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April 12, 2021



Is Czech folk singer's new song racism or social commentary?

19.8.2016 10:05
Jaromír Nohavica (PHOTO: Janothird, Wikimedia Commons)
Jaromír Nohavica (PHOTO: Janothird, Wikimedia Commons)

Is the Czech folk singer Jaromír Nohavica continuing his previous racism, or is his most recent song actually an apt criticism of society? It's very difficult to unequivocally tell, but Nohavica's previous seriously-intended anti-Romani song should be a warning.

"I'll put his eyes out"

Nohavica recently performed his new song at an outdoor concert,  and on first hearing, it seems to be a joke. "Shabadabada, shabadabada, shabadadada. An Arab touched my old lady, I'll put his eyes out. I'll kill that Baraba, that Baraba, Alibaba... from Syria," goes the song.

The lyrics can be interpreted in different ways. I asked my acquaintances and friends what they believe its message is.

What I learned was that there is a broad spectrum of approaches out there to Nohavica and his work. One friend, for example, was offended by it.

In her view the singer is continuing his racist or xenophobic approach to life, which began with his setting an anti-Jewish ballad by the early 20th century Czech poet Petr Bezruč to music and now has resulted in this tune. Another friend, on the other hand, takes this most recent song to have the opposite intention - he believes it is ridiculing those who tar all refugees with the same brush.

Other opinions ranged between these two extremes. Some listeners a priori reject Nohavica out of principle.

Those people dislike the singer's previous ironic comments about never listening to pop music, or they mention Jarolsav Hutka's song "The Informer of Těšín" (Udavač z Těšína), which talks about Nohavica's collaboration with the Communist political police and the state security forces before 1989. Some people are disgusted by Nohavica's approach toward his own past, which involves presenting various alibis for what he did in those days. 

"Dežo has a knife…"

The "Arab touched my old lady", of course, was preceded by the anti-Romani song "Dežo". Nohavica meant that song to be taken seriously:

Dežo has a knife
But I, Lord God,
Don't even have a stick…

My white skin glows in the dark
Like birdshit on an altar
Like gold coins in a gaming room 
Why wasn't I born black?

Dežo slithers over
Says to me "Skinhead,
Where are you going?"
It's a dark corner

My bald head glistens
It should have occurred to me
That somebody might slap me
Boo boo boo
Across my white mouth

"Unfortunately, this smacks of more than just birdshit on an altar. Nohavica is more or less shaking hands here with the corrupt Čunek, who in his time has also produced many 'malmots' (the opposite of bonmots), telling people that if they want to be better off and get social benefits, they must 'first get a bit of a suntan, go to the town square, light a bonfire there and make a mess.' Simply put, our nice Czech folk racism includes a sort of strange superstition that the Roma are actually better off than we, the white/working/orderly people, are," renowned music critic Kamil Fila wrote back then in RESPEKT.

Of course, I myself believe Nohavica is a racist, or rather, a singer who is willing to do anything, even something racist, for popularity. My tendency, therefore, is to believe he is up to no good in his new song about Arabs.

I'm not 100 % certain, of course. What do you think?

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Views: 3243x

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