Jazz Section - Prague, Czech Republic
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member ToRo61
N 50° 02.520 E 014° 27.460
33U E 461166 N 5543441
Quick Description: Memorial of Jazz Section
Location: Hlavní město Praha, Czechia
Date Posted: 12/19/2016 12:23:26 PM
Waymark Code: WMTNRJ
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member taska
Views: 28

Long Description:
Jazz Section of the Czech Musician’s Union that was created in 1971. Formed through an “administrative loophole,” a group of jazz musicians saw the opportunity to become part of the union, and despite jazz being seen as “trash music” for the underclasses, was accepted. The Ministry of the Interior issued a number of guidelines, most importantly that the section was limited to a membership of 3,000. For the first couple of years after its conception, the Jazz Section kept within the confines of the laws. It began the Prague Jazz Days festival, which was expected to be a yearly event. It published a bulletin that discussed the ongoing music scene. As the section grew, the heads of the section became bolder and launched a book series that discussed all popular culture at the time — from Czech art, to rock poetry, a dictionary of American rock bands, to the 1984 Nobel Prize acceptance speech by Jaroslav Seifert. The first problem or law that it transgressed was the size constraint. By the time the Section was shut down, membership had reached up to 7,000 — 4,000 more than was allowed. Membership was also breached in other ways. The bulletin and book series that the section published spread quickly from hand to hand. Škvorecký writes “If in a high school one student belonged to the Jazz Section, the books and periodicals he was allowed to buy were read by practically the whole student body and usually also by the teaching staff.” As the Section’s popularity grew and their ability to sponsor musical events became more limited, it reached beyond jazz, and even beyond music in general to literature and art. They began to publish volumes of samizdat, or communist suppressed literature. Publications that were sold only to members in cultural organizations were subject to less censorship and in this way, the Section published numerous manuscripts on “alternative culture” and escaped punishment by the government.

Tensions between Jazz Section and communist government
The government’s approval of the Jazz Section was in part due to its intense dislike of rock music and the overwhelming popularity of that genre. As the rock movement began to become involved with the jazz scene, tensions erupted. At the fifth Jazz Days festival, the authorities got involved when a “rock operetta” was allowed to be performed. From then on until 1984 when the Section was shut down, the bureaucracy resorted to tactics of harassment. After the Jazz Section applied for membership in the European Jazz Federation, a member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in the early 80’s, the communist government feared bad publicity and could not shut down the section immediately. In 1980, the Jazz Days festival was cancelled under the pretext that 15,000 fans had bought tickets and the event could be listed as a “public disturbance.” In 1983, the bureaucrats sought to pressure the Czech Musician’s Union to dissolve the Jazz section. When this was refused, however, the government dissolved the entire organization.

The heads, Karel Srp and Vladimír Kouril, continued to run the Section even after its disbandment causing them to be jailed in 1986. This action was met with severe criticism from abroad including authors such as Kurt Vonnegut and John Updike. Beyond Srp and Kouril, five other members were arrested and given fairly light sentences. Though the real causes for the light sentences are unknown, Škvorecký speculates “you cannot really hold such things in Czechoslovakia when Gorbachev is in Moscow releasing Andrei Sakharov and other people. So the trial was really a compromise between the hard-liners in the Czechoslovak party leadership who wanted to make it a warning to anyone who dared to do something not fully endorsed by the party, on the one hand, and the opportunists who smell a new wind from Moscow, on the other, who were against the trial. It reflects a split in the ruling party.” These sentiments are similar to the ideas present at the end of WWII when everybody had their own rescued Jew to prove that they were good beings. Not to be undone by these arrests however, the Jazz Section continued while Srp was in prison.

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Plaque Inscription:
Ke 40. výrocí ukoncení 2. svetové války a vzniku Organizace spojených národu vysadila Jazzová sekce kveten 1985 Výsadby se v letech 1985-1986 zúcastnili: Kurt Vonnegut, spisovatel John Updike, spisovatel, Gordin Spilling, spisovatel Obcané a pracovníci velvyslanectví USA Wendy Lues, Bill Kiehl, John Braun, Madelaine Albrecht, Sam Westgate“. Po zákazu Jazzové sekce a uveznení výboru v roce 1986 pomník znicila tajná policie. Znovu obnoven ke 33.výrocí existence Jazzové sekce kveten 2004.
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Adress of the monument:
Ke krčské stráni
Prague, Czech Republic


When was this monument palced?: 1985, restored 2004

Who placed this monument?: the members od Jazz Section

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