Can Czechs export music as well as they do beer?

Ecstasy of Saint Theresa

The Czech Republic has a thriving music scene, with a number of home-grown artists able to regularly sell out large venues. But most leading Czech singers and groups are completely unknown outside their home country. Now a campaign has been launched to try and change that - with the establishment of a special body supporting the export of Czech music.

Regardless of how many gold discs they have notched up at home, very few rock groups from the Czech Republic have any kind of profile outside their country’s borders.

Monika Klementova: “Usually pop music is seen as perceived as a commercial kind of…culture, which doesn’t need any support. In my experience it’s totally the opposite.”

Publicist Monika Klementova leads a group which is lobbying the Czech government to set up the kind of music export support body found in many states around the continent.

“If you look around in other European countries, even post-communist countries – a good example is Hungary – you can see a great example of support for music…We really want to support tours, showcases, take Czech bands and present them at music trade fairs, try to produce some compilation CDs which can promote our bands.”

Ecstasy of St Theresa are one of the most highly regarded Czech groups and their leader Jan P Muchow has produced some of the country’s biggest artists. He shared his thoughts on the idea of a music export body:

“We have similar things for films and stuff, so why not have somebody who wants to try to take care of it? But on the other hand, I’m not sure how it would work. On the posters it’ll say, this band is from the Czech Republic and is supported by the…I think it’s a big help for the scene, but in the end it must be interesting stuff that bands are doing.”

Very few Czech groups sing in English; Jan P Muchow says that is a factor if bands want to make it internationally:

“I’m not so sure if we would all know so much about Bjork and the Cardigans and the Hives and all those Scandinavian bands if they sang in Icelandic or Swedish. So I think that’s a big part of it.”

By contrast, Monika Klementova says an unusual language can actually be a plus. She quotes promoters she has met at international seminars.

“We don’t need another English singing band we can find anywhere else. What we want is something really coming from the roots of a country, something unusual, with some special emotions, the feeling is different from the other countries…Then we can say, this is something special – come to see it and you will enjoy it.”

The question of language remains hypothetical, as the Czech Culture Ministry has yet to show much enthusiasm for funding a music export body. But Monika Klementova says she’s optimistic that in the end she and her colleagues can persuade the powers that be of its importance for the Czech music scene.