Fish Gotta Swim, Birds Gotta Fly
Listening Post 188. In the enchanting voices of the Czech quartet BraAgas, the sovereigns of sky and water serve as messengers, bearing wise counsel, ill tidings, memory and witness to lovers young and old. On O ptácích a rybách (About Birds and Fishes), the four women—Kateřina Göttlichová, Michala Hrbková, Karla Braunová and Michaela Krbcová—mine traditional Bohemian and Moravian sources for their sixth album, which soars on their stirring harmonies and luxurious instrument palette, ranging from contemporary strings and woodwinds to Renaissance and Baroque-era items such as kaval, cittern, nyckelharpa and shawm. The avian and aquatic dramatis personae are busy across 13 tracks, in mostly gloomy songs of death and heartbreak but with a nuanced variety of musical moods, conveying cautionary tales to be digested like scary lullabies—with as much delight as fear. Among the dark stories is Brodil Janík koně (Brodil Janik Wades His Horses) about a man who dies by water and the grief of his beloved (video 1). Patience reaches its limit in Husičky (Geese), featuring a “girl” who waits 55 years for her love and finally marries someone else (video 2), while hope comes sooner to a woman in Rybičky (Fish), who seeks advice from the river’s scaly sages. An especially popular maiden stars in the Renaissance-mode Aj ty ptáčku kraholáčku (Oh, You Sparrowhawk, video 3). The album’s one acknowledged comical piece, Janek můj (My Johnny), features a dung-carrier who falls into his cargo, and then goes from bad to worse (video 4). Birds and fishes not only inspired the album’s songs, they also steered BraAgas back home: Formed as a folk and medieval group in 2007, the women focused their first five albums on Sephardic, Balkan and Scandinavian sounds but always harbored the idea of exploring their own tradition and turf—from the heights and from the depths. (Indies Scope)
BraAgas, O ptácích a rybách
Kateřina Göttlichová: vocals, guitar, cittern, nyckelharpa, bagpipe
Michala Hrbková: vocals, violin
Karla Braunová: vocals, flute, kaval, clarinet, bagpipe, other wind instruments
Michaela Krbcová: vocals, drums, percussion
Jan Hrbek: vocals, bass
Kateřina Göttlichová, David Göttlich, BraAgas: arrangements
Production: David Göttlich
Brodil Janík koně/Janík Waded His Horses
Janík waded his horses, but he drowned. His beloved ran to the fisherman to pull her love from the water. When she saw his body she sang, “And this is the fish dearest to my heart.” She then ran to bell-ringers to toll for her drowned love. Finally, she ran to the gravediggers, telling them to dig wide enough for her to lay down next to beloved.
A “girl” asks the geese to take a message to her love, informing him that she is getting married—to someone else—because she has waited for him for 55 years, her hair has turned grey and her fingers are now too thick for his ring.
Aj ty ptáčku kraholáčku/Oh, You Sparrowhawk
One young woman gets married and nine young men have their hearts broken because she didn’t choose them.
Janek můj/My Johnny
“My Janek was carrying dung and he fell into that muck. Then—Oh my God!—a crow flew in and captured him.”