Plastic People resurrect Passion Play

Passion Play in April 2004, photo:

On Good Friday, the legendary underground band, The Plastic People of the Universe performed "Passion Play" which is about the crucifixion of Christ. They played it for the first time in 1978 at Vaclav Havel's country cottage but given the political situation back then, they were not able to play it again. After the fall of communism the band was reunited and recently decided to revive "Passion Play". They are now performing it in cooperation with Agon orchestra. Nikola Brabenec joins us now for an interview with her father, Vratislav Brabenec, who is the Plastic People's saxophone player.

"My family was a traditional Catholic family but I was not forced to be a practicing Catholic. I practiced the religion until I was fourteen, but it was my choice.

Why did you go to church, why did you practice?

"It was some kind of mysticism that I was practicing, it wasn't really Catholic religion, at that time I was more a mystic than a Catholic believer. Perhaps it is some heritage, my grandmother practiced Spiritism. She worked with a famous parapsychologist, Bretislav Kafka."

When you were a child and an adolescent, did you have any mystical experiences, that you remember that were strong for you?

"Many. (Laughs). You want to hear some something about that? When I was a child, my mother was communicating with the dead and things like that. It was really powerful for me. My mother told me, don't practice that, you are too sensitive for that."

When you were fourteen you stopped practicing Catholicism and then you started studying theology, how old were you when you started to study?

"I was twenty three when I started studying Protestant theology in Prague."

At the faculty, the students were a pretty colourful group, you weren't exactly sitting in your room, studying the bible every night or anything like that...

"At that time, I was an active jazz musician. Most of the time, I didn't study the bible, I spent most of my time, most of my nights in clubs with my friends."

Why did you decide to do, "Passion Play" with the Plastic People?

"Originally, it was a just some kind of poetry or free text that a friend of mine from Horni Pocernice, asked me to write for the Protestant church. Later, I brought the lyrics to Milan Hlavsa and it was his decision that we try it as musical experiment."

"In old cultures, doesn't matter if you are talking about the Inuit, Indians or First Nations in Canada, they have a similar tradition of cleansing in the Spring or around Easter, it isn't just Christianity. In old cultures, the cult of cleaning your body and your spirit is about finding your way, your relationship with God or with nature."

I don't know if you want to read it or if I should, it says, "father they could not watch with me even an hour, father, father, why have thou forsaken me?" It's very sad, what are you trying to convey to your audience in this text?

"Theologically, it is a very strong part in the bible, he wasn't ready to die. It's the point, where Jesus says, I am too weak to do this, I am not ready to die."

The last piece is called, "Noc temna" or "Dark night" and that is it, it is finished, where is the resurrection, why did you end in the night?

"Those are the dark lyrics of Pavel Zajicek, there should perhaps be more hope. I did not want to bring some kind of cheap hope or cheap resurrection because for us, that time was a dark night."

When you re-emigrated, you started to play with the band again, there was a lot of tension between you and other band members, how did you find peace?

"We were invited to play at the 20th anniversary of the Charter 77 and I was invited to come by Vaclav Havel. That was our first performance in fifteen years, at the Prague Castle, it was a very nice time. After that, our decision was to stop fighting, to forget about our sins and our disputes and we started to play and work together again."

Milan Hlavsa, the lead singer of the band, died four years ago, what happened in the group when he died? Were you thinking of disbanding the Plastic People? How did his death affect the group?

"It was really painful for us, it is still painful. Hlavsa was a very important person. He was a composer and very good singer and base guitar player. We decided to continue in his honour, in his memory, we wanted to finish the projects that he started."

When he died, you needed someone to sing and play base, so who did you choose and why did you choose this person?

"It wasn't easy. Right now our base guitar player is a woman, Eva Turnova. We did not want someone who would be a fake Hlavsa. It is much easier for us to have a woman. She is a very good singer and a very good person. Philosophically she is a good new member of our team and that is what I am proud of, we are all working as a team right now."