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Call of Dudy: Bohemian Bagpipes Across Borders.

Call of Dudy: Bohemian Bagpipes Across Borders


Directed by: Radim Spacek

Peligroso Productions


Language versions: Czech, English, German

The division of the Czech Republic in terms of folk music, or more specifically folk instruments, is often schematised in a very simple way, i.e. in Moravia they play the dulcimer, and in Bohemia the bagpipes. Regardless of the fact that in Moravia the bagpipes (which Moravians call gajdy) are still played to this day in many places, and conversely people play the dulcimer in Bohemia, bagpipes are almost always involved whenever people claim to be offering a representative sample of Czech folk music. Western and Southern Bohemian towns like Strakonice, Domazlice or Cheb, are the principal places where the tradition of bagpipes is still kept up. In these areas Czech culture used to encounter German culture, in which we also find bagpipes.

It was to these areas that Radim Spacek headed with producer Jeff Brown and stage designer Keith Jones (both Americans who have lived in the Czech Republic for many years), to produce a report on the current state of bagpipe music.

The axis of the documentary is the International Bagpipes Festival in Strakonice, which has been held regularly since 1967, and which has grown from a get-together of local bands to an international review of bagpipes from all over the world. The founder of the festival, folk music collector and musician Josef Rezny, is the main protagonist and at the same time the most important narrator in the film. Michael Cwach, an American with Czech roots who in his search for other Czech immigrants in the USA decided to learn the bagpipes and sing Czech songs, can be considered his cinematographic opposite number.

The documentary is built up as a mosaic from the testimony of musicians (foreign bagpipers are represented as well), concerts from festivals and a quantity of archive materials--not just historical recordings of performances but excerpts from feature films that show how bagpipes have been presented in Bohemia and the symbolic aura they have come to possess. Appearing at the Strakonice Festival we see on the one hand "guardians of tradition", ensembles reconstructing the probable original form of folk music, but also musicians who take something from the tradition and mix it with other elements, for example the group Chodska vlna (Chodsko Wave) which includes the Chodsko bagpipes in the instrumental set of a rock band.

Apart from accounts of the history of the festival and all kinds of anecdotes associated with it (for example how a certain bagpiper from England was afraid of crossing the frontier into socialist Czechoslovakia), a great deal of time is devoted to the history of the instrument, the technique of play and tuning, and the instrumental sets in which the bagpipes have appeared. Through the musician and researcher Tomas Spurny we also touch on the relationship between Czechs and Germans and its reflection in music. For anyone interested in Czech culture (not just the bagpipes aspect), this film offers plenty of food for thought and in a filmic form that is stylish and effective. After several days at a bagpipes festival the sound of the instrument may drive some people mad, but the fifty minutes of this documentary can only awaken interest in this distinctive instrument.
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Author:Kratochvil, Matej
Publication:Czech Music
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Previous Article:Saved from the teeth of time: folk music on historical sound recordings.
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