Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Samantha Interviews Pavla Jonssonova

Pavla Jonssonova is the singer, guitarist, and bassist for the underground  Czech Republic rock group, Zuby Nehty. She formed the band in 1980 under the name, Plyn ("Gas") with Marka Míková and poet Naďa Bilincová. They performed at alternative music festivals throughout Czechoslovakia and at the famous 007 Club in Hradcany, Tisnova. They were a huge underground success and flaunted their anarchist views through a fused mixture of rock, jazz and punk. They gained popularity fast, and eventually the authorities began to catch on to the crowds they were drawing and their anti-establishment views.

In 1983 the band became blacklisted. "Plyn tried to pass exams that would officially allow bands to play in public." Pavla told me through email. "(Our) lyrics were found not suitable for socialist youth and the council in charge of the exams put the band on blacklist."

Not to be undercut by authority, the band simply changed it's name, to Dybbuk. It was a fitting change; in Kabbalah and European Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit, believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person that must wander restlessly, burdened by former sins, until it inhabits the body of a living person... the perfect name for a band that had recently been censured by the Czechoslovakian government.


Zuby Nehty  in 2008  (Photo by Karel Suster) 

As Dybbuk, they released their first EP on Panton Records in 1986. A year later the effects of their new name wore off, and once again changed the name of the band, this time to Zuby Nehty ("Tooth and Nail").

Through tooth and nail, and various lineup changes, Zuby Nehty continues to perform today, though now the band doesn't live in an oppressed society. Through the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the communist Czech state was brought to it's knees and subsequently converged into a parliamentary republic. This occurred at around the same time as the fall of communism in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland.

Then, through a process beginning in 1990 the Czechoslovakian Socialist Republic eventually separated into two different countries, becoming the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Music branched out into almost all forms, from pop, to bluegrass to metal to Indie to funk. A small underground scene still exists, but Zuby Nehty had become veterans of  the industry, and have grown from their underground roots.

The band today consists of Pavla on guitar, bass and vocals, Marka Míková on keyboards, bass and vocals, Hanka Řepová on drums, and Kateřina Jirčíková on the alto sax and the flute.

Samantha L. Thomas once again exposes the beautiful world of a music scene unbeknownst to most in the western hemisphere. Her travels have pitted her with scholars and revolutionaries, and in the case of Pavla Jonssonova, she was blessed with meeting both.

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When I first met Pavla Jonssonova it was her eclectic style and calm demeanor that caught my attention.  As a faculty member of Anglo American University in Prague and a major driving influence in the Czech community of alternative culture and music, Pavla along with her band, Zuby Nehty are driving change and empowering young people to keep embracing artistic media.

I have had the pleasure to study under Pavla through a Central and Eastern European studies program located in Prague, Czech Republic and each class offered some type of unique aspect into global alternative culture and evolution of Czech Alternative music.


As I prepare for graduate school at Anglo American University, the conversations have begun again with Pavla and I am beyond delighted to know her not only as a former student but also a global friend.  Pavla is the kind of woman that empowers people to value and appreciate they’re uniqueness and diversity.



Pavla  on bass, Hanka Řepová on drums

Who are your biggest musical influences?

King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd and also The Beatles, Rolling Stones.


Why did you start making music? 


I adored music, lived by it breathed by it. It made me high.


What are your thoughts on the underground musical movement in CZ before and after the fall of communism?


I loved the underground, wanted to be part of it, they were the best, so funny, so on edge, so authentic- After 1989 it is just a nostalgic memory.


How did your band form?


I started playing with my high school friend, Hanka, we wrote a couple of our own songs and played them on guitars. Then other friends joined in.


What other forms of art inspire you?


Literature, film, art, theatre.


What advice would you give to young musicians today?


Never give up.


Tell me a punk rock fairy tale..


There are some in Czech..Some said that when we played at Lucerna we were so high on adrenaline we could float through the roof. 


Pavla continues to be a driving force in music and alternative culture around the world and I am thrilled to know her on many levels.  I hope that her energy, strength and creativity continue to bring encouragement to individuals around the world.


-Samantha

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