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"Rock of ages"

Maraca synthesizes a world of sounds

February 21st, 2007

Where other bands might run shallow via the path of progressive rock emulations, Maraca’s past experience with the music of medieval Europe, the Middle East, Moravia and Slovakia gives the band a rich foundation for its ongoing changing sound. Combining guitars (both electric and acoustic), oud, violin, samples, drums and Gabriela Vermelho’s sensual voice, Maraca’s sound is admittedly inspired by British prog-rockers such as King Crimson. Yet, since the band’s beginnings in 2000, and over the course of a three-CD career (on the Brno-based Indies label), Maraca has proven that its diverse approach can provide a convincing musical synthesis.
Over coffee at Café Louvre, Maraca guitarist and founder Petr Filák explains his interest in King Crimson this way: “They use unique time signatures, but their basic influence on us is the freedom of their music. Even though [guitar player Robert] Fripp seems to be on the tight side, there is the playfulness of Adrian Belew, and these things balance. You can also see some of this playfulness in how they have changed their sound over the years. And, from a guitar player’s point of view, they have always been leading innovators.”
To further the guitar charge of Maraca’s sound, the band enlisted the help of Amit Chatterjee on its 2006 CD, The Body is Too Slow for Me. The Calcutta-born guitarist stepped into the global spotlight during his 11-year stint with Joe Zawinul’s Syndicate. When Filák says of Chatterjee, “He is using his own sound by mixing the tonality of the West with Indian music, from which he creates his own scales and sound,” he could just as well be describing Maraca’s ongoing journey though the tonality of ancient European music and folklore.
Filák began his music career working in the early-music ensemble Kvinterna during the ’90s. During that time he migrated from classical guitar to the lute, which led to an interest in the origins of the instruments in Arabic music. Picking up the oud, though, was not easy. “On one side, Arabic music is simple, because of the unison ensemble way of everyone playing one melody,” Filák says. “On the other hand, their microtones, which divide the scale far deeper than the music of the West, are a challenge not only to listen to but to play. So I’ve stopped trying to play Arabic music.”
With Chatterjee on board, though, stretching Maraca’s music into Asia is no longer a strain. As Filák laughingly recalls, during the band’s first sessions with Chatterjee he exclaimed, “You don’t need to play Indian or Arabic music when you’re with me, because I’m the Indian!”

Filák is clearly a band leader who does not take the easy road, whether attempting to champion non-Western music or seeking to work the more sophisticated and artful aspects of progressive rock. Discussing the better studio recordings of masters like Frank Zappa and King Crimson, Filák says, “The difference between England, America and places like the Czech Republic is money. We have, like, one week in the studio, when what we need is more like one month. I can hear so many things that could be perfected. But we are lucky that we have Studio V in Zlín, because I like analog.”
Filák points proudly to the AAD stamp on his CD. “I like to make each CD ‘AAD’ — with analog recording and mixing, followed by the digital master, because many people can hear or even feel the difference.”
With Maraca’s members scattered across the country and a bass player who lives in Slovakia, it’s difficult to find gigs in the Czech Republic that will even cover the cost of transportation. Although this limits Maraca’s live performances, the band members keep busy with other projects, including Zimbova, a sister band that specializes in Moravian and Slovak folk songs. Lead singer Vermelho is active in theater, and other band members work in the graphic arts.
Despite the limited exposure, Maraca’s CD sales continue to grow both in and outside the Czech Republic, especially in Slovakia, Germany and France. Oddly, its best foreign market is Japan, even though the band has yet to tour there.
Chatterjee is out on the North American jazz circuit this month, so he will not be with Maraca at the upcoming Akropolis concert. Still, the core five-piece unit, which includes the electronic wizardry of Robert Prokop, will be a treat for those who enjoy what is often called progressive or sometimes art-rock. As concertgoers will hear, using the word “art” to describe Maraca is not a pretense. This band has worked for it, and the results are beautiful.
- prague post

"Music on the Fringe"

When I first moved to Seattle in the late 80's I found myself hanging out in arty dives where I immersed myself in art rock and experimental jazz. At the time, innovative artists such as Amy Denio, Jeff Greinke, Rob Angus and others (most likely influenced by similar scenes in Manhattan and San Francisco) were turning music inside out and creating new musical possibilities. This acted as my antithesis to the ever so popular grunge and even some of the grunge musicians would sit in with the more experimental players. I mention this Seattle scene that spawned and or attracted musicians such as Wayne Horovitz because the Czech experimental jazz-ethnic world musical group, Maraca would have found a perfect fit in Seattle back in the late 80's.

As you might imagine, Maraca bends the rules a lot while creating soundscapes as opposed to actual songs. They weave a tapestry of tape loops, French horn, samples, strings, wind instruments, didgeridoo and even Pan's flute in which vocalist-violinist Gabriela Vermelho sings in hushed tones, creaks or sends her clear soprano vocals sailing over the top of a dreamscape. She is joined by Petr Filak (guitars and oud), Tomas Rohleder (percussion), Robert Prokop (sampler,
didgeridoo), Pimpa (cello), Radek Bednarik (woodwinds), Rudi Linner (French horn) and Ales Obkracil (bass). The group's recording Longe somehow creates a multidimensional fabric that recalls black box theatre, underground cinema and any other art form that lies in the fringes of society. Longe is both eclectic and imaginative, but certainly not for the average listeners and even the more sophisticated listener would have to set a mood before popping this disc into the stereo.
Many of the tracks revolve around Gabriela's vocals set against an arrangement of strings, horns and tape loops or samples. The guitar is often repetitive creating a hypnotic effect while various instruments, such as the oud and didgeridoo are used sparingly to create an exotic atmosphere. All the tracks are set to the work of the most famous Portuguese author, Fernando Pessoa, but only a couple tracks come close to reflecting the Mediterranean including Nuven and meu triste coracao. The track, I know, possesses an Arabic or Middle Eastern tinge with wailing clarinet and Gabriela's impassioned vocals.

While this recording proves unconventional and makes for an intriguing listen, the songs end abruptly while failing to flow into one another. Most of the tracks could be called mood pieces and at least one track, e hoje e ja outro dia could come straight out of a B-thriller. It sets a dark and creepy mood while never quite fitting in with the rest of the tracks. Obviously, this CD is not a crowd-pleaser, but it does offer other musicians inspiration. And it's always refreshing when musicians bend the rules and define their own musical boundaries. Maraca does that and does that quite well.

- cranky crow-Seattle


Maraca LP 2000
Longe LP 2003
Maraca-Zimbova - The bloody ballads LP 2005
The body is too slow for me LP 2006



Maraca, world music and alternative group mixing jazz,rock and electronic music, with folk roots all over the world. Czech Grammy nominated for their second album Longe with mystic portuguese lyrics by Fernando Pessoa. The singer Gabriela Vermelho wone the Radok´s award as the most talented artist in Czech republic of 2005. Maraca is colaborating with indian guitar, sitar player and singer Amit Chatterjee ( Joe Zawinul Syndicate) and just releasing a new album „The body is too slow for me“