Janicku nas, Janku
Danaj is a small orchestra that plays the folk music from the Eastern part of Czechoslovakia. It is called a dulcimer band, but there is only one dulcimer, along with violins, cello, standup bass and clarinet. There are male and female vocals, sometimes in a male or female chorus.
The average American is not familiar with of this kind of music, in which many different influences can be heard. The male chorus gives the feel of Russia. The violins provide a light classical music sound, like something from an operetta without the operatic voices. To my ears, at least, I was often reminded of the soundtracks to films of the 1930s and '40s, perhaps during a ballroom dancing scene.
The songs have the uncomplicated melodies of folk music. The strings back up the singers at mostly stately, sometimes lively paces, but never with the abandon of Gypsy tunes. The dulcimer comes in occasionally, reminding you that this is indeed folk music.
All of the songs are about people named John. The beginning of one lyric is "Oh, Johnny, Johnny, you smell like cloves." It might be just as well that you don't understand them.
Danaj is a good introduction to a rich legacy of Eastern European music that is not often heard in the U.S.
14 July 2007