African-Czech jazz folks a breath of fresh air
Tomislav Zvardon and Friends still hope for 'duende'
Posted: September 11, 2013
Tom Zvardon and Friends play world music with a Latin beat.
"Music is oxygen to me. I simply couldn't breathe without it," Tomislav Zvardon said as he filled the air with a fusion of Latin, flamenco-jazz and pop.
Tom Zvardon and Friends, previously known as Duende, render everything from tonic jazz to flamenco beats, which are enhanced mellifluously by an exotic Czech-Nigerian vocalist with a burst of energy - a clear breath of fresh air for the band and for the Prague music scene.
When: Sept. 19 at 7
Where: Gallery Fox, Křemencova 176/6, Prague 1
Czech composer, writer and guitarist Zvardon, who masterminded the band, told The Prague Post how he deliberately explores and combines world music as a fearless experiment that can't go wrong because despite vast cultural, language and preferential differences across the globe, "music is a language we can all understand."
"Each language has different rhythmical patterns, and that inspires me a lot," he said. "I think that music, phrasing and rhythm are connected a great deal."
There is a clear passion for variety with this band. Each song sucks you into a trance and keeps you floating there on exotic, foreign beats. "Afrika Lullaby" sung in African and coated beautifully by Tom's guitar, is so melodically captivating that it tells a story of its own, and the need to understand the lyrics goes right out of the window.
Other songs, such as "Song About Nature" and "Fire in the Sea" fill the room with a spicy, Latin energy that, combined with guitar melodies and outstanding saxophone solos, makes it hard to stay in your seat. Even the crowds that were sitting down to a meal couldn't help but strain their necks to get a glimpse of the musical fireworks coming from the stage.
Alongside Zvardon on guitar, a recent show featured Adrian Ševeček on drums, Madla Vyhnálková on double bass, guest saxophonist Jan Karez, and the cherry on the cake, singer Mariana Wesley, who deserves utmost credit for adding that special touch to the band's persona. The Czech-born singer was brought up in Nigeria, where she spent the first 12 years of her life, but came back after the African economy showed to not be doing so well. Since then she has been back in the Czech Republic and now, luckily for us, is an up and coming performer in and round the cobble-stoned streets of Prague.
Guest saxophonist Jan Karez, who is known for his part of another popular Prague band, Kaia Brown and the Tonny Blues Band, adds swirls of color and magnitude to the air with his consuming solos when he sits in. Karez plays intensely and thoroughly, and occasionally comes out of the shadows to show that his talents are not limited only to his instrument - as Mariana stepped back, he took the limelight and showed that he is also a capable vocalist.
"This is such a different experience from that I had when playing with the acid-jazz or ethno-pop groups such as Plazma, the Fizz, or Amirante," he said.
"Having enough space for insane improvisations upon a groovy background and opposite to that just delicately supporting the beautiful vocal lines of Mariana makes me feel good during my performances with this band," he said.
After a recent concert, Tom spoke of his desire to explore more African music. "Most of our songs are in English, one song is sung in African. We used to have some songs in Georgian, because our former singer was originally Georgian. Now our singer is half Czech and half Nigerian, so we would like to write a song in Nigerian," he said.
"I like being inspired by many different musical genres coming from different countries of the world and then I like to mix them together. Jazz gives me freedom and enables me to improvise; via rhythmically interesting Latino-American and African music to flamenco, which I find to be full of expressions and tension," he added.
"Together in our band we are trying not to miss [having] the all-important duende - it means the magical harmony between musicians, performers and audience. The best thing would be to join our concert and to make your own opinion."
Kirsty Rigg can be reached at
Tags: Africa, jazz, flamenco.