American guitarist Gary Lucas has played a striking variety of music — from the avant-garde rock of Captain Beefheart to Chinese pop of the 1930s to collaborations with musical luminaries such as Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Iggy Pop, John Zorn and David Johansen, as well as with his own band, Gods and Monsters. In his latest album, Lucas takes on the pantheon of Czech classical music with a modern touch thrown in.
Over the years, the Berg Orchestra has provided live accompaniment for a number of silent films in the Czech capital. This year they are taking one of these performances abroad on the orchestra’s summer tour of Northern Spain, where they will accompany Dreyer’s 1928 silent classic “The Passion of Joan of Arc” with a contemporary score by renowned Lithuanian composer Bronius Kutavičius.
“Hardbass,” a genre of electronic dance music embraced by Russian nationalists, has gained a small but active following among Czech hooligans and skinheads, who are staging spastic guerrilla dance actions in cities across the country — and posting videos of their musical blitzkriegs on YouTube, an expert on ultra-right movements in both countries tells Czech Position.
Prague’s annual Respect festival has showcased some of the biggest names in world music and helped build interest in the genre. This year’s stars include Staff Benda Bilili, formerly homeless and disabled street musicians from Kinshasa who made it big after being discovered by a French film crew. Another highlight is Ethiopian jazz star Getatchew Mekurya, appearing with a Dutch punk band.
What is referred to as modern music has never had an easy time in the Czech Republic. From Leoš Janáček’s interminable wait to see one of his operas performed on a Czech stage, to the harsh, reactionary protest against the 1926 Prague premiere of Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck,” the country’s musical center has been reluctant to embrace current musical trends. The Berg Orchestra is looking to change that.