Commentary
8:12 am
Sat November 12, 2011

American Bluegrass, Imported By A Czech Band

Originally published on Thu November 17, 2011 8:41 am

NPR's Don Gonyea normally reports on politics, but he finds other stories along the way, like this one about a touring bluegrass band from the Czech Republic.

The first time I heard Druha Trava play was April 2009. I was covering President Obama's trip to the Europe. There was a big outdoor speech in Prague, and the band was playing Czech versions of Bob Dylan songs.

I did a short radio postcard story back then, figuring it was the kind of experience that every music fan knows: You stumble upon a great band somewhere and never see them again.

Now it's the fall of 2011, and I'm chasing candidates around Iowa. Who should be doing a show at the Czech and Slovak Hall in Cedar Rapids? Druha Trava.

Robert Krestan is a singer and mandolin player in the band. Others play guitar, bass, dobro and banjo. Inspiration comes directly from Bill Monroe and other American bluegrass bands, old and new. But Krestan says they don't just mimic the sound.

"Well, I don't just do American music. I write my own songs. I [have written] my own songs since I was 12 years old," he says. "So, it's kind of natural for me, and it's natural for me to combine American influences and my Czech roots."

On this tour, Druha Trava is promoting its first-ever English language CD. The band is on the road in the U.S., with a show in Wichita, Kan., Saturday night.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

On this program we regularly get stories from NPR correspondent Don Gonyea about politics, but sometimes Don finds something a little different for us,like this story about a touring Bluegrass band from the Czech Republic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Sometimes in this job you just stumble into something pretty cool. That's how I know a band called Druha Trava.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DRUHA TRAVA: (Sung in foreign language)

GONYEA: This recording is from my first time hearing them. It was April, 2009. I was covering President Obama's trip to the Europe. There was a big outdoor speech in Prague. And there was this band playing Czech versions of Dylan songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TRAVA: (Sung in foreign language)

GONYEA: I did a short postcard story back then, figuring it was the kind of experience that every music fan knows. You stumble upon a great band playing live somewhere and never see them again.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TRAVA: So now it's the fall of 2011 and I'm chasing candidates around Iowa, and who should be doing a show at the Czech and Slovak Hall in Cedar Rapids.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRYING HOLY UNTO THE LORD")

TRAVA: (Singing) Crying home to the lord, crying home unto the lord. Oh, if I could I surely would stand on the rock where Moses stood.

GONYEA: This time there was time to say hello.

ROBERT KRESTAN: I am Robert Krestan, Robert Krestan in our language and I am a singer and a mandolin player.

GONYEA: Others play guitar, bass, dobro and banjo. Inspiration comes directly from Bill Monroe and other American bluegrass greats. But Krestan says they don't just mimic the sound.

KRESTAN: I don't just do American music. I write my own songs. I write my own songs since I was 12 years old. So, it's kind of natural for me and it's natural for me to combine American influences and my Czech roots.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHUTTLE TO BETHLEMEN")

TRAVA: (Singing) I hear nothing, just a barking and a seagull's cry. Bells are ringing, friars humming, and the crows whiz by.

GONYEA: On this tour, Druha Trava is promoting its first ever English language CD. This song is called "Shuttle to Bethlehem." But there are also old favorites, including the Rolling Stones.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUMPIN JACK FLASH")

TRAVA: (Singing) I was born in a cross-fire hurricane. And I howled at my ma in the driving rain. But it's all right now, it's all right now.

GONYEA: Druha Trava, on the road in the U.S. They play tonight in Wichita, Kansas tonight. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUMPIN JACK FLASH")

ROLLING STONES: (Singing) I was born in cross-fire hurricane....

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.