Encore: Zuzana Navarova - remembering an exceptional Czech musician
Today we remember an extraordinary Czech musician, Zuzana Navarova, who died last week of cancer at the tragically early age of 45. Her band Nerez became hugely popular in the 1980s. This was a time of growing popularity of singer song-writers, but Zuzana Navarova was different. Music critic Petr Doruzka remembers:
"She was leading a band with a very interesting set-up. She was not just a singer-songwriter with a guitar. She also had very varied sources of influence, like Latin American music, Cuban music. She spent some time in Cuba, she studied Spanish. She took everything very seriously.
"She had a great voice. When you listened to her, you were completely absorbed. So I think she really had international class."
Zuzana Navarova born in 1959 in Eastern Bohemia, and from her childhood had very distinct musical tastes, as she herself later remembered: "I've always been interested in what they now call ethnic music," she said in one interview. "When I was young they called it folklore and no-one was interested, but I was a bit strange and enjoyed it."
"If you look at her after three decades of work she continued to prefer to perform in the Malostranska beseda, which is a small place. There was not any kind of career tactic. Her priority was music."
Zuzana Navarova's interest in Latin rhythms took her to Cuba, which she visited several times in the 80s. Her band Nerez even performed there. Zuzana studied Spanish at the Charles University in Prague and her husband, Luis de Tejeda is also Cuban. So it's not surprising that her relationship to the music of Latin America went far below the surface.
Although for many people Zuzana Navarova is associated mainly with Latin rhythms, her music embraced many genres. In the last few years she has worked with the band Koa, four musicians who represent very diverse musical cultures: a Peruvian drummer, a Turkish guitarist, a Czech double bass player and the amazing blind Romany accordion player Mario Bihari from Slovakia. And the musical heritage of the musicians is reflected in the music itself. On their 2003 album Jak Santidevi, she thinks nothing of shifting from songs in Czech to Spanish, Romany, or even Arabic.
Another aspect of Zuzana Navarova's career was her tireless work to support young or unknown musicians. She even set up a foundation called "Life for Artists" with the aim of promoting struggling musicians at the beginning of their career, especially if they got into difficulties. Over the years she proved to be a talent-spotter with an incredible gift. For example one of the most successful solo artists in the Czech Republic today, the idiosyncratic accordion player, singer and song-writer Raduza - whom we've also featured on this programme - owes her career to Navarova. The two were good friends, and Raduza was at her bedside during her last illness.
It was also Navarova who discovered the legendary Romany singer Vera Bila, who now has a huge worldwide following. Here Petr Doruzka remembers their first concert together in one of Prague's great venues, the Lucerna Ballroom.
"At the time nobody knew anything about Gypsy music, and then she took her to the Lucerna, which was a big achievement, because it's a big hall. I think both of them were probably a little bit nervous how this large audience, which doesn't have any experience with Gypsy music would react, and I remember I interviewed Zuzana about how was it, how did it feel, and she told me, 'Well, I had tears in my eyes.'"
Zuzana Navarova died in the early morning of the 7th December, after a long battle with cancer. She had always played down her illness, and for people outside her closest circle of friends her death came as a shock. Had she lived we can be sure that she would have continued to make a huge contribution to Czech music. But at least we have the recordings that she left behind and memories of her concerts, where she appeared more often than not in jeans and a t-shirt, but captivated audiences from beginning to end. Petr Doruzka:
"She really had a talent of putting words together in a very unusual way and expressing what would be difficult to put to words for another person. She was catching ideas which are flying around."
Magic Carpet - world music in the heart of Europe
It is presented by Petr Doruzka, one of the Czech Republic's foremost music journalists.
In the first Magic Carpet of 2005, you'll hear some rare and unusual albums of 2004 which didn't fit into the previous programmes. Cankisou (pronounced "Chankishow") from Brno "rediscovered" the mysterious tribe of the Chanki people, famous for their devotional and ritual songs. Banana is led by the young female singer of mixed Italian-Ukrainian origin, who calls herself Vladivojna La Chia. If you miss the bad girls of the punk rock era, Vladivojna will be be a singer of your choice. Ahmet má Hlad (Ahmet is Hungry) is an 8 piece band mixing clarinets and accordion with electric guitars, and playing crazy adaptations of folk songs from all Eastern Europe. And NUO stands for The Art ensemble from Nusle, a hard driving and flexible jazz band. Their first album, Multimusic Miniband, reaches from funk to electronica.
More than 10 years after the partition of Czechoslovakia many Czechs consider Slovakia a strong musical inspiration, while Slovak musicians see Czech audiences as a potential and friendly market. The Bratislava band Jej dru¾ina (Her escort) made their well received debut three years ago, inspired by the rich heritage of Slovak folk songs. Soon afterwards this highly respected band split in two equally interesting parts, and both made new albums recently. But it's not only local musicians who collect folk songs in Slovakia. Nowadays, musicians from Hungary, like the Fono Folk Band, are looking over the border to find more about the music heritage of both Slovaks and the Hungarian minorities living in Southern Slovakia.
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.
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain 15 years ago, one of the most interesting exports from East European countries has been Gypsy music: wedding brass orchestras from Serbia, cymbalom and fiddle bands from Romania and Hungary. In the Czech Republic, Gypsy music is on the rise too, but often it sounds very different from the style of our East European neighbours. Terne Chave has earned a reputation as a great live band. Their new album, Kai Dzas (Where are we going), gives us a flavour of where Gypsy music may be going.
The violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin, who died in 1999, once said: "When we think about the violin, we think about the tradition of Stradivarius. But we forget the violin is derived from a folk music instrument, the fiddle." Jiri Plocek, Czech researcher and musician, comments: "There is a link between fiddlers from Moravia, my home region, and fiddlers from Scotland or Scandinavia. Their music is vibrant and sparkles with energy." Plocek's musical partner Jitka Suranska, explains: "This is a very different style than playing with a symphony orchestra, which is my second job. But playing with Jiri opens a new door for me: playing from the heart."