Tune in to SoundCzech: Inside the Czech Music Scene
If you could bring Czech music back to a brighter time than the current moment, it might be worth heading to January 2019, when the nation, alongside its former half Slovakia, was part of the first-ever bi-focus. countries to Eurosonic. Noorderslag (ESNS).
In a snapshot of a diverse and ambitious scene, 11 Czech artists headed to Groningen, including internationally acclaimed pop favorite Lenny, London-raised rapper Hellwana, indie-rockers Manon Meurt, electronic alliance British/Czech Floex and Tom Hodge and well-traveled Glastonbury and Sziget veteran Mydy Rabycad.
“It was good, and I think it was good for the stage,” says Márton Náray, director of the Czech music export office. SoundCzech. “We did this in conjunction with the Pohoda festival in Slovakia, and it was fantastic – Michal Kašcák is one of the legends of live music. We found ourselves in a situation where we were thinking about doing more than just focus on one country, and I think we inspired each other.
The exposure of ESNS and surrounding events was still bearing fruit when the current crisis hit. But while the touring world has taken a break, the Czech Republic holds a strong hand in terms of talent these days.
Many members of the ESNS delegation (which also included one-woman musical sensation Bohemian Cristal Instrument, Baltic party band the Circus Brothers, bagpipe punks Pipes and Pints, acoustic troubadour Thom Artway, the self-described Lazer Viking and the cinematic jazzers Zabelov Group) had begun to make international inroads at club and festival levels and were clearly gaining momentum.
There is no shortage of local and locally appreciated talent
“To be honest, my realistic expectation is to never get [a band] to bulk billing, because it’s not realistic for the Czech Republic,” says Náray. “It’s a question, in a few years, of having a lot of bands that really come out on the European club circuit. There are several like that,” he adds, mentioning Mydy Rabycad, the Circus Brothers, Floex and Manon Meurt, as well as the currently idle Pipes and Pints, “but that’s the level we would like to raise. [to].”
In terms of talent, the Czech Republic is in a similar position to many non-English speaking territories. There’s no shortage of local and locally-loved talent, from longtime Monkey Business funkers to newly reformed ’90s legends Lucie. But crossing borders requires rare luck, as well as a delicate balance between international appeal and something unique.
“That’s the usual problem,” says Paul Elsasser of London-based, Europe-focused Minimal Surface, whose artists include forward-thinking Czech solo prospect Giudi. “If you want to succeed in a country, you have to sing in its language.”
Many Czech bands have taken this advice to heart…
To subscribe to IQ Magazine here, or continue reading this article in the digital edition of IQ 93:
Get more stories like this delivered to your inbox by signing up to IQ Index, IQThe free email digest of essential live music industry news.