Jaromír Nohavica: Kometa – The Best of Nohavica

nohavica2The Power of Song

Listening Post 64. In the 1980’s, before he had released a single record, Jaromír Nohavica was named one of the top 10 Czech artists in a national poll, but the Communist regime panned his lyrics and prevented him from performing at a festival. He ultimately became one of his country’s most celebrated musicians, a folksinger-lyricist-composer who, aside from his own songs, translated works by Russian and Polish artists, plus two Mozart operas, into Czech. His best-of collection is a mix of sad and sprightly reflections—philosophical, allegorical, satirical, romantic—accompanied by guitar, accordion and his soft/rugged voice. While Sarajevo dates from the Bosnian war, the song is more homage to the city’s resilience than a tale of siege: “The fire is still burning, the wood kindles slow/But now it’s time to go to bed,” he sings, “Sarajevo lies in that valley below/That is where tomorrow we shall wed” (video 1). Ostravo pays tribute to Nohavica’s hometown, a coal mining center turned cultural hub: “Wherever my rambling legs carry me/The birds in the sky/Draw me to that single road” toward home (video 2). The story of Zítra ráno v pět (Five O’clock Tomorrow Morning) is murky—is the “wall” awaiting a soldier at dawn a suicide march into enemy lines or a firing squad?—but the outcome is clear: “Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run,” he declares to his sweetheart, “So keep a candle for me lit…Don’t forget and live” (video 3). The album includes iconic tracks such as Kometa (Comet), a musing on life’s brevity; and the sorrowful, mesmerizing ballad Darmoděj (The Vagabond). Over 30 years, Nohavica has left a trail of more than a dozen albums—with no government standing in his way. (Magic Records)


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