Mikolás Chadima

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Saxophonist, singer, guitarist, songwriter, and bandleader Mikolás Chadima stands among the important artists of the alternative rock scene in the Czech Republic, during both the Communist and democratic…
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Saxophonist, singer, guitarist, songwriter, and bandleader Mikolás Chadima stands among the important artists of the alternative rock scene in the Czech Republic, during both the Communist and democratic regimes. Less known outside his home country than other key musicians like Pavel Fajt or Iva Bittová, he was an integral part of the development of the avant-rock scene through his work in Extempore and later his MCH Band, and was recognized as such by people like rock-in-opposition theorist Chris Cutler -- his political activism was also pretty much in phase with Cutler's views. Chadima's low, distant vocals, tortured electric guitar lines, and raspy saxophone give his music a distinctive personality.

Chadima (b. 1952) studied in graphic arts before turning to music. He began his career in 1974 as a saxophonist in Elektrobus, a prog rock group strongly influenced by Frank Zappa. The group's drummer Vlastimil Marek had previously been in Extempore. Both outfits shared a similar artistic vision, and when Elektrobus disbanded in 1976, Chadima was asked to join.

Seven years younger than Extempore's founder and leader J.J. Neduha, Chadima very quickly imposed himself as a creative force, both in terms of songwriting and influence. His first album with the group, Milá Ctyr Viselcu (1976), remains its undisputed classic. From 1978 to 1981, the saxophonist, who by then also sang and played guitar, led the group -- Neduha had been forced to emigrate. As a signatory of the manifesto Charta 77, Chadima also felt the breath of the Communist government on his neck. Despite the fact that the group was able to perform in the legitimate festival Prague Jazz Days, that Chadima was considered among the country's best musicians, and that Extempore received many invitations to play outside Czechoslovakia, the authorities made the group's life miserable. In 1981, the leader was able to go to London to perform his suite Velkomesto with Cutler, Tim Hodgkinson, Mick Hobbs, and Charles Bullen, and tour Hungary with his group. Despite the government's efforts to force him to emigrate, he was able to come back.

By 1981, Chadima felt Extempore was becoming a caricature of itself, so he broke up the band and took a year off. He put together a home studio and started a small illegal label, Fist Records, releasing "samizdat cassettes" (home-duplicated, with photocopied sleeves) of the material recorded by Extempore throughout its existence and concerts he performed in 1979-1980 with the free improv unit Kilhets. He also started a new group, MCH Band.

After the revolution of 1989, he was able to take his musical activities further. While record labels began to reissue Extempore's albums, he joined a new version of the band put together in 1990 by Neduha, back from exile. But most of his energy went toward MCH Band (the 1999 Karnival stands out) and various collaborations, including a string of occasional duo concerts with Dunaj drummer Pavel Fajt which led to the recording of Transparent People in 1998.