Meky - More ahead than we ever thought

Since Meky Žbirka's unexpected death in November 2021, it seems as if he's even more popular than before. Although he certainly couldn't complain about fan disinterest or poor concert attendance, it seems as if we only fully appreciated his true significance after his passing. The concerts for his late 70th birthday, which took place in London, Prague and Bratislava, were not only a demonstration of the admiration and love of the leading representatives of the contemporary Czech and Slovak music scene for this veteran, but also a showcase of great songs that everyone in this country knows. The four Anděl music prizes that Meky Žbirka in memoriam received for his final album Posledné veci, which was finished in London by his musically exceptionally talented son David, could almost be taken for granted - the album really stood out in the context of domestic pop: anchored in a classical songwriting approach and at the same time in the modern thinking of both generations of creators.

At the Metronome Prague 2023 festival, another reminder of Meky Žbirka is coming up. The project is called The Unmodern Boy from the Street of Knowledge and was prepared during Žbirka's lifetime. The singer was to be accompanied at concerts by the Czech band Midi Lidi and after many years he was also to return to collaboration with his former long-time artistic partner Laco Lučenič. The protagonist's death interrupted the preparations, but Midi Lidi and Lučenič finally agreed to finalize the interesting idea.

The repertoire is based on Meky Žbirka's three breakthrough albums, on which Laco Lučenič has a very important musical and mainly producer's share: Nemodný chalan (1984), Chlapec z ulice (1986) and Zlomky poznania (1988). On these albums, Žbirka and Lučenič managed to present - in contradiction to the title of the first album mentioned above - a purely modern vision of pop sound, in which electronics played a major role. These were purely studio projects, in which Lučenič recorded most of the instruments himself and looked for the most up-to-date possibilities of using synthesizers and drum machines, as well as interesting sound modulations of "live" instruments, while Žbirka focused not only on songwriting and exchanged the former lyrical world of Kamil Peteraj for his civilian view of the contemporary world and relationships, but also on finding a new vocal position. From today's point of view, we can say that the pair Žbirka - Lučenič managed to achieve what, at least in our country, younger generations of musicians had to work their way up to: to have both a deep musical grounding and a natural interest in what is currently happening in world music, to be able to filter it through their own talent, authorial handwriting and interpretative expression, and last but not least to be able to reach a really wide audience with many clear hits that come from this period.

It is not surprising that such a position excites the Czech group Midi Lidi. Back in 2008, they recorded their own version of the song Do člna from Zbirk's album Nemoderný chalan. From the beginning, the band has been exploring the fusion of electronica with various genres, including pop, and is characterized by its detachment and emphasis on the visuality of its expression, whether in concerts or music videos. "For me, the three albums are actually a kind of existential electronic trilogy. A kind of Mira and Laco's confession to what modern sound and style trends they were enchanted by at the time, and also a much more personal entry into people's souls," says Midi Lidi's leader, singer Petr Marek, about the three albums that were chosen for the current project. Who, by the way, in his side project Muzikant Králíček "professed his love" to Meky Žbirk in 2012 in the song Páči sa mi M.Ž.

The project "The Unmodern Boy from the Street of Knowledge" will undoubtedly be one of the most interesting at the Metronome Prague 2023 festival, if only for its uniqueness. And also for the opportunity to remember a filmmaker who was perhaps more forward in his work than we ever realized, and who is definitely worth following up on today.


15. 06. 2023