Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Good Man is Hard to Find....

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m possible!
—Audrey Hepburn

Today's post takes us to western Slavic territory: Slovakia.

Last week I listened to some Czech brass band music and some Slovak folk dance music on YouTube. It made me think about why Czechoslovakia (a country that no longer exists) split up. It was an amicable breakup between two countries with similar language but totally different musical cultures.

It was weird to hear "Bavarian beer hall music"sung in Czech, not German. Culturally, Bavaria and the Czech Republic share two things: a love for brass band music and a love for beer. The best beer that I ever had was a Pilsener Urquell from the Czech Republic.  Turns out that the person who created that beer style was from Bavaria.

The first time I heard Slovak music was the theme song for a Slovak radio program in New York City back in the 1980's.  I didn't know the name, nor had I danced to it, but the song took up residence in my head. The music was haunting and beautiful and the first thought that came to my mind was a young woman, wandering in a field on a hot summer day, searching for something elusive to her.

A few months later, I was in Central Park, looking for the venue where the folk dancing was held (E. 82nd Street near the King Jagiello Statue).  It didn't take me long to find it because I heard that song again.  Because of that song I found the group.  A woman saw me watching, and drew me into the dance: "You can do this!" The dance was Horehronsky Csardas.

Slovak music sounds like Hungarian music with a Slavic accent because of the strong Hungarian influence in that region.  Here is an example:

As for Horehronsky Csardas, the song to it is To Ta Hel'pa, about a young woman who has an interest in one man out of 100 in the town of Hel'pa.  It was originally recorded (on vinyl, you can hear the needle static in the beginning of the recording, it's that old!) during the 1950's.

Here is a link to an English translation:

Before the Internet it was difficult to find folk song lyrics, and almost impossible to find them in English translation. Now I knew what had eluded the singer.....good men are hard to find.  Also, she would perform an amazing feat for this special guy; jump across the Danube, River of Many Names and a field as well. 

I don't know of anyone who could do this, except maybe Wonder Woman.  Here is an essential skill the singer could use.

This video shows a hydrofoil making the trip from Bratislava to Vienna. There are a number of huge vessels in this video. Check out the barges at 0:23 and 1:01. There are more if you continue to the end.

If our singer wants to jump across a river this wide and busy, she must be desperate for love.  This is a common them in folk songs; the desire for what one can't have.

Finally here's the video for the dance with lyrics so you can sing along.

If you enjoyed this you may also like:

The River of Many Names, Parts One Through Six (Part Six has links to the previous posts)

Balkan Dances That Are Often Confused, Part 10: Cigansko Horo and Ciganko (Ciganko is a song about a man who is madly in love with a Roma woman.)

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