(From Billboard, US trade music magazine, September 22, 2001)

Emarcy Readies Czech Folk Act Cechomor For Export

  PRAGUE - Universal Music aims to put Czech folk music under the global spotlight for the first time, with the worldwide release of Cechomor's fourth album Promeny (Transformations), scheduled for Oct. 22.

  To give the folk band's album greater export appeal, Jaz Coleman, the flamboyant composer and founder of U.K. post-punk band Killing Joke, came to Prague to collaborate with the band and produce its album, which includes Coleman's symphonic arrangements played by members of the Czech Philharmonic orchestra.

  The critically acclaimed album hit Czech shelves in May on the Venkow label, a division of the Czech affiliate of Universal Music. By early September, it had sold 24,000 units, and the platinum (30,000-unit) mark is expected to be passed by the end of the month.

  The album will be released worldwide on Universal's Emarcy Classics label, formed six months ago for locally signed classical crossover repertoire. All 63 countries in which Universal has a subsidiary, joint venture, or licensee have been sent the Promeny CD to see whether they wish to release the album.

  "It's important to bring Czech folk music to the world as nobody knows what it sounds like," Coleman tells Billboard. "We're heading towards an MTV culture and I think folk music is the antidote needed to stop the globalization of culture."

  Cechomor has a huge and loyal following in the Czech Republic. It uses 18th and 19th-century Czech lyrics-which are often bloody and brutal. "What is interesting about Czech folk music is the Celtic tradition," Coleman says. "When I played Cechomor to [British violin virtuoso] Nigel Kennedy, he thought it was very Irish."

  Coleman, 40, is noted for his symphonic arrangements of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the Doors. Cechomor is a five-member band led by singer/violinist/guitarist Karel Holas and singer/guitarist/ mandolin player Frantisek Cerny. The other members are Radek Poboril (accordion), Michal Pavlik (violincello, Czech bagpipes), and Radek Klucka (percussion).

  Coleman explains that Cechomor's sound has changed with his orchestral arrangements. "It's a fuller sound. It's making Cechomor great classical music. After all, the classical music of this country has its roots in folk," he says, referring particularly to composers like Leos Janacek and Antonin Dvorak.

  One Czech Philharmonic player suggests that Coleman has managed to tap into the Czech soul with his arrangements, and Karel Novak, director of Prague independent music publisher and label G&B Music, says he is also impressed by Coleman's arrangements: "It really sounds as if Coleman had studied under Dvorak."