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Day 4 : Moravian Madness

By Folk Combo, Dec 19 2014 11:00PM

On how Folk Combo met the 'magistro de viola d'amore' and concluded their Czech chapter in Hodonin, where they finally found the traditional folk music of Moravia.

We slept one night in Brno, the capital of the southern region Moravia and the following day we went to Litovel, a small town in the center of the region. There lives a luthier who builds the illustrious 'viola d'amore'. David had been waiting for the chance to try this member of the string instrument family, since they are quite hard to find. So we put our search for folk music on a temporal standby and went to Litovel for this unique opportunity. We gave him a call and made an appointment to visit him. Later that day, we met the 'Magistro de Violine': Vratislav Hrubý. He showed us his home atelier, a place without all the dust and tools one might expect in a luthiers workshop. On the floor there were only a few wood scraps and on the table, made from the wing of a piano, lied his beatiful piece of craftmanship. The viola d’amore', a 14-strings instrument, has seven strings that are played with the bow and the other seven sympathetic strings only resonate by the vibration of the others. All these strings together emulate the space of a cathedral! David had his moment with the instrument (see pictures) and afterwards, when we told Vratislav about our journey to the Balkans, he insisted on letting us stay the night in his house and to have a shower and a bed. In return to his offer, we cooked him a traditional Folk Combo dinner and afterwards we had a small stroll around Litovel. We spent the rest of the night talking about Vratislav’s passion, which is living in the jungle in Peru. It was a good moment to talk about how the music reflects the lifestyle of people; Vratislav, a professional luthier, told us that neither music or instruments are needed in the jungle, because the jungle has music in itself. He showed us that it’s possible to be very good at something and humble at the same time. Here goes an example: http://www.caviana.com/

The next day, we said farewell to Vratislav and returned to our folkloric quest in search of traditional music from Moravia. We arrived in Hodonin, a small town where we would hope to find...something folky. We found a collection of songs in a bookshop, asked around in the tourist information and went to the library (great idea) to see if they would have some books of music there. A sweet old lady overheard our requests at the reception and told us that she knew somebody who might help us out. She introduced us to Miroslava, an English and Russian language teacher at the library and we exchanged numbers. She would give us the numbers of local musicians. We went to a small pub, had some dinner and tried some local beer. We had our instruments and felt like playing. We asked the bartender if we could and she said it would be no problem. So we started out, playing Irish style, from behind the table and our glasses of Christmas beer. Like in the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we were joined by a couple of drunk locals who bought us beer and plum brandies. The more songs we played the more plum brandies appeared on the table and within 20 minutes we went from completely sober to a severe state of drunkness. After that alcohol explosion we meandered back to our Villa and the next day woke up with our heads feeling like a piece of wood and our brains melted by the plum brandy.

After recovering from the hangover, we gave a call to Miroslava and we got the numbers of a couple of local musicians from the area. They didn't pick up and while we kept trying, we went to Petrov, a town in the wine area of Moravia where you can find typical wine cellars built like a small Hobbit village in the hills and beautiful houses next to the vineyards. While we were walking around the wine cellars, we received a call from one of the musicians we tried to call earlier: Martin Šiška, the cymbalon player of Olina. They would play in Hodonin that night. The band got ready to play and we got ready to absorb the hurricane of folk music that would last for more than 7 hours. We filmed and recorded as much as we could, but the batteries of our devices weren't able to outlast the stamina of these guys. It was truly incredible to witness these folk giants at work. They could play and sing for hours, possibly days of music, right out of their heads. The people who were there also knew all the songs and everybody sang and danced. One of the locals said: "we don't need a DJ, we have got these guys". We looked at each other, completely overwhelmed by the event taking place in front of our eyes and both knew that our search had not been in vain. This was the thing we have been looking for: authentic, powerfull, higly energetic music played by a traditional ensemble of cymbalon, violin, viola (bratsch), double bass and clarinet. Traditional songs were requested but they also implemented popular music and classical music in their show. This was, as Martin explained to us, a neccesary development to attend to some of the needs of particular audiences. They told us they have been playing together for 20 years, worked regular jobs during the week and in the weekend performed with their band, which they considered to be a hobby. The shows they give were almost always of similar lengths, ranging between 4 to 8 hours with a few breaks in between.They only needed a few drinks to keep the engine running and would probably never stop playing until the audience could not stand on their feet anymore. If you want to have a hint of what we are talking about, click here.

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