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Bristol Public Library to preview documentary on Czech Republic bluegrass artists

September 09, 2013

The Bristol Public Library will preview the documentary film BANJO ROMANTIKA on Sunday, September 15 at 2 PM in the J. Henry Kegley Meeting Room. The showing is free to the public. The documentary is based on the research and experiences of ETSU faculty member Dr. Lee Bidgood. BANJO ROMANTIKA (www.banjoromantika.com), introduces the musicians who play this unique bluegrass hybrid music. Czechs first heard bluegrass during World War II when the Armed Forces Network broadcast American music for soldiers. This strange new music: American roots bluegrass music—Bill Munroe, Earl Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, and others — found a great following among the Czech people because the music meant things that were great about America: freedom of choice (Czechoslovakia was communist), a return to the land where a man was his own boss (cowboys and cabins), and freedom of movement.

The Czechs’ love for the music was solidified when Pete Seeger visited and performed in 1964. Inspired by classic American bluegrass sounds, an assortment of musicians from across the formerly communist Czech Republic have melded the past, the political and the present into a lively musical tradition entirely its own.

The Czech band Druha Trava, featured in the film, will perform at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion on Sunday 9/22/13. This group is a premiere Czech band whose members have also worked in top level American bluegrass circles, performing and recording with artists like Peter Rowan, Tony Trischka, and Charlie McCoy. They are playing at the Bristol Rythym and Roots Reunion as part of their 2013 American Tour.

The documentary was created by Dr. Lee Bidgood of the ETSU Bluegrass Music faculty. Dr. Bidgood is a musician and scholar, performing and researching musical styles ranging from Mennonite communal singing to bluegrass, old time, country, and early music. His dissertation is titled "Performing Americanness, Locating Identity: Bluegrass and Ethnography in the Czech Republic." He received his PhD in 2010 from the Critical and Comparative Studies in Music program at the University of Virginia.

Lee has performed on mandolin and fiddle with North Carolina bands the Steep Canyon Rangers and Big Fat Gap and studied viola da gamba with Brent Wissick. In the Czech Republic he has toured and recorded with Roll's Boys and performed with other bands including G-Runs and Roses and Reliéf.