Prague’s Country Music Redux

Who’d have thought that country music would be a musical staple of the Czech Republic? Stranger things have happened, yet through two world wars and 40 years of communist oppression, the Czech Republic’s interests in country music has remained – if not strong – then at least consistent. And it’s none other than the capital city of Prague, whose musical tastes run the gamut from jazz to the blues to techno-pop, which carries the torch for a genre of music that is typically American.

To understand the Czech fascination with country music is to understand the Czech admiration of what the music glorified: freedom, doing what is right, riding off into the sunset with the girl and the noble life of living on the prairie. John Wayne would be proud. All this underscored by the fact that as early as 1906, Czech audiences were already applauding the famous circus of the Wild West hero William Frederick Cody, better known as “Buffalo Bill“, and toured the world with Sitting Bull and some 500 cowboys, 800 horses and mock “how the West was Won” battles.

Fast forward through two World Wars and Communist leaders after 1948 were not too thrilled with Czechs who dressed like American cowboys and sang odes to freedom and life in the (Old) West. Country music went underground.

These days – thanks to fall of communism – country music lovers won’t go to prison. But musical tastes change and something so typically American as country music just isn’t embraced as it once was.

Like all music, resurgence in the Czech Republic’s fascination with country music is only a matter of time. Somewhere though, in Prague’s underground network of smokey bars and barely lit pubs, a singer is crooning about loosing his horse and the only girl he ever loved. And audiences are hanging on every word.