Jan Trávníček

* 1948  †︎ 2021

  • „We had to fill out this paper every month with a repertoire and I think ten percent of the songs were allowed to be in English. After that, through the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA), twenty percent were allowed, and the rest had to be in Czech. Of course the Czechs always came up with a way around, so we came up with the idea to have instrumental versions of all the songs we sang in English. And whenever there was some inspection, we didn't sing, we just played. But they caught us a few times and we dealt with it the way it has always been done and will always be done. The inspector was taken to the side, half a liter of whiskey or something was poured into him and everything was fine.“

  • "We still had to go to auditions before going abroad, those were different auditions. There was no more playing from the notes, the band arrived, played and another jury sat there again, which decided if the band was able to travel. So we played as best we could, and some guy stood up and said, 'But listen, you play English songs only.' And we said, 'Okay, but we're going to Norway.’ , But you can teach those Norwegians our beautiful Czech language!’ ,But there they speak and sing and play English.’ Well, they almost didn't let us go. We explained in vain to the idiot that no one would be too curious about Olympic. They just have a different taste. They are a bit more focused on America and Britain. So the nonsense blossomed. "

  • "Now, of course, it's all different here, but then, in the 60's, 70's, those shacks, no one would fix them. And now we've seen the fields, the houses, they're mostly red. Well, I would always look forward to Norway and then from Norway back to Czech. Well, it was a shock, every time we had a new guy in the band we talked about how everybody would stare, ,Jesus Christ, do you see that?‘ ,Don't bother, we already know it.‘"

  • "We went to Norway, there we got a certain wage in Norwegian crowns; we had accommodation and food there. Not for free ... actually, it was for free, but with taxes. From those accommodation and food costs we had to pay 30 percent to the Kingdom of Norway and the rest was ours. From this rest Pragokoncert took 50 percent though. Imagine you have a 50 percent tax. It was no tax though because they couldn't tax us, we were taxed in Norway. So they came up with the ide that it was a mediation reward, but I was looking for all the contracts. I just always brought them, I came to Pragokoncert, there I gave the director 500 marks, he took the contracts, and when we didn't piss him off too much, we went out again. That's how it worked."

  • Full recordings
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    Zlín, 24.05.2021

    duration: 02:07:14
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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We found a place and did what we enjoyed

Jan Trávníček, 1978
Jan Trávníček, 1978
photo: Witness' archive

an Trávníček was born on February 15 1948 in Most, where his father Jan worked as a ballet master in the theater. Around 1950, the family moved to Zlín, then named Gottwaldov. There, his father worked as a communist functionary. During primary school in 1962, Jan founded the band Ozvěny (Echoes), in which he played for another ten years. He trained as an electrician, then served in the army in 1967-1969 in Ostrava. Upon his return, he worked in the Svit factory, the nationalized Baťa shoe company, and continued to perform with Ozvěny. In 1973 he started playing with the Orpheus Band, became a professional musician and would go on a six-month tour of Norway almost every year for the next 20 years. During his musical career, he got onto the StB’s radar and even got pressured into joining the Communist Party, but never became a member. He also spent the time around the Velvet Revolution on a trip to Norway. In 1994, he ended his career as a professional musician, worked for the Zlín newspaper and then did business. He retired in 2013. Jan Trávníček lived in Zlín at the time of filming the interview (2021).