The Rebelling Dames make a joyful noise

The Prague Post

Concert series at Municipal Library focuses on females

The phrase “rebelling dames” evokes a variety of images: Amelia Earhart, Thelma and Louise, or perhaps two elderly ladies sneaking off from the old-age home to joyride the streets in their electric wheelchairs. Some local rebelling dames will soon take over Prague’s Municipal Library, although these dames are focused on music not adventure.

Now in its eighth year, arts agency Taktika Muzika presents stars of the local music scene through its cycle Rebelling Dames of Czech Music. Female singers living in the Czech Republic – Czechs, foreigners and ethnic minorities – have been invited to perform at the Municipal Library. According to Ivana Barková, producer at Taktika Muzika, who is organizing the event, Rebelling Dames of Czech Music is proving increasingly popular.

“In 2003, Taktika Muzika agreed to cooperate with the Municipal Library and offered them the opportunity to host a monthly concert in the Great Hall,” Barková said. “We wanted a cycle to show that learning about contemporary music is pleasant and enjoyable, and devoted concertgoers have shown that our plan worked.”

In the beginning, Rebelling Dames concerts were held in the autumn and spring, with four concerts each season. In 2006, Taktika Muzika expanded and started the male counterpart of the Rebelling Dames: “Wild Men on Earth and Beyond.” Now four concerts for each cycle are held each year. Then, in 2010, the Rebelling Dames broke out of Prague to rampage around the country. Barková said they have held concerts at the Culture House in Litomeice, the Basilica in Ceské Budejovice and the Municipal Theater in Benešov. She adds that the Prague concerts have built up a loyal audience, consisting often of students, the elderly and families with children.

“We have a cultural environment and friendly ticket prices,” she said. “We offer a chance to hear singers and bands not in a small, smoky club.”

In March, Marta Töpferová brought her fascinating Latin American folk sound to the hallowed halls of the Municipal library. Born in the Czech Republic but now living in New York, Töpferová became fascinated with Latin American music and culture when she immigrated to the United States at the age of 11 with her mother and sister. She says the concert she played as part of the Rebelling Dames was touching.

“It’s always emotional to come home and play for Czechs, to sing in the place where I have roots,” she said. “I suppose it is part of the immigrant experience to try to grow roots in your new country, but the longing for the things you lost when you left may never go away.”

Töpferová joined the Rebelling Dames series this year on the suggestion of her manager. She said she was honored to be a part of it.

“The lineup was quite stellar, and one of my all-time favorite singers and dulcimer players, Zuzana Lapcíková [who played in February], was part of it as well,” she said.

The good company of previous participants in the program led the cycle’s next dame, Bára Hrzánová and her band Condurango, to approach the organizers herself. The band has a Latin sound, with most of the lyrics and music being written by Hrzánová herself. The group also sets poems to music.

“I often went to concerts at the Municipal Library myself as a student, so I am looking forward to the concert,” she said.

Hrzánová doesn’t believe gender makes a difference when it comes to music. “Singing is singing, and it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s a man or woman,” she says. “The important thing is whether it pleases you.”

Töpferová, however, is pleased to see programs like this focused on women singers.

“Many times women maintain a closer link to folk music, even if it’s not immediately apparent, so yes, I think more programs like this are needed,” she said.

Barková said she isn’t someone who pines for the “good old days” of music, and is interested to see how the female Czech music scene will develop. But she does have specific goals for the Rebelling Dames cycle.

“We want to refine a contemporary audience to imagine the female face of the music scene, popularize various genres and introduce lesser-known figures alongside established musicians,” she said. “We want to put Czech contemporary music into a context of foreign music and present its interpenetration and original synthesis.”