Czech Folk Songs

Written by Jan Svajcr and Stepan Nemejc

Category: Czech Tradition

The folk songs belong to Czech folk traditions. This means that the authors are unknown and the work could have a different meaning in relation to the region from which it originates. Folk tradition is characterized as a language used by the common people, like people living in the countryside compared to those in a city. Czech folk traditions are from when people didn’t know how to write a long time ago. It was due to the fact that people in the Czech villages kept telling each other stories, which then passed on and sometimes the story was edited, so it is very unlikely to ever find the original version. People can still read these stories thanks to collectors of Czech folk traditions. These collectors went from village to village used for storytelling or songs being sung eventually were written down and put together to be published as a book. This collection of Czech folk traditions took place for the most part during the Czech National revival (19th century) when the Czech patriots wanted to get the Czech language back into the cities and make it the main language of the country instead of German, which was the language used by the officials. One of the best-known collectors were Karel Jaromir Erben, who published a collection of ballads Kytice and Bozena Nemcova, who collected fairy tales and released the famous book “Babicka”.

Folk traditions include folk theater, folk dances, and folk songs. All this is called folklore.

One of the main features of the Czech folk songs was the excitement of people in the village when they gathered and sang and played different musical instruments. As when people were working in the field, they were singing to make their work go faster. Another feature was when Czech people celebrate some special event, some valiant act, or to welcome a monarch. This is accompanied by welcoming spring or a celebration of a successful harvest. The celebration of events also created the tradition of singing Christmas carols. One of the traditions was to go dancing on Sundays when people gathered and enjoyed themselves, and today it is a habit to go on Friday or Saturday partying in the city. Folk music spread just as much as folk traditions and it was verbal, from one man to another, in the countryside. Unfortunately, this is dying. Young people have access to music from the whole world via the Internet and their interest in folk music is declining.

Different songs are sung in Moravia, in Bohemia, around Domažlice – Chodsko and different in Wallachia.

Frequent musical instruments include dudy (bagpipe), cimbál (dulcimer), vozembouch (devil’s fiddle) or basa (double bass). In Bohemia, in Chodsko – the area around Strakonice or Domažlice – the bagpipe is the most famous instrument, and there is also a popular story about Strakonický dudák written by J.K. Tyl. Vozembouch is quite a special tool which we do not meet every day, it’s between 1.7 and 2 meters high and equipped with various cymbals or drums, at the upper end of the tool placed an imitation of the human head, most often a turkey head with hair and a black beard.