On International Covers Day, listen to these Czech versions of songs you know

Radio 1 DJs have launched a day devoted to cover songs – and we've got their playlists!

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 05.02.2021 10:23:00 (updated on 07.02.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Get ready to laugh, cry, cringe, and, most importantly, forget about the C-word for a while.

Feb. 5 is International Covers Day a new holiday founded by Czech music journalist and Radio 1 DJ Jana Kománková

"One of the symbols of the current situation is an explosion in the number of cover versions being recorded," said Kománková. "Creativity continues to thrive, coronavirus be damned," she said, adding, "Artists paint pictures inspired by new situations. Poets express themselves in words – and musicians play."

Kománková and her Radio 1 colleagues will mark the occasion by playing cover songs all day long. We asked the Czech music journalist and author what compelled her to create a day devoted to musical copycats.

Czech music journalist and Radio 1 DJ Jana Kománková founded the first International Covers Day, Feb. 5.
Czech music journalist and Radio 1 DJ Jana Kománková founded the first International Covers Day, Feb. 5.

A growing number of musicians are picking up the ages-old tradition of taking songs from other creators. Standards, re-interpretations, newly-conceived traditional versions, and remakes of still-fresh songs bring unexpected joy into the world.

The date of the first International Covers Day coincides with the Feb. 5, 1996 release of Nick Cave's “Murder Ballads” album featuring Cave and guest musicians performing traditional ballads devoted to crimes of passion. An all-star cover version of Bob Dylan’s “Death Is Not The End" as reinterpreted by Cave, Anita Lane, Shane MacGowan, PJ Harvey, and Kylie Minogue closes the album.

For Kománková the album exemplifies the kind of art that can emerge when musicians embrace artistic license. She does acknowledge, however, that covers aren't always a cause for celebration.

"In the '80s there were a ton of awful covers in Czechoslovakia as 'western' music was not available," said Kománková who prefers hers covers on the sublime side. "I recently discovered a couple of excellent tracks from Czech post-folklore trio Ponk who do cimbalom versions of Billie Eilish and Bon Iver," she told us.

Kománková's own carefully curated International Covers Day playlist showcases the signature style that appeals to her fanbase, listeners whose tastes veer between Siouxsie and the Banshees and Nina Simone with plenty of Morrissey, New Order, k.d. lang (and my own personal favorite masters of the cover version,) Yo La Tengo in between. Patron saint of International Covers Day Nick Cave features in the lineup as well.

For those who like their covers with a little more sýr, Kománková has gifted us with an excellent playlist of Czech musical greats singing Western pop hits compiled by her Radio 1 colleague Douglas Arellanes, an American translator and DJ living in Prague since 1992. 

Highlights of this thirty-five-track treat for fans of Czech culture and the radio age include Helena Vondráčková's take on Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke," Jiří Korn doing the Eagles and Hall & Oates and, Karel Gott bringing his own personal touch to Kenny Loggin's "Footloose" and Alphaville's "Forever Young."

Whatever your musical taste Kománková said the most important aspect of the day is to take a moment to "celebrate creativity and artistic freedom." She said that International Covers Day is an "Opportunity to get to know the music that was previously unknown. Across genres and countries."

Radio 1 was the first private radio station in former Czechoslovakia. Tune in to Radio 1 on International Covers Day at www.radio1.cz, FM frequencies in Prague (91.9 FM). For more on International Covers Day visit their dedicated website or follow the movement on Twitter or Instagram. Share your favorite covers on social media with the #coversday #internationalcoversday hashtags.

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