Steel Strings And Iron Curtains – English versions of Czech political songs

Steel Strings And Iron Curtains

Released for the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, Steel Strings And Iron Curtains comprises ten famous protest songs by Czech folk masters Karel Kryl and Jaromir Novahica sparkle in new renditions from the Yehla Collective.

Gypsy jazz, western swing, folk guitar, violin and traditional fujara and koncovka overtone flutes add fresh flavors to the passionate, political and existential lyrics of “the two greatest Czech poet-bards our harshly tested homeland ever bore,” according to Czech folk icon Vladimir Merta

As acclaimed behind the Iron Curtain as Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger were outside it, Kryl and Nohavica remain largely unknown in the English-speaking world. But their subversive songs were underground favorites that needled the Communist regime from the 1960s through the 1980s. Kryl’s songs were officially banned and singers were jailed for performing them in public. They became potent anthems sung by Prague demonstrators during the 1989 Velvet Revolution and are still beloved today.

Both the poetry and underlying anti-Communist sentiments of these songs come out forcefully in the first-ever English translations by Roman Kostovski of Plamen Press, presented in new musical arrangements by the Yehla Collective, an eclectic group of US based Czech, Slovak, Moravian, Armenian and American performers.

“Each musician’s contribution to this album is remarkable, as is the production”, Merta said. “I always wondered how our music, limited by its language barrier, would be accepted by ordinary folk outside of our borders. These recordings prove that Czechs have an ability to create traditional tunes embraced by a worldwide audience today.”

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