19 September 2009

Interlude: Vampi Czech-In, part 1

It’s been a long time in the making… Almost two years, to be precise. So, in case you were already wondering what the author of this blog has been doing during the past twelve months, here it is:

On October 5, 2009, Vampisoul Records is releasing the first two compilations conceived, researched, selected, compiled, documented, designed and laid out by yours truly

Ne! The soul of Marta Kubišová
Vampisoul VAMPI 114 (2LP) + VAMPI CD 114 (CD digipak)
The soul of Marta Kubisova
Tracks: Tak dej se k nám a projdem svět, Svlíkám lásku [sample], Já tu s tváří neměnnou, Bílý stůl, Tvůj krém tvůj nůž tvůj růženec (You Came You Saw You Conquered), Kdo ti radu dá, Tajga blues ’69, Hare Krišna (Hare Krishna), Chci právo trubky mít, Legendy, Já cestu k tobě najdu si, Tys bejval mámin hodnej syn, Ne, Jakoby nic, Nepiš dál, Ten zlej páv, Modrej vřes, Zlý dlouhý půst, Ten druhý v nás, Balada o kornetovi a dívce, Na co tě mám, Vrba, Pojďte pejskové, Nejsi sám kdo doufá (Face It Girl It’s Over), Červencové ráno.
Featuring Marta Kubišová with the Golden Kids Orchestra, Mefisto, Waldemar Matuška and others. Twenty of these songs are being reissued on vinyl for the first time.
From our promo material: “Marta Kubišová was the most popular Czechoslovak female singer of the late 1960s, heading for an international career but banned by the communist regime until 1989. Compiled from the Supraphon archives, this 1966–1970 selection focuses on her roughest songs, with plenty of fuzz guitars and funky beats, punchy horns and razor-sharp organs underlying her deep and soulful voice.”

The funky way of Emil Viklický
Vampisoul VAMPI 115 (2LP) + VAMPI CD 115 (CD digipak)
The funky way of Emil Viklicky
Tracks: Trochu funky (The Funky Way), Týden (Week), Ještě jednou slunce (Once Again Sun), Květen (Maytime), Kam s tím blues (Chega de Saudade), 70. východní (East 70th Street), Boston, Zelený satén (Green Satin), Hromovka (Thunderhouse) [sample], Země plná lásky (A Land Full Of Love) [sample], Zase zapomněli zavřít okno (They’ve Left The Window Open Again), Siesta, Jumbo Jet, Ráno (Part 1 Kash Edit) (Morning).
Featuring Viklický/Frisell/Driscoll/Johnson, Karel Velebný’s SHQ, Eva Svobodová, Energit, Emil Viklický Studio Big Band. All tracks are being reissued on vinyl for the first time, SHQ and Eva Svobodová also for the first time on CD. Four tracks by Emil’s big band are even previously unreleased!
From our promo material: “Emil Viklický is one of the most renowned Czech jazz musicians and composers. This focused-on-funk selection was recorded between 1975 and 1987 in Czechoslovak studios. Be it with the legendary SHQ or with Energit, accompanying Eva Svobodová, conducting a tight studio big band or collaborating with fellow Berklee College students Frisell/Driscoll/Johnson, Emil knows how to funk up his keys all the way through.”

All tracks have been carefully digitally remastered from 24-bit transfers of the original analog master tapes by fellow blogger and “anti-loudness-warrior” Ian Shepherd.

The records should be available in good record stores near you. In case you should have difficulties to obtain them, be it on vinyl or CD, please let me know.

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04 June 2008

The best disco in town

Bezinky & Pražské smyčce – Žiješ v éře diskoték (The Best Disco In Town) [sample]
from compilation “Disco klub”, 1978, Panton 110717
conducted by Jiří Hrábek

Disco klub
original compilation cover

What was valid thirty years ago still seems to be valid today – we’re living in a disco era. And this week I have the pleasure to present you literally the best disco in town:

Saturday, June 7, 23:00 h
Kuppel Basel
Czech Oldies Party with DJ Lou Kash

The opportunity for this event should be pretty obvious. So… if you (unlike me) are interested in this, the chances are that you might find yourself in Basel this Saturday. And since you already are reading this blog, it’s very likely that you will then appreciate our little party, too.
See you in the Kuppel!

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28 March 2008

Interlude: Jasná páka 2008

Jasná páka, later known as Hudba Praha, was not exactly a funk or soul group. In fact, not at all except for a few traces of reggae at times. But in the eighties they were one of my favorite Czech new wave groups nonetheless, thus I was actually quite pleased when I’ve heard they still occasionally perform these days. One of these occasions was the public vernissage of the exhibition Nová vlna se starým obsahem (“The New Wave with an old content”) which took place last Wednesday at the Popmuseum Prague. Coincidentally I just arrived in Prague the very same day, so I’ve only dropped my luggage at our flat and headed over to the Břevnov quarter to attend the gig (as well as to meet fellow researchers from Popmuseum, of course).

Pal vocuď hajzle (Fuck Off You Bugger) was one of their biggest (underground) hits from the early 1980s and likely one of the causes for their later ban. Michal Ambrož, the guy with the “blue” head and a Telecaster guitar, and the drummer David Koller are the original members. I’m not sure about the lead guitar player, I’ve forgot to ask about him. The original bass player Ivan Wünsch passed away in 1999 though. A special note deserves the special guest of the group, former member of the cult band Z kopce from Brno, Petr Váša. He’s the guy with the red T-shirt and long curly hair (no, it’s not a fancy wig…)

Click the image to play the movie:

Jasná páka live at the Popmuseum on March 26, 2008 (photo/movie © loukash.com)

Technical note: For the first time on Funky Czech-In I’m presenting video content here. No low-res YouTube “flish-flash” though, but more the real thing, albeit recorded only with my tiny photo camera. If you can’t see it, get the latest QuickTime.

Regarding the topic “Czech New Wave in the eighties” in general, you might also want to check out my Pražský výběr article from January 2008 for some more background info.

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19 December 2007

Interlude: Popmuseum

Although it might seem that Funky Czech-In has fallen into a sort of cozy winter sleep, the opposite is true and there’s quite a lot of activities going on behind the scenes. For example: since two weeks I am an official member of the “Museum and Archive of Popular Music Association”, a.k.a. popmuseum.cz. One of the benefits for me will be, among others, the access to their archive in Prague with an almost complete collection of Czech music magazines from the 1960s–1990s as well as a large photo archive. And what more can make a bigbít researcher like me even happier than that…? Yes, you guessed it: buying records! Last week I’ve managed to transport about 30 kg of pure Czechoslovak vinyl home to Basel by airplane, and there’s still another fresh 15 kg stored in our family flat in Prague.
Of course, there’s some really tasty funky stuff in the pipeline, yum!
Stay tuned!

A part of the exposition at Popmuseum Prague (photo © 2007 loukash.com)

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12 December 2007

Server error

Due to some strange server error on my hosting provider’s side, no images or audio files are available on this blog at the moment. I’ve contacted their support to solve this problem as soon as possible, so please check back later.
To bypass the Error 404 message temporarily and to listen to the audio files, please remove the “www” part from the audio file URL, so that it reads http://loukash.com/music/blog/audio_file.mp3. The same applies to image files if you open them in a new tab or a new window.

Update: The server error has now been fixed.


28 November 2007

Interlude: Spanish Czech-in

Sometimes I wish a day had at least thirty-two hours. So much music, so little time, as they say. Thus it happened that it’s been almost two weeks since Funky Czech-in was “on tour” in Madrid, Spain, and so this post is not exactly hot news anymore.

Anyway: thanks to Iñigo of Vampisoul we were guests on Charlie Faber’s insane radio show Sateli 3 live on Radio 3. The house was smokin’ and the receivers were explodin’ all over Iberia while we were airing hottest Czechoslovak bigbít from the sixties and the seventies! Only the best tracks were played, including some stuff that you already know from here. I hope to get the recording of the show soon to post it here as an MP3 stream. In the meantime tune into Sateli 3 live every evening from monday to friday, 9 to 10 pm CET. And while you’re already surfing, you may want to check out the nicely retro-designed funky site of Charlie’s friends at www.canora.es.

Lou Kash and Chalie Faber
Lou Kash and Charlie Faber in a RNE studio (photo: © Iñigo Munster)

Until the full recording of the show arrives, here’s the first song that I’ve played:
Karel Vlach Orchestra – Tančíme twist [sample]
from 7 inch split single Supraphon 013434, around 1963

Supraphon 7 inch
a generic seven inch Supraphon sleeve from the 1960s

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11 November 2007

Interlude: my Want List

As you might have guessed, I’ve got a lot of Czechoslovak records already. (My wife would say “enough!”) Still, there are some missing from my collection. Today I have posted an incomplete list on my web site with some of the records I’m still looking for. Some are more important to me, some are less. However, don’t expect me to pay just about any price to get these records. Just send me your offer using my contact form and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.


29 October 2007

Interlude: The Matadors’ secret tracks

You may have already read about popmuseum.cz before. Recently they have posted a request for help in order to identify four cover versions as played live by The Matadors between 1966 and 1968. As far as I can say, I seem to be familiar with at least two of the songs, but still I can’t tell either where the originals are supposed to come from. You see, the caveat is that at that time both Kahovec and Mišík weren’t singing real English words but something that became quite widely known as Kahovština, i.e. the “Kahovec language” (as a side note: Kahovština has been reinvented as Svahilština by Pražský výběr in the 1980s).
In any case, if you’re hunting the web for any rare audio files, this is your big chance to grab a few super rare recordings never heard in public before. Of course, their audio quality was anything else than hi-fi from the very beginning.


Regarding Funky Czech-In, it seems that I will need to take an “official” short break from publishing new articles regularly. I have a couple of very exciting projects going on at the moment which will require my full attention for the next couple of months. I will still try to post at least one long article each month, besides of occasional interludes like this one.
The good news is, that one of these new projects is actually directly related or at least heavily inspired by this blog. The future looks very bright, so stay tuned. (In other words: don’t trash your RSS feed subscription to this blog, you might truly regret it!)

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21 September 2007

Interlude: Even Joe has already wrapped it up

Back home in Basel with access to my record collection, I can finally post my little homage to Joe Zawinul who passed away last week. Zawinul’s life is well documented all over the world wide web, so I’ll refrain from repeating what others already might have written much better. Just to create a clearer connection to this blog I’d point out a less known fact that Zawinul, born in Austria in 1932, also had Czech roots: his grand father hailed from Moravia. The origin is also obvious if you look at the literal meaning of the surname Zawinul. “Zavinout” means in Czech “to wrap up” or “to swathe” which is pretty well illustrated by the Czech word for the @ symbol: “zavináč” (zavináč is actually a rollmops).

So, after this small lesson in etymology let’s move on to music. I don’t think it’s necessary to upload yet another rip of Birdland, Country Preacher or Mercy Mercy Mercy, although from the latter there exist at least two nice renditions on records by Czech artists: a live instrumental from Šest strýců and and the brilliant vocal version Nechci (I Don’t Want) from Marie Rottrová’s first solo album, both from 1972. Nevertheless, the following instrumental tune has nothing to do with Joe Zawinul whatsoever except for its pun title, making it sort of a perfect requiem…

Combo FH - Asi to zabalíme, i Josef už to zavinul [sample]
from album “Věci/Thing”, 1980, Panton 81130184
produced by Daniel Fikejz and Antonín Matzner

Combo FH
original LP sleeve by Miloš Jirsa

“Asi to zabalíme, i Josef už to zavinul” translates literally as “perhaps we shall pack it up, even Joe has already wrapped it up”. But since the connection to Zawinul would get completely lost in the translation, on the album the official English title for this tune was Weather Report For Tonight, Let’s Call It A Day. Nice try, but not nearly as funny as the Czech one. The other tracks from Věci have pretty funny pun titles as well (Second Best Mousetrap or Dried Strawberry’s Dream), reminding of songs by Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa. That’s not a big surprise, of course, since the composer and band leader Daniel Fikejz has been known as quite a fan of Zappa.

For more info on Combo FH you might want to revisit my article from September 2006.

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11 September 2007

Interlude: Beautiful losses

This week I’m in Prague again. While reading the newspapers a couple of minutes ago I’ve noticed in the TV guide that today ČT2 broadcasts a new episode from Michal Prokop’s talkshow Krásný ztráty (Beautiful losses). His guests tonight at 20:00 CEST are organist Marián Varga (who already appeared on Funky Czech-In as a sideman of Pavol Hammel) as well as the rock journalist Vojtěch Lindaur. The drawback for many of you will be, however: no subtitles. Usually not much “third party” video material is being used, so it’s a plain talk only – knowledge of the Czech language is therefore required. By the way, in case you’d miss it tonight on TV, you can still watch the broadcasting anytime on ČT’s Krásný ztráty homepage.

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09 July 2007

Interlude: Emil Viklický Trio

Your feedback, dear reader, is always a great thing and it encourages me to continue with my work. And when the feedback comes from one of the actual protagonists of this blog, I couldn't be honored more: Emil Viklický has e-mailed me recently and he was very pleased about my positive review of his album Okno (Window). In the e-mail dialog which followed he has provided some more background informations about the album; I'll be adding the new facts to the original entry soon.

Since I'm in Prague again these days, Mr. Viklický has kindly invited me to his gig in the legendary Reduta Jazz Club yesterday (if you click on the Reduta link, that's actually him on their homepage!). Thus not only I had the opportunity to enjoy his stellar trio with ex-Impuls František Uhlíř on double bass and with the legendary mid-1960s SHQ drummer Laco Tropp (don't worry, he will be featured on Funky Czech-In, too), but also to talk to them about this and that after the concert. And since it became quite late, Mr. Viklický was even so kind to drive me home with his car... Unbelievable! Thank you, Emil!

Emil Viklicky Trio 2007
Emil Viklický Trio live in Reduta Jazz Club, Prague, yesterday evening: Emil Viklický, František Uhlíř, Laco Tropp (photo: © 2007 Lukas Machata / Lou Kash)

I've also learned that Emil Viklický has a large archive of master tapes, which have never been released on records yet. In the 1980s he has composed and arranged lots of big band stuff which he recorded in the Czechoslovak Radio studios either with JOČR (Jazz Orchestra of the Czechoslovak Radio Prague) or with ORO (Ostrava Radio Orchestra which basically consisted of members of Flamingo). I've heard some samples - fantastic big band jazz-funk, if you ask me! Mr. Viklický was quite surprised to hear that there still exists a market for this kind of music. So: If you have an idea how to bring these recordings to the public, don't hesitate to contact me! There shouldn't be any legal hurdles since Mr. Viklický owns all publishing rights to this material.


Another feedback I've received some time ago came from former Crystal leader Jaroslav Nevrkla. He then e-mailed me the whole Crystal story, thus I will be able to update my post with first hand informations. Many thanks, Jaro!

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06 February 2007

Questions and general feedback

Sometimes I receive e-mails with questions about Czech music. While that's generally okay and I appreciate your interest in this subject, I thought it might be a good idea to make these questions publicly available in the future. Hence this post. This is the place where you can ask or comment on a topic regarding Czech and Slovak pop and jazz music, if you can't find a dedicated post for it (yet).

At some future time I might also reactivate the phpbb forum on my web server, as it would be probably the more appropriate place. But first I need to find and install some good anti-spam plug-ins...

Feel free to ask your questions or give general feedback to this blog in the comments to this post. It will have a permanent link in the sidebar, so you can easily access it after it slips off the front page.


05 September 2006

The funky Czech-in (an introduction)

Welcome to this new MP3 music blog. It's dedicated to funky pop and jazz music from former Czechoslovakia, focusing mainly on the late 1960s and the 1970s.

At that time there were not many Czech or Slovak performers who were playing primarily soul or even funk music, and only a few of them who did have ever made it to record and release it. So don't expect no animalism of a James Brown or any freak-outs à la George Clinton. Nonetheless quite a lot of rock, pop and jazz artists have included funk and soul influenced songs on their singles or albums at one time or another, be it their own compositions or cover versions of international hits. In the past 20 years I have collected enough Czech and Slovak vinyl records and a few CDs to feed this blog with a weekly dose of funk for at least one year, although my collection is by no means complete. Not all of those recordings are "über-rare", many have been reissued on CDs in the past 15 years. And if you are a vinylist and plan to travel to Prague, you also have a good chance to find some of the items at reasonable prices in one of the Prague's second hand record shops; I might publish a list of good stores in a future post.

To understand the whole musical situation in Czechoslovakia of the 1970s, you need to remember that soon after the invasion of the Warshaw Pact armies in August 1968 the times became very tough for rock oriented musicians. After 1970 they were not allowed to sing in English anymore and the groups had to give up their English names. They were not allowed to wear long hair or fancy clothes or behave too extravagantly. All concert venues were seated and often controlled by the police. Each and every musician and group has been forced to perform at annual musical and political "exams" in front of communist commissions who then gave them a permission to perform in public - or sometimes they did not. The internationally best known victims were of course the psychedelic Plastic People Of The Universe who refused to participate on those humiliating exams and went strictly underground. Eventually in the mid 1970s they were jailed for political reasons which inspired intellectual dissidents around Václav Havel (later Czech president in the 1990s) to form the Charta 77 organization as a protest against the communist regime. So, while rock music was booming in the free world, many Czechoslovak entertainers and musicians switched to harmless mainstream pop in order to stay on the safe side of the business. Others have changed their occupation and quitted playing music altogether, professionally at least. And many jazz and rock musicians have chosen - some were even forced - to emigrate after 1968: Miroslav Vitouš, Jan Hammer (yes, the one of Miami Vice fame), George (Jiří) Mráz, Ivan Král (who joined the Patti Smith Group), Jaroslav Šedivý, Jiří Kozel, later also Jan Kubík, Laco Déczi, Petr Klapka, Jana Kratochvílová (aka Jane Pope), Pavel Trnavský, Jiří Hrubeš, Oskar Petr, Plastic People's Vratislav Brabenec and Pavel Zajíček, Vlasta Třešňák or even pop/C&W singer Waldemar Matuška just to drop a couple of more or less known names.

Absurdly - as the communist ideology is absurd anyway - one of the widely tolerated musical genres was disco, although there's probably no other genre that is in fact more "capitalistic" than that. Possibly it was considered ideologically "safe" due to the lack of any serious verbal message and its "feel-good" nature. Disco got adopted quite quickly in Czechoslovakia, the first records started to pop up around 1976. Many major international disco hits were also re-recorded with Czech or Slovak lyrics within a year or two after its original release. Today, when I'm observing the Czech and Slovak 1970s "disco scene" from the safe distance of thirty years, some of the output actually still sounds quite fresh. At least, for the first time since 1968 they again caught up musically with the rest of the (free) world.

Rock groups on the other hand often ended up playing mostly instrumental jazz rock or large art rock compositions. Not all of it was bad but for today's listeners it might sound rather uninspired. At that time though, in the late 1970s, it made sense because the communist control commissions demanded "composed programmes" with a strict dramaturgy to allow rock groups to play in public at all.

Classically educated jazz musicians often had their daily jobs in various orchestras or in bands accompanying pop singers. Some of them enjoyed quite a lot of freedom and were allowed to study in the USA: Martin Kratochvíl, Emil Viklický and others. They managed to record many great jazz albums. Unfortunately, those records were often released in an insufficient edition and were very hard to obtain anyway. Many of them were only available to members of the "Gramofonový klub". Some of them are still sought-after collector items because they haven't been reissued on CDs yet.

In the early 1980s punk and new wave have infected the young generation (myself included: I was born in 1967 and lived in Czechoslovakia until 1981) and the whole Czechoslovak music scene began to wake up. And while the mid 1980s were again a tough period for many musicians as the communist regime once again tried hard to keep the independent pop music under its control, by the end of the decade there was just no stopping anymore. In 1988 even the original Plastic People musicians were allowed to perform in public again, albeit under their new name Půlnoc (Midnight). In November 1989 the communist regime finally collapsed. From then on the Czechs and Slovaks have joined the worldwide music industry with all its heights and lows. And despite all the negative effects that followed, compared to the scary communist era that's actually a Good Thing...

Personal note: English is not my native language, so please excuse that my vocabulary is somewhat limited or that some phrases that might sound rather strange to you. But I'm sure you're smart enough to figure it all out. :)

Technical notes:
Being a vinyl collector in the first place, most songs are recorded from good old wax. I for one love the sound of vinyl. However, due to the age of some of the records, the sound quality may vary despite powerful noise filters in modern digital audio editing software; some of my treasures have been literally pulled out of a stinking pile of old rubbish... Additionally, songs which are available on CDs that you can buy online (as far as I might be able to find out) will be "crippled" to an approx. 2 minutes edit, in order to encourage you to support the artists and composers by buying their records.

Regarding the blog design, I'm not going to cripple the Czech grammar by omitting Central European characters with diacritics, like žščřďťňůý. Please make sure that you are using a modern Unicode-aware web browser and that you have installed some sort of a font with CE characters on your computer. Users of Mac OS X with Safari don't need to worry at all, others are left on their own, however...
(Also, please note that the page layout will change in the near future to match and integrate into my regular site design. But at the time of publishing this post I'm still using one of the default Blogger layouts.)

Disclaimer: Each MP3 file will be available for a limited time only, generally not longer than for two weeks. The files are presented as a "specimen" to encourage readers to buy the artist's albums. If you are an owner of the publishing rights to a particular song and you don't want to see it here on this site for the short period of public download at all, please contact me (česky, deutsch or English) and I will remove the download link immediately.