09/05/2014 08:34 am ET Updated Nov 05, 2014

Czech's Mix: Crossroads Festival in Ostrava Part 1 (video)

The massive Colours of Ostrava Festival books major (and less major) acts from the world over. This year, there was a special opening night entitled "Crossroads" dedicated solely to currents in Czech music. Bands of every stripe were selected, from Jazz influenced Free Improv, to Folk, to Things Uncategorizable, but all Czech. Eleven bands performed in two different rooms: the "Cooltour" which was a listening room, while the beat ruled primarily in the Marley Room.
I will be covering the larger Colours festival later, but right now, here are a few of my favorite Folk moments from this very varied evening. More installments are following.

Czech"s Mix: Crossroads Festival in Ostrava from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Beata Bocek is a singer-songwriter from the Czech Polish border and I was struck by the simple beauty of her voice. There is a kind of folk "bel canto" in this part of the world, which you will hear in other singers, male and female alike. She can write songs that sound completely traditional, like her opening a capella song "Sad Eyes," or contemporary, like "Wayside Shrines." The common threads are the folk melodies she has grown up with and which infuse her music.

Jitka Suranska from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

The Czech folk heritage is still alive, and one of its strongest features is the stringband, usually cimbalom, bass, fiddle(s) and perhaps a balaban drum. Jitka Šuranská has made a name for herself as a fine fiddler and singer within folk ensembles, but she has also created some beautiful settings of her favorite songs, while experimenting with a Loop station. I've chosen one of her more evocative presentations here.

And while Šuranská may take traditional songs and give them her own interpretation, a band like BezoBratři is either reconstructing or re-inventing Czech traditional songs, using both contemporary and traditional lyrics. Ironically, I have chosen probably the only totally traditional songs that that band presented during their set. (Does that say something about my ear? Hmmmmm)

BezobratriforHuffPo from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Both songs are about jealousy. The first song is a murder ballad about a boy, who doesn't believe his girlfriend's love is true. He questions her three times, she swears she loves him, but..... The second song begins with the words "What have I done, that you are angry with me." It is a wistful song with a lovely melody.

for more information about Beata Bocek:
for more information about Jitka Šuranská :
for more information about BezoBratři:

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