Off to Slovakia, again…and also the Czech Republic?

Everything has at last been tied up earlier today for my very early-morning departure for Slovakia on Saturday from Birmingham International Airport to go to the Marcela Laiferová concert, next Tuesday afternoon at the same place as I went to last March to attempt to attend the Eva Kostolányiová memorial concert (the Dom kultúry Zrkadlový háj), but ended up sleeping through the actual performance a few hundred yards away in my hotel room at the Hotel Dominika in the Bratislava suburb of Petržalka (even as a ‘good European’ I’m still of that generation that thinks mostly in Imperial!) after a shattering journey over by ferry and rail, only arriving the day of my check-in and of the event.

So, this time around, I am flying out on Saturday morning (very early!) and checking into the Hotel Dominika on Saturday afternoon, which, all being well, should give me time to have a good trawl around the music and record shops of Bratislava and maybe also elsewhere in Slovakia to get hold of something for ‘The First Lady of Slovakia’ to sign, since, with being also involved in one thing or another, I seem to have dropped off my record-ordering over the Web to coincide with artists’ birthdays – an event that more or less started to happen around the time of Marcela’s birthday on 14th July, which is a great shame, since Marcela probably has – of the GOTGE artists from the former Czechoslovakia itself – the closest birthday to my own of 19th July. In fact, she sort of does share my birthday inasmuch as, apparently, I was five days late, so maybe I should celebrate the 14th as my should-have-been birthday! Indeed, since my journey of musical discovery that became GOTGE did, after all, begin in France, the 14th July would be an entirely fitting date to celebrate, if one thinks about it.

Despite the fact that, circa a year ago, Marcela first really came to my attention via her covering of a track that had been on one of the first LPs I ever owned (given to me as a Christmas present back in 1975, in the dim and distant days when I was more ‘Headbanger’ than ‘Soul Boy’) – Deep Purple’s first LP, ‘Shades Of Deep Purple’ – ‘Hush’, as ‘Mlč’, which actually literally means ‘Hush’ and that I later found out that she had previously really mixed it up musically, recording a Ska song, ‘Nemáš ma rád’ (‘You Don’t Love Me’), partly composed by her husband, Jaroslav Laifer (music) and also Branislav Hlubocký (lyrics) – my later developing a liking for Ska – Marcela has substantially merely come over to me as the distant ‘First Lady’ as she is described – my not really developing that same real and deep affection that I feel for Valérie Čižmárová, for example, but thanks to my recently discovering – almost by accident – that the YouTube uploading party ‘591010710’ is really none other than Valinka’s No. 1 Fan, Aleš Korábek I have been looking at what ‘591010710’ has been ‘liking’ in terms of other YouTube videos and what should be there be but Marcela’s song from 1975, ‘Potom príde víkend’ (‘Then comes the weekend’) (music by Viktor Szarka and lyrics by Zoro Laurinc) to which he remarks that Jezinky on the backing vocals are amazing. This is not that video,  (which isn’t a live-action one) but one of Marcela performing that song (with Jezinky also on stage). It really is very good indeed and quite charming. It’s also one of those cases where I start thinking along ‘Eastern Soul’ lines. In that context, I think one could safely say that Marcela has finally won me over after a year or so of her acquaintance over cyberspace…and inspired by this new-found affection I was looking around at more Marcela Laiferová-related material on the Web and only last Saturday found out about the concert (for just 3 Euros!) next Tuesday, to which I simply couldn’t say no.

What really has leapt out at me has been these two impossibly glamorous (and quite seductive!) videos taken from the Slovak TV show from 1974, ‘Hľadám útly most’ (‘I am looking for a frail bridge’) – the first one being of ‘Dávna pieseň’ (‘Ancient Song’) – music by Pavol Hammel and lyrics by Kamil Peteraj and the second one being ‘Strecha z dlaní’ (‘Palm Roof’) – music by Ladislav Briestenský and lyrics by Peter Brhlovič. Marcela is supposed to be the ‘First Lady’, but here she is being quite a naughty little kitten (with those winks to the camera)…and we love her all the more for it 😉

Finally, here is perhaps Marcela’s most notable performance, ‘Slová’ (‘Words’) at the Bratislavská Lýra of 1970 – the song which won the Zlatá Lýra (Gold Lyre) – music by Ivan Horváth and lyrics by Ivan Úradníček. This does more than just make me start thinking ‘Eastern Soul’ thoughts. It is ‘Eastern Soul’…and I’m heading to the home of the Bratislavská Lýra, Bratislava maybe actually to meet this great lady!

I guess I’m now a ‘Marcela Maniac’ as well as a ‘Valinker’!..not that that makes me love Valinka any less! It’s all ‘as well as’ in GOTGE-Land…not ‘instead of’! Although, if one thinks about the way in which her (married) surname is pronounced – her maiden name having been Keblúšková and her initial pre-marriage stage-surname having been Bujnová…which, I have seen, literally would have meant something like ‘Marcela Lively’ – how about ‘Lifer’ as a catchier alternative?…as in ‘a fan for life’…which also neatly ties in with her other name translated into English, of course.

Interestingly enough, since I have mentioned France, which inevitably brings forth thoughts of Isabelle Morizet – or is it Carene Cheryl, or is it Karen Cheryl? – and Anny Chancel – or is it Sheila, or is it Sheila B. Devotion? – that brings up, in turn, the contrast between the starry West and its obsession with devising fancy stage-names – like my ideas for what to call fans of a given artist! –  and what went on – with a few exceptions…Marcela clearly being one of them – in the more collectivist former Eastern Bloc, where the female stars stuck with the names that were given them at birth, or their married names, because doing otherwise might have been construed as having thoughts that they were somehow different from and superior to ‘The People’?

Oh…and, since it is all ‘as well as’, I’ve got some Czech currency together so, if the opportunity arises, I can have a bit of an exploration of Slovakia’s neighbour to the west.

Watch this space to see what I manage to get up to as I actually write my Blog from abroad for the very first time!




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