Join us and we'll travel the world
Marta Kubišová - Tak dej se k nám a projdem svět [sample]
from album "Songy a balady", 1969, Supraphon 1130855 and 100587-1311
also on Golden Kids album "Micro-Magic-Circus", 1969, Supraphon, reissued 1997, Bonton 710505-2
The Golden Kids Orchestra conducted by Josef Vobruba, produced by Bohuslav Ondráček and Vladimír Popelka
the original 1969 LP, the 1990 LP/CD reissue sleeve and the Golden Kids LP/CD sleeve
Let's start the Funky Czech-In blog with the probably best known funky Czech song, the soulful Tak dej se k nám a projdem svět (Join Us And We'll Travel The World). It's the song that makes Marta Kubišová's first - and for twenty years her only - solo album appear on so many funk collectors' want lists. Marta Kubišová, born 1942, was probably the most popular Czech female pop singer between 1965 and 1970.
Written by the guitarist Otakar Petřina with lyrics from bass player Zdeněk Rytíř, the song literally kicks off with a funky drum break, most likely played by Petr Hejduk. Soon thereafter we'll get all pop ingredients that were "in" in late 1968 when the track was recorded: a funky bass line, a fuzzy guitar, a swirling organ, a swinging punchy horn section (probably played by members of the Czechoslovak Radio Prague Dance/Jazz Orchestra - TOČR/JOČR) and on top of it Marta's deep and urgent voice, indirectly reflecting the cheerless situation of the country occupied by Soviet tanks, while offering the listener a glimpse of hope.
The album itself is slightly uneven as it contains some "fillers" which sound like being intended for the German schlager market, after all Kubišová always was a pop singer in the first place. However, the majority of the songs are simply great, although not necessarily funky. The album begins with a solid cover of Beatles' Hey Jude, which basically follows the original version except that it's sung in Czech just like the rest of the record. Another climax of the album is the intense psychedelic sitar folk song Balada o kornetovi a dívce (The Ballad Of The Cornette And The Girl). I own the 1990 LP reissue which obviously omits Zlý dlouhý půst (Bad Long Fasting) and Kdo ti radu dá (Who Gives You An Advice) (a song I have never heard yet) in favor of a re-arranged version of her biggest hit Modlitba pro Martu (A Prayer For Marta) and another Petřina/Rytíř-penned up-tempo soul-beat protest song Ne (No). It's likely that those two crucial songs had to be removed from the early 1970 pressing due to their political message; that used to happen quite often in that part of the world. However, I'm not sure if they were ever included on the original issue at all. Whatever, according to a recent online interview with Marta, Tak dej se k nám as well as Ne were her favorite songs from the album, while the single-only Tajga-Blues '69 is obviously her favorite song ever. (I might feature Tajga-Blues in a future post as it's quite a funky psychedelic beat song.)
At the time when Songy a balady has been recorded and released, Kubišová was also a member of the Golden Kids, a vocal trio with Helena Vondráčková and Václav Neckář who were then already pop stars with their own solo albums, too. (Neckář was even starring in the main role in the 1968 Oscar winning movie Ostře sledované vlaky (Closely Watched Trains) directed by Jiří Menzel.) The Golden Kids were extremely popular in 1969 and they also performed in West Germany and in France. Many songs from Songy a balady were actually a part of the Golden Kids live show and both Vondráčková and Neckář sang background vocals on Marta's album. So watch out for a Golden Kids, a Neckář and a Vondráčková Funky Czech-In post, too.
In 1969 Kubišová's future was looking very bright, she had signed a record contract with Polydor and a couple of her and Golden Kids singles were already released in West Germany. But obviously she went "too far" with her political engagement. In 1970 Marta's voice has been silenced by the "normalizator" Husák's regime and all records with her name on the label had to disappear from Czech record stores. You can read more details on a Marta Kubišová fan site in English, including a detailed although not complete discography and a lot of other trivia. Unlike Vondráčková and Neckář, she was not allowed to record or perform in public for almost 20 years, until her appearance at a huge demonstration against the communist regime in November 1989 where she sang the Czechoslovak national anthem and her "signature" song, the ballad Modlitba pro Martu (A Prayer For Marta) [external audio link]. I can remember that while I was listening to her performance live on the Czech AM radio that I had tears in my eyes. And this particular song still moves me, despite the "cheesy" organ sound on the album version (but hey, the original 1968 single version with the Václav Hybš orchestra sounds even cheesier). It's the message that counts.
Marta Kubišová still - or rather: again - performs and records today, all of her recordings are available on CDs. Unlike the original, the 1990 vinyl reissue of Songy a balady isn't very hard to find in online auctions or in second hand record shops in Prague. If you're interested, I have four of her 7" singles from the sixties for sale (items no. 284, 963, 1068 and 1194). On cdmusic.cz you can also buy some CDs, search there for "kubisova".