The Czech music scene saw a major revival following the fall of the communist regime in 1989. Suddenly, there were virtually no restrictions on the production of music, and many of the artists who were not favored by the communists were suddenly ready to release music freely. With this came the thirst for music from abroad and production that differed from that from the past.
The rebellious 1990s
Globally, the 1990s was a very hectic and revolutionary time for music. The Czech Republic was no exception, and some of today’s revered musicians originated in the decade. Let us begin with Lucie. Their hits Medvídek and Amerika are among some of the most famous tracks from the era. Lucie and its members were also linked with the unforgettable pop-rock band Wanastowi Vjecy (who will play at this year’s Colours of Ostrava following their comeback), characterized by, for example, their 1996 megahit Andělé and a plethora of tracks over the next two decades.
The energized and fresh alternative rock music of Mňága a Žďorp could be characterized by their 1991 track Hodinový hotel. Chinaski was formed in 1995 and are still producing music to this day. One of their early hits would definitely be 1. Signální. Much of their later production gained them success extending extending far into the new millenium. Buty would definitely belong to one of the more famous 1990s bands. Their often bizarre and unique style gained them a strong following. Mám jednu ruku dlouhou, František and Nad stádem koní are certainly among their top hits.
So far, many of the aforementioned groups featured male singers. However, the 90s saw a great amount of female singers surface as well. These would include Bára Basiková with her hit Bosa Nova from 1994, and most definitely Ilona Csáková, Lucie Bílá, Anna K. and others. Bílá gained widespread fame and acclaim with her many hits, including the famous pro-freedom of expression track Láska je láska and the slower and more refined Zpíváš mi requiem. Her distinct, harsher rock voice is instantly recognizable to the general public. She is among Czech Republic’s most successful singers of all time.
For those who liked rock and punk, the 1990s offered many new possibilities. BSP’s Země vzdálená became an instant hit in 1994 – a track in part inspired by George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Alice, headed by Dan Bárta, also had many memorable hits, including Ani náhodou. Kabát also rose to fame during this period, and is to this day, one of the most popular hard rock bands. Some of their earliest tracks included Děvky ty to znaj and Piju já, já piju rád. Tři Sestry and lead singer Lou Fanánek Hagen’s track Průša was one of their biggest hits of the time, and an indicator of future success. The 1990s saw the emergence of the controversial Daniel Landa, who produced hits such as Jó ulice, Andílek and countless more. For fans of punk rock, Visací zámek was a synonym for punk of the time. Their track Známka punku is a legendary symbol of the time and is recognized for its ingenious yet simple text.
On the alternative side of things, The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa was a Czech band which became quite popular during the 90s. As the name may imply, their production was not mainstream but gained a wide underground following, even making it abroad, particularly to the UK, where it was promoted by BBC presenter John Peele. As an example of their production, one could consider the 1994 track Fluidum. Be warned: this underground experimental music will not please everyone’s ears. However, it is often energetic and interesting to listen to.
The break of the century saw an emergence of fresh talent embodied by new styles and bands. Leoš Mareš, then a singer, surfaced to claim the throne with many teenage women with tracks such as Nejlepší nápad. On a more serious note, there were others who gained much greater recognition. Let us begin with Mig 21, headed by Jiří Macháček, a singer and actor. His initial fame came from him starring in numerous successful films and most definitely due to famous tracks such as Malotraktorem and Snadné je žít.
Other bands, such as Chinaski definitely saw and still enjoy widespread acclaim; many of their most famous hits originate from after the turn of the millennium. Dobrák od kosti and Možná are examples of such unforgettable hits. Dan Bárta and Illustratosphere also enjoyed a golden era. Bárta is also known for his single On My Head, from the 2004 movie Snowborďáci, as well as his solo jazz production.
Wohnout entered the music scene in 1988, but gained greatest fame following their 2000 album Zlý Noty na Večeři. Their song Banány demonstrates a vivid style and creativity. Their work is highly varied, with some songs being rather calm while others are lively and abstract.
Many bands, such as Monkey Business, became synonymous with the genre which they represented. In the case of Monkey Business, their funk production was fresh and striking and began in 2000. Matěj Ruppert’s theatrical performances and unique voice (and questionable English) have certainly gained him and the band (which also features American expat Tonya Graves) widespread fame. One of the first tracks that started off their success was My Friends. Support Lesbiens formed in 1992, broke apart in 1996, and then came back together four years later, with most of their music in English. Among their earliest hits from 2001 were Bet My Soul and Cliche which were, artistically, very different from the popular production at the time. Tata Bojs also became a staple of the music produced following the turn of the millenium with hits such as Šťastnější from 2002.
For the traditionalists, Čechomor combined modern musical elements with old regional Czech folk music, creating a substyle of its own. Some of their most famous tracks include Mezi horami, Husičky and Proměny. Some of these tracks are considered by many to be masterpieces on their own, mostly in preserving music in its local variations and modernizing it sensitively. Čechomor was also supported by quality voices, which would most definitely include Lenka Dusilová. Lenka is known well for her outstanding and distinctly clear voice; some of her hits include Pro Tebe and the recently released Baromantická. One should also mention artists such as Zuzana Navarová and Radůza with hits such as Studený nohy. Kryštof also enjoyed a golden era with hits such as Atentát, from the film Bobule, and Plán.
Most recently, we have seen the growth of young bands such as Nightwork headed by the beloved (by females and some males) Vojta Dyk. Nightwork have emerged with comical music and a unique style. The 2007 hit Mája and controversial but very popular tracks Globální oteplování – Já jsem gay and Teplák have imprinted their name on the popular music scene. Although less commercial in nature, Priessnitz was and is still a successful band that has been producing music for more than a decade.
There are, naturally, many more bands which have been linked with the post-2000 era of music production. Some of these would most certainly include Charlie Straight, Mandrage, Please the Trees, and others which most likely have many more hits waiting to surprise us. Why not have a look at some of their production in this article released earlier this year.
What is your most favorite Czech band or musician from the 1990s or 2000s?