28. 2. 2005
Bůhví in Lucerna Music Bar
The first performance by Bůhví I witnessed took place in June 2004. A few months later the band performed another of their by now traditional gigs at Lucerna Music Bar on 23rd February. The club was as well attended as during their June performance (the majority of fans were once again young women) and Bůhví also invited some guests to share the spotlight. Since last year, the band's line-up has not undergone any changes and still includes immensely popular and talented Ondřej Brzobohatý (keyboards and vocals), Martin Hrubý (vocals and guitar), Jaromír Telenský (drums), Karel Pičman (trumpet) and Pavel Trojan (bass guitar).
Differences could be detected in performance as well as style: Bůhví appear determined to shake off the "world music" label in order to be acceptable to a more mainstream audience. Instead of costumes resembling traditional Czech dress the band members performed in ordinary clothes; most of them have radically changed their hairstyle and colour (Hrubý went for the blond look, Trojan was sporting reddish hair while Pičman's hair was blond with a thick black stripe). Only Brzobohatý and drummer Telenský looked unchanged. So much for the exterior image changes. Another vital alteration concerned the music: thanks to a vastly improved sound system (or a better sound engineer) at the Lucerna it was actually possible to discern the songs' lyrics. The band's sound was noticeably harder than in June, which does not benefit some of the more rhythmical songs but corresponds to the attempted makeover.
Bůhví played a hardly altered set compiled of songs from their latest album, Akt, and older hits that oscillate between Balkan and Eastern European folklore, Latin-American rhythms as well as occasional waltzes. Yet again, Bůhví failed to convince me: the songs did not impart the impression of a homogeneous whole but, on the contrary, of an erratically assembled mixture of currently popular musical styles picked from a wide array of world folklore. The style of the performance was unchanged: Hrubý sang most of the songs and jumped around the stage to the appreciative cheers of the mostly female crowd in front of the podium while his fellow band members did their best to support him with occasional solos or vocals (in particular Brzobohatý but also Trojan and Pičman). One of the low points of the concert was a song inspired by Latin-American rhythms to which a dancer, later joined by Hrubý, performed. The singer remains Bůhví's single greatest letdown: Hrubý may be an adequate showman with his eccentric stage behaviour, blond hair and intellectually looking black-rimmed glasses yet his singing qualities, I dare to say, are far below average. Brzobohatý is a far more talented singer; it is therefore mystifying why he is not given more opportunities to display his abilities.
The crowd, judging by the warm cheers of welcome, eagerly awaited the evening's guests. These were percussionist Camilo Caller and Mário Bihári, two members of multinational KOA, the band that for a number of years performed with Czech singer and songwriter Zuzana Navarová until her untimely death in December last year. Caller had joined Bůhví earlier during their set, while Bihári was later introduced and led on the stage (Bihári is blind) by Hrubý and Brzobohatý. Usually, a "guest" performs at least half an hour; Caller and Bihári, however, played merely two of their own songs and subsequently joined Bůhví for the rest of their show.
Bihári is an excellent singer and pianist who also plays the accordion but, most significantly, he has become a proficient songwriter, as he proved with KOA (some of the songs on Navarová and KOA's superb last album Jako Šántidéví were penned and sung by Bihári). Bihári's songs were enthusiastically received by the audience and left no doubt as to who the genuine star of the concert was. Bihári stole the limelight with his charisma, genuine emotions and musical craftsmanship. One could speculate that this was precisely why he performed a mere two songs. On the one hand Bihári played long enough to add some much-needed quality to his hosts' performance and provide them with credibility as colleagues in the "world music" genre, on the other it was made clear that he performed a minor role at the concert. While I greatly enjoyed Bihári's performance it simultaneously left me sad and with a bitter aftertaste: Bihári, you see, is inevitably linked to Navarová's outstanding persona and work and, as a consequence, some view him as her potential successor. Granted, "life goes on" -- Zuzana Navarová certainly wished to be remembered with joy and not sadness; yet I consider Bůhví's attempt (by inviting Bihári) to capitalise on other, by far more gifted, people's legacy and talent -- both Navarová and Bihári's -- to be highly deplorable.