Prague has seen many memorable concerts over the years by international artists and a few which were legendary. This week, American heavy metal and thrash metal band Metallica was in town on the European leg of their world tour. Not only did the two-hour concert get stellar ratings, the band’s Robert Trujillo and Kirk Hammett made Czech music history when they performed Jožin z bažin by comedian Ivan Mládek and Banjo Band.
Jožin z bažin is a song that was penned by Czech comedian and musician Ivan Mládek and goes back to 1977, a catchy and very funny song performed by his Banjo Band which became an instant classic. The immediately-recognizable song tells the story of Jožin z bažin (from the swamp or the bog) a mysterious man-eating monster (that eats mostly Prague residents BTW) that is defeated by a crop duster.
The song became something of an anthem for the band already back in the ‘70s and it’s not hard to appreciate why.
Fast forward to 2008, the tune resurfaced and became popular in neighbouring Poland: it was reworked to parody then prime minister Donald Tusk; the Russians also borrowed the song to make fun of, you guessed it, Vladimir Putin.
But few would probably have predicted that Jožin z bažin would resurface again this week in Prague with a faithful rendition by members of Metallica: bass guitarist Robert Trujillo and guitarist Kirk Hammett had that task. The thrash metal band, founded in 1981 by frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, needs no introduction, for most. Enter Sandman, Seek & Destroy and For Whom the Bell Tolls, anyone, and now Jožin z bažin.
Ivan Mládek told Czech Radio that friends had sent him a clip from the Metallica concert the same night.
“I was surprised that it caught the attention of an American band, although the song has caught on in Italy, Russia and of course Poland. It is an honour for me, since I value the American music tradition the most, although I don’t understand this music I admit because what I know is Dixieland. But of course I was happy to hear that such a famous band had chosen to play the song.”
The performer, a household name in the Czech Republic - not only among older listeners - said he was especially pleased that band members in Metallica had taken the trouble to learn the words in the original Czech.
“I am really impressed that they were able to sing in Czech. We are all copying each other and trying to learn English so that was flattering… I only heard part of the clip and have to listen to the whole thing. But from what I heard, the Czech was excellent.”
Metallica’s performance in Prague received top marks from many: it received a 90 percent score from iDnes.cz’s Václav Hnátek. The band is continuing its European leg but be warned: if you are trying to get tickets, all of Metallica’s shows on the old continent are officially sold out. So be sure to check out clips from Metallica in Prague at least online.