It’s one of the more overlooked international rivalries in football, but Slovakians must have been absolutely delighted with the way the European qualifying went for this World Cup. Ever since Czechoslovakia split into two nations, the newly-formed Czech Republic have left their new neighbours in the dust in footballing terms – in fact, they were the defeated finalists in their first ever major tournament, in 1996. Yet, in 2010, it was Slovakia themselves, with a little bit of help from Slovenia, that stopped the Czechs from appearing. The two countries remain closely related collaborators in political terms, but regardless, it must have been sweet. In a group that kicked off with two draws and thus remains wide open, they may yet do even better, even if their star player is terrified of his own tattoos.
Slovakia’s most common contributions to the record collections of music obsessives in America have tended to be progressive rock acts of various description, and while special mention should be given to the jazz fusion of Fermáta, the name that crops up more than any other is Marián Varga. As a solo artist, in collaboration with Pavol Hammel, and as a member of Prúdy and Collegium Musicum, his is a legacy that reverberates throughout Slovakia’s prog rock and art rock movements. Here’s Collegium Musicum, a band whose catalogue is largely built on instrumental rock arrangements of classical pieces, wih a spot of Bela Bartok that doesn’t sound anything at all like the original composition.
While we’re talking about classical music, it’s worth turning to Nationalism, as dozens of composers turned to the folk music of the Slavic people for inspiration. Slovakia, as we understand it now, obviously did not exst then, but the country appears to have inherited the mantle of Western Slavic culture more than any other, and so the most heavily Nationalist works of the likes of Alexander Albrecht and Ján Levoslav Bella (heard below) have tended to be described as Slovakian in recent times. Even if a Google search for ‘Slovakian composers’ asks ‘did you mean Slovenian composers?’. The swines.
Unfortunately, the range of Slovakian popular music seems a little narrow – the contributors to its Wikipedia page certainly haven’t managed to find room for anything other than rock, at any rate. Not even minimal techno maestro Monoide, who surely deserves some sort of mention, currently appears on that page; so why not given him some room here? I won’t pretend to be an expert – I’m not even somebody that can name more than one artist, truth be told – but if Monoide’s music is an indication of the kind of music regularly heard on the Slovakian club circuit then they might just have one of the most intriuging dance scenes in the world.