Panenka scarves is one Canadian’s attempt to document his appreciation of the obvious and not-so-obvious experiences of a life in the Czech Republic. For previous Panenkas, click here.
About a month after I’d landed in Prague a buddy invited me to a concert and assured me I’d like it. We’d gone on enough road trips together to know one another’s taste in music, so I trusted him.
Turns out it was a good call, because that was the night I heard Tři sestry for the first time.
Originally from Prague, Tři sestry is a punk rock band you will (likely) never hear of unless you’ve spent some time inside the Czech Republic. However, if you’re here, they’re inescapable. Part of can be chalked up to good music, but a bigger part of it might just be sheer longevity. They’ve been together and touring the Czech Republic for more than 25 years.
Because of this, you’d be hard-pressed to find any Czech that doesn’t know at least a line or two from a couple of tunes. Moreover, look in any pub in the city and it wont be difficult to find someone who is willing to sing a lot of Tři sestry for you.
I liken it the Tragically Hip in Canada. Both are bands that have been around forever, both have had their biggest hits long behind them, both can be heard in pubs across the country, and almost everyone can hum a few bars – many doing so with a great fervor. Still, the largest similarity is that, better than all other imitators, they’ve found a way to tap into souls of their respective cultures.
Since coming to Prague, I’ve used their lyrics in an attempt to both improve my Czech and better learn about the country I’ve made my home. While it could be argued that a significant number of their songs only focus on only a small slice of Czech culture – namely, the pub – I don’t mind this assertion. After all, the pub is not only an important part of Czech culture, it’s also where I spend a lot of my time.
Arguably, one of the most well-known tracks is Kovarna I, a song that should to be listened to as loud as possible while shouting along to as much of it as you can.
Kovarna literally translates into “blacksmiths”, but in reality it is a reference to a pub the band used to drink at regularly. As a result, the opening lines of the song (translated), “On Wednesday I’m at Kovarna, on Thursday I’m at Kovarna, on Friday I’m at Kovarna, and again on Saturday I’m at Kovarna”, give you a good idea of the tone of the song, as well as the Czech love of the pub in general.
The chorus (translated again), “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – every day I’m at Kovarna” only furthers this theme.
A lot of their songs are like this, capturing the Czech love of pivo and putting it to music that’s fast and loud. Better still, it was (and still is) a great way for me to remember 5 of the 7 days of the week in Czech.
After that first concert, I was hooked, and I’ve been listening and learning from the band ever since.
So, that said, today’s Czech thing is me gradually trying to learn Tři sestry’s Pijánovka on my guitar.
As soon as I get it, I’m headed to the pub.