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Eastern Bloc Disco at Centrala (Playlist for August 4, 2017)

8 Aug

Sarolta Zalatnay: Hadd Mondjam El (Pepita)

The latest version of Eastern Bloc Disco took place on August 4 at Centrala, Birmingham, as part of the regular Digbeth First Friday, a mix of soul, rock, psychedelia, disco, pop, folk and more, all released on the official state record labels of Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, East Germany and other Eastern Bloc states between the early 1960s and late 1980s. For this latest session – commissioned to accompany the launch of Terra Firma, an exhibition of work produced during a month on Birmingham’s canals by Italian resident Hungarian artist Barbara Mihályi – there was a particular (but by no means exclusive) emphasis on music from Hungary. An archival Eastern Bloc Songs exhibition is in development with Centrala for the summer of 2018.

Eastern Bloc Disco Playlist (August 4, 2017)

Raimonds Pauls & Margarita Vilcāne: Līgotāji (Latvia, 1974)
Karel Cernoch & Juventus: Procitnuti (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Zsusza Koncz & Liversing Egyuttes: Jaj, Mi Lesz Velem Ezutan (Hungary, 1971)
Alibabki: Slonce w Chmurach Lazi (Poland, 1969)
Illés: Nehéz az Út (Hungary, 1968)
The Rebels: Definitivní Konec (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Hungaria: Koncert a Marson (Hungary, 1969)
Sarolta Zalatnay: Betonfej (Hungary, 1968)
Hana Zagorová: Svatej Kluk (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
George & Beatovens: Dívky Z Perel (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Sarolta Zalatnay: Fekete Beat (Hungary, 1971)
Halina Frąckowiak: Wodo Zimna Wodo (Poland, 1974)
Corvina: A Tüz (Hungary, 1974)
Kati Kovacs: Add Már Uram Az Esöt (Hungary, 1972)
Illes: Nekem Oly Mindegy (Hungary, 1972)
Czeslaw Niemen & Akwarele: Baw Się W Ciuciubabkę (Poland, 1969)
Sarolta Zalatnay: Hadd Mondjam El (Hungary, 1973)
NOVI Singers: Torpedo (Poland, 1969)
Vaclav Neckar/Golden Kids: Goo Goo Barabajagal (Czechoslovakia, 1970)
Petr Spaleny & Apollobeat: Kdybych Ja Byl Kovarem (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Karel Cernoch: Zlej Sen (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Vera Spinarova: Den a Noc (Czechoslovakia, 1972)
Sarolta Zalatnay & Metro: Mostanában bármit teszünk (Hungary, 1967)
Yvonne Prenosilova: Zimní Království (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Marcela Laiferova: Mlc (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Filipinki: Nie Ma Go (Poland, 1968)
Hana Ulrychova & Bluesmen: Zpívej Mi Dál (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Atlantis: Don’t You Break It Again (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Koncz Szusza: Visz a Vonat (Hungary, 1970)
Chris Doerk: Glaub Nicht (DDR, 1974)
Angelika Mann: Wenn Ich Mal (DDR, 1974)
Valérie Čižmárová: Čekám (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Kyri Ambrus: Ez a Szerelem (Hungary, 1970)
Mária Hoffmann: Mini Tini Panaszai (Hungary, 1974)
Metro: Ha Júliát Kérdeznék Meg (Hungary, 1970)
Stan Borys: Wyplakalem Oczy Niebieskie (Poland, 1969)
Bergendy: Tramp – Részlet (Hungary, 1971)
Bonka Najdenova: Proletni Stypki (Bulgaria, 1975)
Beatrice: Gyere Kislány Gyere (Hungary 1977)
Die Caufner Schwestern: Komm Doch (DDR, 1978)
Judit Szucs: Urdiszkó (Hungary, 1979)
Koukeri: Брой До Сто (Bulgaria 1984)
Plexi & Frutti: A Vásár (Hungary, 1989)
Gigi: Divat a Fontos (Hungary, 1985)
Jana Kratochvílová & Discobolos: Kyvadlo (Czechoslovakia, 1978)
Grupa ABC: Za Duzo Chcesz (Poland, 1970)
Grupul Stereo: Coloana Infinită (Romania, 1984)
Bemibem: Podaruj Mi Trochę Słońca (Poland, 1973)
Marika Késmárki: Törött Szék (Hungary, 1971)
Bezinky: Polnočný Vlak (Czechoslovakia, 1975)
Emil Dimitrov: Scherazhade (Bulgaria, 1972)
Olympic: Tobogan (Czechoslovakia, 1971)
Drugi Nacin: Zuti List (Yugoslavia, 1975)
Corvina: A Mosolyomon Ordög Ul (Hungary, 1977)
Sarolta Zalatnay: Már Nem Tudom (Hungary, 1976)
Izabela Trojanowska: Jestem Twoim Grzechem (Poland, 1981)
Syrius: Hol Az Az Ember (Hungary, 1976)

Illes: Illesek Es Pofonok... (Qualiton)


Eastern Bloc Disco at Centrala (Playlist for Feb 3, 2017)

4 Feb

Generic Sleeve [Pronit, Poland, 1960s]

The second Eastern Bloc Disco event took place yesterday evening at Centrala, Birmingham, as part of the monthly Digbeth First Friday, and this set ran from around 8pm until 10.40pm (after which a pre-prepared short mix featuring a few other songs, also listed below, saw the event through to its end, more or less). A further collaboration with Centrala, on an archival exhibition and series of events exploring the history, ephemera, design, film and wider political and cultural contexts surrounding some of these artists and sounds, is currently in development for the Summer of 2018. [Watch this space].

Grupa 220: Negdie Postoji Netko (Yugoslavia, 1968)
Koncz Zsuzsa & Illés Együttes: Fáradt Vagyok (Hungary, 1967)
Izomorf 67: Barwy Dzwieku (Poland, 1967)
Karel Černoch: Snídaně v Trávě (Help) (Czechoslovakia, 1971)
Marta Kubišová: Balada o Kornetovi a Divce (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Blackout: Powiedz Swoje Imie (Poland, 1967)
Polanie: Dlugo Się Znamy (Poland, 1968)
Karel Kahovec & Flamengo: Poprava Blond Holky (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
George & Beatovens: Lez Blazniveho Basnika (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Sarolta Zalatnay: Betonfej (Hungary, 1968)
Koncz Szusza: Visz a Vonat (Hungary, 1970)
Petr Spaleny & Apollobeat: Kdybych Ja Byl Kovarem (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Vaclav Neckar & Golden Kids: Goo-Goo Barabajagal (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Breakout: Pozlabym za Toba (Poland, 1969)
Illés Együttes: Nehez Az Ut (Hungary, 1968)
Janko Nilovic: Xenos Cosmos (Yugoslavia/France, 1974)
Czerwono Czarni: Lot na Wenus (Poland, 1969)
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi: A Co Ma Bejt (Czechoslovakia, 1970)
Angelika Mann: Wenn Ich Mal (DDR, 1974)
Hana Zagorová: Svatej Kluk (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Chris Doerk: Glaub Nicht (DDR, 1974)
Czeslaw Niemen & Akwarele: Baw Się W Ciuciubabkę (Poland, 1969)
Josef Laufer & Their Majesties: Útěk z Hladomorny (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Grupa ABC: Za Duzo Chcesz (Poland, 1970)
Jana Kratochvílová & Discobolos: Kyvadlo (Czechoslovakia, 1978)
Bemibem: Podaruj Mi Trochę Słońca (Poland, 1973)
Alibabki: Slonce w Chmurach Lazi (Poland, 1969)
Drugi Nacin: Zuti List (Yugoslavia, 1975)
Olympic: Tobogan (Czechoslovakia, 1970)
Emil Dimitrov: Scherazhade (Bulgaria, 1972)
Arp-Life: Baby Bump (Poland, 1976)
Walter Kubiczeck: Tentakel (DDR, 1979)
Grupul Stereo: Coloana Infinită (Romania, 1984)
Marta Kubišová: Tak Dej Se K Nam A Projdem Svet (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Eva Pilarova: Ohen a Led (Czechoslovakia, 1970)
Izabela Trojanowska: Jestem Twoim Grzechem (Poland, 1981)
Grupul Stereo: Plopii Impari (Romania, 1984)
Manaam: Stoję, stoję, czuję się świetnie (Poland, 1980)

Prepared Mix:

Olympic: Ikarus Blues (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Sarolta Zalatnay & Metro: Fekete Beat (Hungary, 1973)
Filipinki: Nie Ma Go (Poland, 1967)
Halina Frąckowiak: Wodo, Zimna Wodo (Poland, 1974)
Kovács Kati: Add Már, Uram, Az Esőt (Hungary, 1972)
Marta Kubišová: Svlikam Lasku (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Czeslaw Niemen: Enigmatyczne Impresje (Poland, 1971)
Omega: Gyöngyhajú Lány (Hungary, 1969)
Locomotiv GT: The Worlds Watchmaker (Hungary/Poland, 1974)
Tadeusz Woźniak: Zegarmistrz Światła (Poland, 1972)

Various Artists: Privni Pantoniada (Panton) [7

Hana Zagorová: Verbíř (Supraphon, 1969)

18 Dec

Like Marta Kubišová’s Balada o kornetovi a dívce, released in the same year, Hana Zagorova’s Verbíř (The Recruiter) is a song that draws on a folk tradition going back beyond the Napoleonic era to feel relevant to almost any situation in which women are left behind by lovers, husbands and sons in times of conflict to reflect on the futility and loss caused by wars over which they have little control. At the time these records were released, at the close of the 1960s, their sentiments would almost certainly have been understood on a very personal level, resonating with both the relatively fresh memories of an older generation that had experienced the Second World War and, perhaps, with the raw experience of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, which had itself separated many people of younger generations from their own families and partners as many left the country or found themselves unable to return. The original Czech text can be read here and the song itself listened to here.

Verbíř (The Recruiter)

(after Jan Růžička/Drahoslav Volejníček, 1969)

My blood taps its fingers on my body’s wall,
the birds’ dawn chorus is a long croak,
black crows, starlings, dark buzzing flies
where thunder drums stone steps with rain.

A small grey man haunts the town square,
his recruiting song a wind between houses,
a whip’s shadow on the lit windows
where women stand and break like days.

To the fields, the cemeteries, the men go.
There goes my song, too, with a mourning keen.
Listen: my skin’s drum is tightening now
as I hear that shadow call for fresh recruits.

And the sun has fallen back. The fields swell.
Every village hears the galloping horse
pass by some silent corner of an empty house.
In the square, this small gray man sings on.

To the fields, the cemeteries, the men go.
There goes my song, too, with a mourning keen.
There is no man left to owe us anything:
each gave his life and left a woman here.

Now, pale as linen or the morning rose,
white with sorrow as a freshly laundered sheet,
we haunt this village that has no men left,
hear the shadow calling for still more recruits.


Hana Zagorová: Tisíc nových jmen (Supraphon, 1969)

12 Jun

Perhaps a more straightforwardly pop-orientated song than some of the earlier posts featuring material performed by Hana Zagorova, such as Rokle and Svatej Kluk. The lyric is a simple call to a lover that asks him, instead of stumbling in speech, to join the equally inarticulate Hana in renaming the world around them, expressing love through a playful (perhaps Edenic) act of making things new rather than more conventional (and probably doomed) attempts to describe feelings. It may also be worth noting that Zdeněk Rytíř is a key songwriter of the era and was also responsible for many contributions to The Golden Kids’ and Marta Kubisova’s extensive catalogues of songs, including some of the material which, in the years after 1968, led to Kubisova’s banning from recording, broadcast and performance. The Zagorova song presented here is less controversial in theme – though in its suggestion that the world be remade in secret, and language renewed, may well have a subtext of its own, albeit not a particularly obvious one – and its arrangement follows an oompah-style rhythm between its soaring choruses that manages to stay just on the right side of mere novelty. A 1969 TV performance of Tisíc nových jmen performed at a fairground shooting booth can be seen here and the original Czech lyric can be read here.

Tisíc nových jmen (A Thousand Names)

(after Karel Svoboda/ Zdeněk Rytíř, 1969)

I’ll not tell, being sad and shy;
I’m breathless as Monday,
cool as the breeze in your golden hair,
quiet as a reflection in glass.

What do I want to say, anyway?
I no longer know – do you?
Can you remind me, give me advice?
Where shall we go?

Maybe we can name the flowers,
forget what we know,
spin new words by the thousand
from this feeling, now?

It’ll be more beautiful than wearing
the empty weekday hours
like so many dull dresses
on a rainy, grey afternoon.

Think of it: thousands of new names
for a thousand flowers.
No one but us will know
how we’ve wiped the dust from this world!

Let’s go further still, name the wind
where it shakes a rose,
pretend we no longer recognise
the words we’ve learned for anything!

Come on, let’s make these flowers new,
sigh, say something, anything,
write a word on each leaf…
What else did we want to say, anyway?

Hana Zagorová: Svatej Kluk (Supraphon, 1968)

7 Oct

Somewhat different in style to Rokle, the previous entry here from Hana Zagorová, Svatej Kluk hails from the period of the Prague Spring rather than its aftermath, and its lyrics were written by Zagorová herself. It’s also among her best works in terms of performance, and she’s accompanied here by Flamingo, a band more often associated with Marie Rottrová (examples of their work with Rottrová can be heard on Tisíc tváří lásky and Chain of Fools). The Zagorová song, in contrast with these cover versions, is wholly original in composition: the song can be heard here (with footage of Zagorová in performance with Flamingo on a 1968 TV show) and a transcription of the Czech lyric can be read here.

Svatej Kluk (Sainted Boy)

(after Hana Zagorová/Richard Kovalčík, 1968)

My hands are clean, my dress unstained.
I see the world through a damask veil
as though I’m walking through my wedding day.

And you’re a Saint, a miracle, pure without washing
on the Damascus Road when darkness falls:
Am I in love or just stupid, my sainted boy?

When the wind sings loud you enter the house,
pull off your coat, start another fight with me:
we’re whirlwinds, flying among the sky’s red clouds

when home’s like a castle built of sand or mud.
Autumn’s sadness is blowing from place to place.
What can I say? My faith and flirtation blur.

I don’t know where one starts, the other ends,
whether this world’s miraculous, or merely strange.
Am I in love or just stupid, my sainted boy?

I breathe in, every sunset, how I feel for him
but storms always gather around our skins.
Dark clouds are roses when our lightning strikes.

Some tell me your vocation was to betray my faith,
but everything’s a story to gossips like those.
I’m at ease in my solitude at your side today.

My lips spoon honey from the golden air.
I spend whole days in wonder. My nerves are calm.
Am I in love or just stupid, my sainted boy?

I’m carried by hurricanes, dropped into your arms.
Shadows lengthen along the Damascus Road.
When the wind sings loudest you enter the house.

I’m at ease in my solitude at your side today.
Autumn’s sadness is blowing from place to place.
What can I say? My faith and flirtation blur.

I don’t know where one starts, the other ends,
whether this world’s miraculous, or merely strange
Am I in love or just stupid, my sainted boy?

Hana Zagorová: Mrtvá Láska (Supraphon, 1968)

5 Oct

Another song by Hana Zagorová, this time a more straightforward love song on the theme of loss. There’s a potent ambiguity here as to whether the death in the title is of the love between the central characters in the song, or of the unnamed loved one in a more dramatic physical sense: both interpretations seem possible, and this version follows Zagorová’s original (so far as I can tell) in allowing some slippage between the two readings as the lines proceed. The song is also notable for its echo, in places, of House of the Rising Sun, whose organ line appears to have found its way into this very different context, by accident or design. The song can be heard here, and the Czech lyric can be read here.

Mrtvá Láska (Love’s Death)

(after František Trnka/Hana Zagorová, 1968)

To all of the people this knowledge is given –
today is the morning our love died.

I walked at dawn, in the early sad light
where homes are shields and few words fall.

You told me you wanted my love behind walls,
my eyes grew moist, white breath failed.

I wanted to cry, lacked the strength to breathe,
closed the door on language and what you stirred.

Those words, in their sequence, had killed my heart.
You were a judge passing sentence: to execute.

So love died, then, and it was almost benign:
time to write a will, settle, then pass from life.

Perhaps love was too young, burned by fear?
Our time together left only a taste of ash.

That will is filled with sadness and unspent youth,
hands entangled, excited, in a speeding car.

Now I lay a wreath of rye in a white handkerchief,
a strand of child’s hair in a cellophane wrap.

I walk the cities, visiting each temple in turn,
clinking brass door-bells against clear glass, to ask:

Will you be careful? Don’t go loving as I did then.
Yesterday was beautiful. That love is gone

Hana a Petr Ulrychovi: Vůně (Supraphon, 1968)

16 May

Some of the records of Hana & Petr Ulrychovi, a brother and sister duo who sang both together and separately with many Czech bands from 1964 onwards, are already in English: Don’t You Break It Again (Nepřerušuj!) (recorded with Atlantis) is a particularly good example. The flipside, however, is in Czech and like much of their work hints towards the folk and early music influences that would come to dominate their output from the mid-1970s onwards. Vůně’s lyric appears to contain subtexts within the more obvious love song, largely an implication that the lovers’ separation and the ‘barriers’ causing it are not entirely circumstantial or romantic in nature, though unlike Hana Zagorova’s similarly allusive Rokle,  the Ulrychovis’ Vůně pre-dates the 1968 invasion. It’s also worth noting that there’s a tendency, so far as I can tell, towards a rather formal, perhaps slightly ‘courtly’ tone in many of Petr Ulrych’s songs that I’ve tried to retain to at least some degree in the version below. The song can be heard here, and the Czech lyric is available here.

Vůně (Fragrance)

(after Petr Ulrych, 1968)

I only know that you will come back soon
and what I have now will then be gone.

But your scent stays with me, for now at least,
and my own fragrance is inhaled by you

wherever you are. I knew a long time ago
what you are only now beginning to realise:

that river and grove offer places to hide,
that each day carries the scent of home

further away from us as it fades in the air.
Days become long. Fragrance leaves the breath.

I ask, ‘why us?’, as the scent of grass
and flowers merge with the thunderstorm,

the newly surfaced road. Since we parted,
taking with us the same perfumes, I wish more often

for time alone to breathe you in. No-one knows.
I hope you also long for this return

now the day, like a fragrance on the wind, is near.
But do not rely on remembering scent:

I may invoke more than a field of roses
when the barrier that divides us at last

breaks down. Love is the two of us, here and now,
and a girl needs more than a residue

of perfumes mingled on a chemist’s shelves.
Some days, I can detect no difference

between the rose with all its blowsy flowers
and a length of rope. I lose track of time.

Will the bloom regain its scent. What to do?
I only know that when the barrier that divides us

breaks down, we will come to love again.
May this fragrance lead you to come back soon.