Here's the poster
Saturday, August 3, 2019
Sunday, July 14, 2019
The oldest known recordings of the banjo date from the 1890s and are contained in four wax cylinders recorded by the African American entertainer Charles A. Asbury.
The Retropod podcast is the latest to write about Asbury, following several articles last year when .Archeophone Records released a 45 rpm vinyl recording with 16-page booklet, photos, and notes.
|Lubos Malina plays banjo with the Czech Band Druha Trava, at Dobrofest, Trnava, Slovakia, 2006|
The Archeophone notes describe Asbury as "an African American veteran of the minstrel stage" who lived from ca. 1857 to 1903.
Born in Florida but raised in Georgia by a Baptist preacher, Asbury played Sambo in stage productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin before becoming a noted vocalist with the original Unique Quartette and a celebrated banjoist on the vaudeville stage. His banjo songs were popular in phonograph arcades all over the country in the early 1890s, years before phonographs went into people’s homes. He did yeoman work for the infant phonograph companies–churning out wax cylinders, a few at a time, for seven years–before disappearing abruptly from the annals of the stage and recording history[...].
The oldest recording on the set dates to about 1891, making it the oldest known banjo recording in private hands. Asbury played in the old minstrel “stroke” banjo style that virtually disappeared from the vernacular and has only in recent years been rediscovered and reinvigorated by scholars of American banjo music.
Click this link to sample all four tracks on the recording
Listen to the Retropod podcast
Thursday, May 23, 2019
My last post took note of a concert I attended in April by the Czech bluegrass band The Malina Brothers, with guest appearances by Charlie McCoy, the Nashville-based harmonica virtuoso and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Czech singer Kat’a Garcia. The concert was sold out, and got a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd. And it was being filmed for a live show DVD.
That concert took place in the Sono Center, a major venue in Brno, CZ, for contemporary music -- the audience numbered 700 or 800.
Less than a month later, the Malina Brothers, who are old friends of mine, visited Italy -- where they gave a house concert at the home of a friend.
I managed to live stream it from my phone, on Facebook -- and here it is. It was my first live streaming, so the visual quality is not the best (and it's vertical -- the program didn't let me rotate the phone)... but still. It's a testament to their talent that their same repertoire works in a big theatrical venue like the Sono Center -- and also in the intimate setting of a private living room.
Saturday, April 27, 2019
In Brno, Czech Republic, the Imaginary Wild West leaps off a wall…. advertising “the best steaks” in the city at an eatery called “U Starýho Bill” (At Old Bill’s) that calls itself “a real ‘TEXAS’ restaurant.”
The wall here was a few steps away from the Sono Center, a major Brno venue for contemporary music — where I was headed to attend a concert by the Czech bluegrass band The Malina Brothers, with guest appearances by Charlie McCoy, the Nashville-based harmonica virtuoso and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Czech singer Kat’a Garcia. The concert was sold out, and got a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd. And it was being filmed for a live show DVD.
The Malinas are old friends of mine. Banjo player and multi-instrumentalist Lubos Malina was one of the founding members of the great Czechgrass group Druha Trava, and I met him (amazingly) nearly 15 years ago, at one of the many summer bluegrass/country festivals in CZ, when I first started exploring the Imaginary Wild West in Europe.
Guitarist Pavel Malina used to play with DT, and fiddler Pepa Malina still sometimes plays with them. The Malina Brothers band came together informally at first, but over the past five years or so has developed a remarkable following in CZ — as the concert in Brno demonstrated.
The three brothers visited in Italy six years ago and gave a house concert at the home of a friend. It was the first of a series of house concerts anchored by Lubos. We’re looking forward to the entire band (the three brothers plus bass player Pavel Peroutka) coming next month. The brothers played this arrangement of Smetana at the house concert in 2013 — and at the concert in Brno.
On the night after the Brno concert, Pepa Malina performed with Druha Trava at the start of a a week-long tour with Charlie McCoy — a sold-out, standing-ovation gig in the town of Ceska Trebova.
Here’s a video of the run-through before the Ceska Trebova concert:
Charlie McCoy has had a standout career in the USA and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
I’ve written about him in the past, on my Sauerkraut Cowboys blog, because he is quite wellknown in the country music scene outside the USA. He tours regularly in Europe and elsewhere (i.e. Japan), and he makes a point to play with European bands and also records with them; he has released albums in France, Denmark, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Later this summer he will be touring in Sweden in England.
Onstage at the concert in Ceska Trebova, he recalled how he met up with Druha Trava — it was at the festival in Strakonice, CZ, where he was performing in 2001. DT was also on the bigg and asked if he would join them for a few songs — since then he has toured with them half a dozen or more times in CZ, released a live album with DT and also released a CD with The Malina Brothers.
Here’s a promo video about the Malina Brothers album (partly in Czech, partly in English):
I met Charlie back in 2005 during one of his tours with Druha Trava — the concert I saw was at a “Days of Texas” festival in the little town of Roznov pod Radnostem, in eastern CZ.
The festival, I wrote in an article
highlighted the fact that from the mid-19th century until World War I, thousands of people emigrated from Roznov and other towns and villages in the region to Texas. Today, Texas has the largest ethnic Czech community of any state in the United States.
There were demonstrations of 19th-century farming customs used by the emigrants and performances by American-style Czech country-western groups, as well as local folk groups performing Wallachian songs and dances. An exhibition of quilting featured a big patchwork quilt reading “Texas,” hung prominently from the upper floor of the old Roznov Town Hall.
And here we are in Ceska Trebova, backstage.