KATERINA MALA: PRAGUE
Local experimental scenes introduced by our network of femxle musicians
In the middle of Europe, in the middle of timelessness
(A guidebook to empty places)
It’s quite a difficult task to write about the present situation of the local music scene: we are in Prague, Czech Republic, end of 2020 – hoping that the circumstances won’t get any worse. Currently we can visit our favourite venues just through online events. But the essence of those virtual gatherings just reminds us of what is withheld from us. An even darker side of this situation is the uncertain future of venues connected with independent or alternative culture. All of us are familiar with the present situation – you cannot go anywhere, and, most likely, we won’t be able to visit a lot of beloved places in the near future either, because many iconic venues already haven’t survived the pandemic, and the numbers will increase; however, communities will find the way to survive. I’m pretty sure.
If I ought to think about the music scene of the city of Prague, it seems to me to have very narrow bounds. Czech Republic is a small state (geographically & demographically), so it isn’t surprising that you know most of the fish in your pond. By sight at least. The links below refer to bands, projects and venues, focused on diversity, uniqueness and distinctiveness. Cool pop-electronics? Obsolete country with updated approach? A dirty punker rapping? What they have in common doesn’t lie in form or content; their affinity lies in their genuineness and distinctive creation. At links below you can find updated guideposts for Prague and the Czech music scenes seen from the perspective of my heart and conscience.
As it has just been written above, Czech independent scene covers a lot of cities and towns where people are connected through their work, ideas, and sympathies. You can meet most of the mentioned bands and musicians at the mentioned places and venues (even though they don’t live in Prague) – it isn’t an exception that one person plays in more bands throughout Czech Republic which makes us music-relatives. I could draw a genealogical tree of bands – but it’d take ages. And I hope the music community won’t degenerate in the next generations because of that… Haha.
Gig and Yoga class at Punctum by Milan Jaroš – Soulkostel by Martin Doležal
VENUES & CREWS
As the scene is not bounded by geography, neither is it bounded by genres. I believe there are less and less people who think within the dichotomy “empty superficial pop-music vs morally-conscious hard-core” as I remember it used to be at the beginning of this century. Genre borders have faded away in years, in my observation, and the audience is more open-minded and not insisting on genre rules. In venues like Underdogs’ (Prague) or Kabinet Múz (Brno), you can see and listen to dirty experimental pop, as well as hard & heavy or indie guitar music. In Punctum (Prague) you can meet lonely and lovely experimental, obscure and freaky projects for non-numerous gangs. Outlying, but iconic and magical is Soulkostel (Vernéřovice) – a church close to Czech-Polish border. The church is now unconsecrated and used for cultural events, e. g. small summer (family) festival Sun Wu Kung. It is quite common to travel from Prague to this place just for one concert (and a one-way journey there takes 3 hours), so you can then drive back or you can sleep over in the church. Beautiful and frosty experience. Literally.
Palma in Underdogs’ by Michal Kočan – Unkilled Worker Machine – Sun Wu Kung
What about active projects and bands? In Prague you can find dark pop electronics (Ai fen), socially engaged screamo-punk-rock (Nusle Sound System), shy indie-rock star (Black Tar Jesus), 60’s psychedelia & surf-rock with garage approach (Bibione), rap with punk mindset (Násilník), a very odd country (Severní nástupiště kissed by poetics of the city or Dingo with blackmetal background), electro-acoustic performance (Veronika Svobodová) or minimalist existencial songwriting (Dimitar).
Looking outside of Prague, I’m charmed by natural power and humbleness one-woman-show & her ipod (Palma) from Silesia. From Southern Bohemia is coming kraut-rock (Fotbal), noise-rock-trance psychedelia (REK) or soul-noise-rock (Nuly), all of them connected with label Noise Assault Agency Budweiss aka NAAB or label Stoned to Death. Other enrichment of the scene are people coming from abroad, who are entering and merging local bands and projects or refresh and put some spice on static local habits (Alpha Strategy, Ai-fen, Justin Lavash).
And if you are looking for real treats, you should definitely step out of the bigger cities. I love to accidentally connect with solitaire weirdos from smaller towns or villages, who are recording their music at home, under a blanket not to disturb their neighbours – such as neurotical asocial observer of everyday life & lo-fi genius Květoslav Dolejší. Or tenacious & do-or-die guitarist playing American primitivism with an Eastern touch Jakub Šimanský.
Pic by Vlastimil Vojáček
Bands are living and volatile organisms. It can be said that every few years there is a “generation change”. Of course, the older bands stay (so you can swim in the still bay you know perfectly well), but if you really want to be refreshed, surprised or shocked, you need to swim in a wild river. You need to jump in cold, deep, running water and get carried away… You may not like it and avoid it or this bath can make you feel more alive. On the other hand, it’s important not to forget about your roots: the bands which helped you become the musician/monster/person you are. In my case, it is the community around the label Silver Rocket. I am proud to have grown and have been involved with them – both as a young promoter and as a musician (label rosters to be recommended – already dead or still alive – e. g. Zkouška sirén, Lyssa, Gnu, Deverova chyba, Or). If you are a fan of the 90’s, enter their website. One provocation at the end: Prague is kind of European Portland – the 90’s never ended here, and the prolongation gave us a chance to experience past times mixed up with present times. Ideal for life of an indie artist.
Kateřina Malá is a Czech drummer and vocalist settled in Prague; former teenage DIY promoter, she now works in a concert production agency with focus on non mainstream genres such as alternative rock, improv, free jazz, contemporary music and ethnic music. She is drummer and vocalist in the psychedelic-spaghetti western band Oswaldovi and baroque-drone-punk band called Tábor. She used to collaborate with noise-rock project Unkilled Worker Machine.