A little history...
"Since arriving in Texas during the 19th century, Czechs have made music a central part of their social life. In addition to relying on traditions brought to Texas from their homeland, they have also introduced influences from other sources. The lyrical folk songs from Czechoslovakia formed the initial corpus of music performed within Czech families and at Czech house parties. Also, the brass band style, which was popular throughout Europe, made its appearance here through community bands and private local orchestras.
Polka music, which has come to be the most popular and best-known style of contemporary Czech music, drew on the Czech song tradition, the ensemble style of the brass bands and the wide availability and versatility of accordions. As (the) polka style flourished, it has been influenced by Western Swing, commercial country and jazz and has adapted to contemporary tastes to become the amplified, dance hall music it is today." - "Maticka Kultura: The Music of Czech Texans", Texas Folklife Resources
Adolph Hofner & the Pearl Wranglers
So just why am I doing this show anyway? Well, it's pretty simple, to try to keep alive the rich tradition of Czech folk music in the style of the early Texas Czech bands. You'll be hearing traditional Czech songs recorded by authentic Czech composers and orchestras (such as Frantisek Kmoch, Moravanka, Jindrich Bauer), classic and rare recordings by the early pioneers of Texas Czech Music (Bacova Ceska Kapela, the Joe Patek Orch., Adolph Hofner, the Ray Krenek Orch., to name a very few), other national pioneers of Czech music (Romy Gosz, Al Grebnick, Jerry Mazanec), and the small number of current Texas bands striving to keep the old-style brass sound alive (Harry Czarnek, Kovanda's Czech Orch., Tony Janak, Donnie Wavra, Round Top Brass Band, the Czech Melody Masters). In addition, I will also be featuring from time to time some of the Texas German and Polish bands who are also working to uphold their respective traditions.
So what is the "Texas Czech" sound? Well, it's kind of hard to pin down. I can tell you what it isn't. It isn't frilly, squeeze-as-many-notes-as-you-can-into-a-measure music. It IS simple music, played with heart and soul first, tuning and technique second. It's traditional centuries-old folk songs, sung in Czech, played in the dance forms popular at the time, namely the polka and waltz. Songs about everything that was important back then - love, death, work, sex, drinking, farming. In other words, songs about LIFE.
A number of early Texas Czech bands (and many of the current bands) were family bands, usually the father and his sons (and ocassionally daughters, as with the Bacas), or siblings, who basically played for the sheer enjoyment of it, to entertain their family and friends. Over the years, there have been virtually no touring bands, bands who do this for a living. Down here, it was strictly a weekend "hobby", a break from working in the fields. So no, you're not going to find many "hired guns" interested in making a few bucks, because frankly, there aren't many to be made here. Nobody's going to get rich playing polka music in Texas. It's purely for the love of the music and the thrill of playing that Texas bands have always existed.
So are you going to hear picture-perfect playing and superb vocals all the time? No. Are you going to hear bands playing their hearts out, putting every ounce of their love for this music into these songs? Hell yes! So, if you're expecting to hear lighting-fast accordion playing and busy horn sections, then you're probably going to be disappointed. You WILL hear Czech music played by musicians rooted in the traditions (usually first or second generation immigrants), music full of exhuberance and life. This is not just dancing music, it's beer drinking, singing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs, hoopin-and-hollerin music, melodies so rich and beautiful that they can send chills down your spine or put a tear in your eye. It's the music of Moravian and Bohemian gypsies, nationalist composers, and hard working Czech-Americans, and I'm damn proud to be a part of it and have the chance to share it with the rest of the world. So open a cold Shiner Bock, grab a dancing (or drinking) partner, and have some fun.
The one and only Joe Patek Orchestra
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