On St Martin´s day in 2003, Prague trams carried to the proximity of the city´s Lucerna Hall loads of unusually outfitted girls and boys. To be more precise, each of them travelled in the company of a drum. While some were obviously members of the outfits billed to appear on stage during the night, others were just anonymous buffs who happened to be lured to the event among other things by the chance it offered for everyone eventually to join the musicians with his or her own share of rhythmic exaltation. This was the prelude to Ethnofest, a five-hour-long festival of ethnic music. The brains, moving spirit and inspiring voice behind the whole thing, Ida Kelarová, was taking with the same ease as she had displayed back in the 1970s, when she was improvising alongside her younger sister, Iva Bittová, during stage productions mounted
by Divadlo na provázku (Theatre on a String), a fringe company based in Brno. The concert thus became part of the present-day broad stream of ethnic music wherein the boundaries of style are less important than the fact of their permeability. That was why for instance the performance of the band, Romano Rat, reached far beyond the conventionally established image of Roma music, displaying an approach characterized by marked affinity with jazz. Still two decades back, anyone daring enough to name their number Kuku regae samba, would have been suspected of trying to create ballyhoo. Today, as performed by Tam-Tam Orchestra and by the Afro-outfit, TiDiTaDe, a wild mix bearing this title booms out an unbridled, exuberant effusion of pure joy for joy´s sake. Naturally enough, moreover, given such disrespect for boundaries, Ethnofest can easily accommodate the symbiosis, side by side, of downright amateur vocals, and the high gloss of the sheer vocal mastery of an artist like Fengyun Song, bringing together a wealth of genre facets, technical sophistication and a high degree of stylization. Resembling fish in water in the midst of this tolerant and dazzling multitude was inevitably bandleader and composer Jiri Pavlica, whose development to the current cross-over styles of his bands, Hradistan and Talant, was nurtured by field work with a regional dulcimer group, as well as by conservatory studies and a graduate course at the Janácek Academy of Music. More likely than not, each member of the audience found his or her climax of Ethnofest somewhere else, and just as likely the same will happen to the listeners of this recording. As for myself, I was carried farthest away from the madness of consumerism and closest to the peaks of brightness by the singing voices of three ladies. Ida Kelarová, early on, in the song, Joj mamo, exceptionally concentrated and turned towards the very depths of her self; and Fengyun Song with Zuzana Lapčíková from Moravia´s Dolnácko region, each pulling me up on her own thread of gold, weaving a texture of inimitable delicacy in their rendition of traditional songs from Tibet and Mongolia. The impact on me then still heightened with the three of them together, in Chodila po poli. Their improvisation could make me believe that Music must indeed have only one God, common to the whole wide world.
Jiri Cerny (Lotos Records)
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