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Music has long occupied an important and distinguished place in Slovak cultural life. In the first half of the 19th century, a national musical tradition began to develop around Slovakia’s impressive folk heritage. Modern Slovak music has drawn from both classical and folk styles. Well-known works from the 20th century include the compositions of Alexander Moyzes and the operas of Jan Cikker.

Traditional Slovak music is one of the most original of Slavic and European folklore. Its oldest form is liturgical (in Slavon) from the time of Great Moravia (9th century) which is the origin of the sacred music of the 15th and 16th centuries. National Slovakian music was heavily influenced by liturgical and chamber music.

Today, music is one of the most significant aspects of Slovak culture. Some of the most renown orchestras are : The Philharmonic Orchestra of Bratislava and Kosice, The Symphonic Orchestra of Bratislava Broadcast and The Slovak Chamber Orchestra.

Due to long-term political ties, Hungarian music has some common development with Slovak music. Slovakia also strangely enough had a crucial role to play in the development of Hawaiian music, Blues music, Country music and Bluegrass music, as the birth nation of John Dopyera and his brothers, the inventors of the resonator guitar (DOpjera BROthers-Dobro).

Popular music began to replace folk music beginning in the 1950s, when Slovakia was a part of Czechoslovakia; American jazz, R&B, and rock and roll were popular, alongside waltzes, polkas, and czardas, among other folk forms. By the end of the '50s, radios were common household items, though only state stations were legal. Slovak popular music began as a mix of bossa nova, cool jazz, and rock, with propagandistic lyrics. Dissenters listened to ORF (Austrian Radio), Radio Luxembourg, or Slobodna Europa (Radio Free Europe), which played more rock. Czechoslovakia was more passive in the face of Soviet domination, and thus radio and the whole music industry toed the line more closely than other satellite states.

From Bartislava Slovakian rock started with the band Prudy. After only one album organist Marián Varga left the band and amazed audiences from 1969 by creating Slovakian prog-rock styled after ELP and Yes with his band Collegium Musicum incorporating compositions by Bartok and Bach into long rockjams. Tara fuki managed to deliver music with a rock sound as a string duo, while the legendary Vladimír Václavek rather minimalistically creates moods so that he can more impressively launch into a rock-style assault.

Another rock band, Tublantanka, gained recognition in the eighties. More punkrock was made at the start of nineties by Trenčín based band Bez ladu a skladu. The more mature pop-side of the spectrum was ruled by Modus under leadership of Ján Lehotský. A group that would deliver some of the biggest stars of the Eighties amongst whom Miroslav Žbirka (together with musical partner Laco Lučenič) and Marika Gombitová. In the same field but more rock oriented was singer/composer Peter Nagy. In the same era the band Elán around singer Jožo Ráž (and Jan Baláž, also former Modus) became very popular. They remain one of the most popular bands to this day. More folk like music is made in the eighties by the band Lojzo. Synthpop singer Beáta Dubisová dominated the charts shortly with light albums at the end of the Eighties. Synth-pop band Banket spawned the solo career of Richard Müller who releases intelligent pop albums as a solo artist since 1990. In the new age Müller also regurarly teamed up with Jaroslav Filip who himself delivered some interesting pop and classical music in the Eighties.

After the Velvet Revolution and the declaration of the Slovak state, domestic music greatly diversified as free enterprise allowed a great expansion in the number of bands and genres represented in the Slovak market. Soon, however, major label brought pop music to Slovakia and drove many of the small companies out of business. The 1990s, American grunge and alternative rock, and Britpop gain a wide following, as well as a newfound popularity in musicals. A positive and local interpretation to this is brought by acts like Imt Smile and Desmod. Interesting is the band Horkýže Slíže who make a zappa-esque kind of music with intelligent lyrics filled with satire.

In the new millennium the influence of hiphop and urban music (like triphop) filtered through with bands like Peha (with singer Katarína Knechtová) and Puding Pani Elvisovej or PPE as most people spell it. Kontrafakt is a hiphop group from Piešťany. A more intellegent pop variety is made by ex-miss Slovakia Jana Kirschner.

The Slovak music scene has been very closed to exporting it’s music outside the country. To illustrate this you can look at how many times they participated in the Eurovision Song Contest. Only three times, débuting in 1994 (after failing to qualify for the contest in 1993) and leaving the contest in 1998. In 2009 they enter the contest again for the first time in over 10 years.

(thank you Ivana from Slovakia for filling some of the gaps)




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  EUROPOPMUSIC - Central Europe