in Glasgow, and after her return to Prague she started her life
as a folksinger. Now she performs with jazz guitarist Peter Binder. Her
new album Peppermint King combines eccentric arrangements, tongue-in-cheek
nostalgia and lyrics on the edge of craziness.
The shepherd's flute is a symbol of Slovakia's highlands, famous for it's
sheep cheese and folk music. One of the most successful Slovakian bands
mixing old and new instruments is Druzina. Their new CD came out on a
Czech label Indies, and was produced by the well known American singer and
percussion player Vinx during his visit to Prague.
17.9.2006: Ridina Ahmedova
The Prague based Ridina Ahmedova has chosen the path of freedom: no lyrics, no instruments, not one style that should be followed. She was born 32 years ago in Czechoslovakia in a mixed family: her father was from Sudan, her mother was Czech, and her ancestors were Jews living as far as away as Kazakhstan and Novosibirsk. As a child Ridina grew up in Oran in Algeria, and her early influences were the muezzins' call to prayer and American jazz from her father's collection.
20.8.2006: Amit Chatterjee
One of this year's most important open air summer festivals takes place in Ostrava, a former mining town in North Moravia close to the Polish border. Besides this year's big stars, like Robert Plant and Salif Keita, the programme also features Amit Chatterjee, an Indian guitarist who spent 11 years performing with one of the most important jazz players, Joe Zawinul. Recently Amit decided to make the Czech Republic his home and started to work with two Czech musicians, the multi-instrumentalist Tomas Reindl and saxophone player Pavel Hruby.
The singer-songwriter era of the 1960s and 70s has been a major influence on the Czech musical scene; besides dozens of average groups, it also encouraged a few highly individual bands, who every couple of years bring some fresh air to the grey panorama of mass produced pop. The six-piece Jarret (originally a French word for knee and a type of dance) have made an album which shines with the intimate poetry of everyday life. The programme also features the new Iva Bittová recording with Slovak composer Vladimir Godar, and (also from Slovakia) Pressburg Klezmer Band.
Iva Bittova + Vladimir Godar
Pressburg Klezmer Band
25.6.2006: Gypsy Garden
Classical music seems to be the most important Czech musical export - but how do other genres compete with Dvorak and Janacek? Let's ask an independent observer: Gülbahar Kültür, also known as DJ Poesia, is a Turkish-German lady behind highly successful CD compilations. For her last two releases, she picked a hot powerhouse number with the Czech gypsy band Terne Chave, and two very unlikely songs that cross the language barrier - a puzzling children's tune by Vodnansky and Skoumal and a comedy song with the TV personality Jiri Labus.
28.5.2006: Kale - Romany roots meet the 60s
When the Czech Romany singer Vera Bila decided to quit her regular backing
band Kale, the musicians faced a dilemma; while they couldn't fill the
dates originally planned with Vera, they certainly could stand on their
own, as a competent band in which every player is also a highly skilled
singer. Kale grew up in the town of Rokycany, close to Plzen, and its
raised in musical families, where old gypsy songs from Slovakia and
Romania were often played in the household. But while their fathers played
violins, the young boys took up guitars and listened to the Beatles as well,
and their style developed as a natural combination of gypsy roots and 60's
30.04.2006: Life after Zuzana Navarova
Zuzana Navarova was much loved by Czech audiences as a singer true
to her heart, never compromising with fame and the media. And what is even
more important, she knew how to choose her musicians, how to support
their creativity, generously offering them space during her
concerts. No wonder her band has kept on working despite her tragically
early death from cancer
over a year ago. For some Czechs, their first album without
Zuzana will be one of the most important recordings of this year. What come
as a real surprise are songs by the blind gypsy accordion-keyboard player
Bihari. He has written half of the tunes on the new album, which also
includes three previously unreleased recordings with Zuzana.
9.4. 2006: Around Europe with Psalteria
The psaltery is an ancient instrument consisting of a flat sounding box with
numerous strings. For a band playing medieval music it was a natural
decision to choose a related name. As they were 4 women from Prague, they
called themselves Psalteria. For more than six years, they explored not
only ancient musical manuscripts, but also the folk traditions of many
European countries. Their latest album Balabile (mixed bag) is a colourful
selection o songs from Balkans, Iberia, Scandinavia and Moravia.
Magic Carpet Archive
music - a rediscovered heritage?
Reinventing folk music with the Moberg Ensemble
respect for borders from Quakvarteto
The History of Music