Commemorating legendary protest-song writer Karel Kryl


This month, Czechs will be commemorating Karel Kryl at several venues in Prague as this year marks the tenth anniversary of his death and sixtieth anniversary of his birth. As part of the Year of Czech Music, several concerts and exhibitions focus on the life of the singer and protest-song writer who became an icon in 1960s folk music through his tireless struggle for the freedom of expression. Dita Asiedu has more:

Whether they liked him or not, the majority of Czechs agree that Karel Kryl was a man who made an impact on the 1960s Czech music scene. With his numerous appearances in the country's most popular radio show, his strong anti-socialist rhetoric, and the release of his album Bratricku Zavirej Vratka rejecting the 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia, Karel Kryl became a man many followed in hopes of bringing an end to the Communist regime.

"Karel Kryl deserves a special place on the Czech music scene, not just because of his numerous speeches, his drive, and gripping poetic words, but also because he had no fear in expressing his personal views. Whether before the revolution, after the revolution, in the country or outside the country, he always had an opinion, which had a philosophical dimension and the capability to see things clearly in the right perspective."

...says Lenka Dohnalova, programme co-ordinator of the Year of Czech Music 2004.

Kryl's widow at the exhibiton at Prague's Vagon Club, photo: CTK
Although Karel Kryl allowed nothing and no-one to make him hold his tongue, the 1968 Soviet-led invasion that crushed all hopes of the fall of Communism as well as the Communist regime's counter-attacks that resulted in the cancellation of numerous Karel Kryl concerts and radio appearances, made him leave for Germany. In exile, Karel Kryl worked as a presenter at Radio Free Europe in Munich not to be forgotten by his fans, friends and family. It was not until the revolutionary days in 1989 that he returned to his homeland full of enthusiasm and expectations. But with the enemy gone, Karel Kryl found it hard to adjust to the new circumstances. Just a month before his fiftieth birthday, Karel Kryl died of a heart attack on March 3, 1994.

And those of you in Prague this month and the next, can visit the official website of Czech Music 2004 at to find out how the Czech cultural scene commemorates Karel Kryl this year. The series of tributes began on Tuesday at Prague's Vagon Club with an exhibition on his contribution to the Czechoslovak music scene of the 1960s, his life in exile, and his experiences after returning to his homeland. It will run until April 12 this year, which marks the 60th anniversary of his birth in 1944.