Karel Gott, the undisputed king of Czech pop music, has died at the age of 80. The singer succumbed to acute leukaemia with which he was diagnosed earlier this year. The singer, who turned 80 in July of this year, has had health problems in the past. In 2016 he successfully underwent chemotherapy due to an outbreak of cancer. In July, he had to cancel his performance at the Benátská Festival in Liberec, where he was planning to celebrate his birthday.
One of the most striking aspects of director Václav Marhoul’s new film The Painted Bird is the language spoken in it. The characters communicate in Interslavic, or Medžuslovjansky, an artificial language combining elements from several Slavic languages that fits with the WWII story’s unspecified Eastern European setting. Interslavic has in large part been developed by academic Dr. Vojtěch Merunka, who was closely involved in the movie. When we spoke, I first asked him about earlier attempts to create a Slavic lingua franca.
The international music festival Lípa Musica got underway this week with a performance by the British vocal ensemble King’s Singers in the Hejnice Monastery in North Bohemia. Over the course of the next few weeks, the festival will offer over 20 performances both on the Czech and German side of the border.
‘Laydeez do Comics’ is an international organisation that promotes female comics artists and their work. I spoke with the co-founders of the Czech branch shortly after the publication of their new book Komiksodějky. This anthology of essays and interviews about the genre, its history and specific Czech development, features a wild, eclectic mix of comics and illustrations by local female comics authors, many of whom poke fun at stereotypes.
Few people in the Czech Republic know that a significant chapter in the history of early Czech sound recordings was written by Czech immigrants in the United States. For several years now, Filip Šír from the National Museum in Prague has been searching for the lost recordings and the stories of the people behind them. Last year, he published his findings in a book called Bohemia on Records, written together with music collector Gabriel Goessel. But he says there is still much more waiting to be discovered.
Peter Sis’s On Flying and Other Dreams is one of the exhibitions of the year in Prague. It places in a fresh context five books focused on freedom by the US-based author and illustrator, including The Wall – Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain, The Three Golden Keys and Robinson. The show was conceived by the team of Michaela Šilpochová, Leoš Válka, Ivana Brádková at venue DOX, and at the opening I asked Sis what he had made of their approach.
Brno’s Martin Reiner is an award-winning poet and novelist. He also works closely with some of the Czech Republic’s other leading writers as head of the publishing house Druhé město (Second City). Our tour of “his Brno” begins in the tree-lined district where Reiner grew up, Černá Pole, around half an hour’s walk from the centre of the Moravian capital.
Released in 1964, Starci na chmelu is the first and perhaps most famous Czechoslovak film musical. The film’s songs were written by Vratislav Blažek and were recorded with some of the country’s most popular singers at the time, including Karel Gott, Josef Zíma, Jana Petrů and Karel Štědrý. With a story that transcends time, Starci na chmelu was one of the country’s commercially most successful movies and initiated a period which would produce many more film musicals.