Much respected singer-songwriter Zuzana Navarova dies at 45

Zuzana Navarova, photo: Jiri Turek (MF Dnes, 8.12.2004)

Czech music fans and musicians were deeply saddened on Tuesday by the news that the singer-songwriter Zuzana Navarova has died of cancer at the age of just 45. Her death came as a shock to many: she appeared in concert only last month, and received a gold record for 10,000 sales of her 2001 CD Barvy vsecky.

Zuzana Navarova's career began in 1980, when she and the folk-rock band Nerez became a hit with both critics and audiences in Czechoslovakia. An interest in Latin American rhythms led Navarova to take a degree in Spanish at Prague's Charles University, and she spent a few years living in Cuba.

As well as Latin American music, the singer also incorporated other ethnic influences into her sound. She recorded two albums with an international group of musicians called Koa, and also worked with the Colombian singer Ivan Gutierrez.

Zuzana Navarova was highly respected by other musicians and critics, and many in the Czech music community have come forward to pay tribute to her. Among them are the Romany group Vera Bila and Kale; she discovered the band and introduced them to a wider audience, as well as producing some of their albums.

Zuzana Navarova,  photo: CTK
She also produced Raduza, the young folk singer who swept the boards at last year's Andel music awards. Raduza was one of Navarova's closest friends, and was with her when she died at a Prague hospital early on Tuesday morning.

The editor of Folk & Country called Navarova the biggest female personality on the Czech folk scene, saying she was on a par with the much-respected Jaromir Nohavica as a songwriter and folk artist. Nohavica's occasional partner Karel Plihal described her as a wonderful woman and a writer of beautiful songs.

Zuzana Navarova's last album, Jako santidevi, was released in October last year.