Marta Kubišová: Kdo ti radu dá (Supraphon, 1969)

6 May

One of the lesser-known songs on Kubisova’s 1969 Songy a Balady LP,  Kdo ti radu dá  might sometimes be overlooked, but it’s a punchy, soulful effort well worth giving a listen in isolation from its more celebrated cohorts. As always with these versions, the intention is to produce something that works in English, often at the expense of literal transcription, and in this case the lyric has a kind of folk-tale simplicity, full of general images evoking journeys through a confusing time, that require a good degree of liberty with the original to spark on the page. The song can be heard here, and the Czech lyric can be read here.

Kdo ti radu dá (Who will give you some advice?)

(after V. Popelka/V. Postulka, 1969)

Who will give you some advice
when the wind sleeps?
Who will give you some advice
in this strange place?

You hear a jay, its piercing song,
thistles grow behind the walls.
Water flows, chokes and slows
as the mill wheel turns.

The sun, like love, seems distant,
trouble’s always close by.
We falter at the scent of home,
the faded promise of safe return.

Who will give you some advice?
the grass might ask the air.
Who will give you some advice
if it’s our fate to be here?

So don’t hesitate, keep going,
stay on the road till the way is found;
don’t rest in the grass and shade –
those who linger have more to pay.

Who will give you some advice
when the wind sleeps?
Who will give you some advice
in this strange place?

The fish in the rivers are silent,
the chickens in farmyards stay dumb;
love is entangled in blankets
struggling with thoughts of home.

Stone gods queue up in friezes,
brass fanfares send us to sleep.
Who will tell us what we need to know
now throats run dry and voices freeze?

So who will give us some advice?
The grass might as well ask the air.
Who will give us some advice
if it’s our fate to be here?

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