Eastern_Europe   Czecho-Slovakia   Czech Republic




Oldrich Kyn



Some students asked about "underground culture" or "underground sub-culture which existed prior to the fall of Communism". I am not sure what exactly they meant by underground culture or sub-culture. If it was rock music, than I recommend to look-up "Plastic People" (there surely will be something on Nexis). This was a Czech rock group that was composed of various artists and lead by a catholic priest brother Maly. I hope I am not mistaken about that. Their songs were quite political and the group was banned sometimes in early 1980s. They also visited USA and gave a concert in Medford or Sommerville a few years before the velvet revolution. My son was at the concert and he even may have some of their recordings.


There was another form of underground culture: "protest songs". Two of the most popular Czech protest singers Karel Kryl and Jaroslav Hutka came from cities in Moravia not very far from my birthplace. They both emigrated not long after Russian invasion. Kryl lived in Munich and worked for the Radio Free Europe, Hutka lived either in Sweden or in Netherlands I do not remember which. Their recordings were smuggled into Czechoslovakia and were very popular there. I have several records of each. Their songs are highly poetic with strong political undertext. Hutka's songs are based on the Moravian folklore. After 1989 Hutka returned to Czechoslovakia and is still active there, but I do not think that he is popular with the young generation now.


Last year I met Hutka at his midnight concert in the "underground" (literally) student pub in Bergen Norway. While he played guitar and recited his songs in Czech I drank Czech Budweiser and conversed with one Norwegian university student. "Why are you listening, you cannot understand a word of it?" I asked. " I do not understand the words, but from the melody of his voice I feel his Slavic soul and the longing of Czech people for freedom," he answered. The next day I talked to Hutka again at the cocktail party in the King's Haakon Hall. He was telling me in detail about his new mission to convince the nation that Czechs are actually Celts not Slavs.

Before the "forefather Czech" brought his folk to the country in the fifth century it was inhabited by a Celtic tribe Boii (the word Bohemia comes from Roman Boii-haemia or the homeland of Boii). There are many archeological findings of Celtic settlements , especially in southern Moravia. Hutka claims that some Czech scientist has a prove based on DNA analysis that current Czechs are genetically 60% Celts. This, he believes, is supported by the fact that Czechs and Bavarians (also descendants of Boii) have something important in common: beer drinking and love of pork meat. Hutka quoted some old Roman author who described Celts as beer drinkers and pork eaters.


Karel Kryl was quite an accomplished artist. His songs sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always implicitly political were also technically sophisticated poetry. He could write a long song where not only the last one but three or even five syllables of verses rhymed. He was also a painter and illustrated his own poetry. He was a national hero especially for young. After emigration he was deprived of the Czechoslovak citizenship but never asked for German. During his long exile we met several times in Munich and he also visited us in Boston.

 After the velvet revolution he gave several concerts to large crowds in Prague and elsewhere in the country. But gradually he became more and more disillusioned with right wing capitalist orientation of the new regime. He supported Social Democrats and wrote several very bitter songs. Supposedly his request for the renewal of his Czechoslovak citizenship was denied. He moved from Munich and settled in a small town on the Bavarian side of the Czech border. Now more than a year ago we received his New Year greetings card with a note that he was planning to visit us in Boston in Fall of 1994. But then came the announcement of his sudden death. There was a great funeral in Prague attended by leading intellectuals, artist, catholic clergy and thousands of common people. The government delegate gave eulogy but was booed by a crowd.





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