PORTA - National Folk, Ethnic and Country Music Festival
Ústí nad Labem, the Czech Republic
40-year Festival Anniversary
The Porta in Ústí nad Labem is a national festival of folk, ethnic and country music in which special international guests participate. It includes a national competition between bands that have won the previous regional competition rounds. The event features two main concerts and many smaller performances highlighted by a 10-hour open-air concert with an audience of approximately 5,000. The festival has been held annually since 1967 at the beginning of June and during the last few years has presented many foreign bands and performers such as: The Tinkers (IRL/D), Rosena Horan & Jean-Pascal Assailly (IRL/F), Across The Border (D), Tower Struck Down (GB), Rites of Man (GB), Dean Manning Band (GB), James Branam (USA), Grammy winner and daughter of Johnny Cash - Rosanne Cash (USA), George Hege Hamilton IV and his son, George Hamilton V (USA), Waldemar Matuška (CZ/USA), G-Runs (NL), Whiskey River (PL), Grupa Furmana (PL), Cafe Edit (SK), Czas na Grass (PL), Tim Eriksen (USA), Redlin (PL), Divozel (SK) etc... Some of these performances are recorded and broadcast by Czech TV and various radio stations.
A voluntary, non-political civic organization, without restriction to membership, Junák was founded in 1911 by Antonín Benjamin Svojsík, who, after visiting British Scouts, wanted to establish a similar movement in his homeland. In 1910, inspired by the writings of Lord Baden Powell, Professor Svojsík wrote Základy junáctví ("The Foundations of Scouting"), the first handbook for Scouts already operating in the Czech lands. In that book, he combined Baden Powell's system of education; ideas of the American writer, traveler and painter E. T. Seton (founder of Woodcraft); and the traditions of the Czech nation. He followed this with an experimental camp in 1911. The participants walked the entire 200-km distance on foot, and their luggage was brought there on a single large pushcart. In the quickly developing world of Scouting, Junák - Cesky Skaut provided a model to be followed by other numerous developing national associations, at the time.
Tramping, as understood in the Czech Republic, is a unique unorganized movement of people who spend their leisure time wandering about the Czech countryside, backpacking all they need to survive a few days of camping. The word "camping", however, should not be mistaken for the activities usually undertaken in commercial campsites - i.e. putting up a huge tent (or parking a house trailer) among hundreds of other campers, plugging in a portable idiot-box (TV) or at least a radio, sunbathing, fishing, and talking about weather, fish bait, the best TV soap opera, occupation, taxes and other bullshit.
A tramp is someone who would pack a sleeping bag, army canvas, mess-tin, spoon, knife and couple of other items, such as camera, cigarettes, hiking map and a few cans of cheap food in a rucksack (either a hiking pack, an army backpack or whatever suits his/her needs) and catching the first possible Friday evening train (or stopping the first car whose driver would give him/her a lift) leaving the city, and heading to the countryside. In the late evening, having made a few kilometers on foot and, usually, having a couple of beers, the tramp finds a suitable place in a forest where he/she takes out the sleeping bag, makes a fire and, having had a simple meal, gets asleep lit by the dim reflection of burning ashes and twinkling stars (provided it is not raining, snowing etc.). There are also many places which are visited regularly and which are called "camps" by the tramps. In such camps one can usually find a fireplace, some logs or benches to sit on, supply of wood (if you're lucky), sometimes a (more or less) sophisticated shelter or even a cabin, and - of course - people with similar preferences. Tramps call each other "comrades" and, though independent and unorganized, there's usually a strange feeling of proximity and intimacy, perhaps springing from similar experiences, philosophy, values and historical context. Some tramps form small groups which are also called "camps" which is most likely a relic from times when tramps used to visit the same place (a camp) every single weekend in larger extent than they do nowadays.
The tramps also came up with a special kind of their own music. The musical side was, of course, influenced by then-popular jazz and swing melodies but the lyrics remained unique, featuring Wild West themes, lyric confessions of love to a beloved female tramp, and fellowship. Tramp songs became so popular that they were even broadcast, performed in cabarets and theaters, and widely accepted by a large portion of mainstream society. There were also several tramp magazines published though most of these did not survive for long, and a tramp motion picture was shot as well. The existence of the film, despite being condemned as a "commercial love story in tramp scenery" by majority of tramps, also proves the fact that tramping was an important phenomenon at the time.
A couple of enthusiasts and fans of mentioned music genre drew together in 1960' in Ústí nad Labem and their activities brought into being the competitive festival of folk, ethnic, country music and tramp songs PORTA (first held in 1967 as Porta Bohemica). The event has been named according to the famous Porta Bohemica Canyon situated in the region of northern Bohemia (near to Ústí nad Labem) along the Elbe River, through which the ancient roads from Western Europe went to Prague. Such development was forcibly interrupted by the Soviet occupation and the festival was in on-coming totalitarian regime strictly prohibited especially in its birthplace - Ústí nad Labem. Its tireless organizers endeavored to hold the event in another places of the country. Due to great efforts of its masterminds the festival came back to Ústí nad Labem after so called Velvet Revolution in the beginning of 1990' what was greatly appreciated with both the citizens and the city leadership. The borough council has become its guarantee. In its modern history there will be held the 16th annual volume of the event this year in Ústí nad Labem and the 40th anniversary of the festival from its very beginning.
The ninth largest city in the Czech Republic, Ústí nad labem, with a history going back more than 1,000 years, lies near the German border approximately 62 miles north of the Czech capital, Prague, and is situated in the beautiful Elbe river valley in the northern part of the Middle Bohemian Highlands (České středohoří). To the north of Ústí extend the Ore Mountains (Krušné hory) and the Elbe Sandstone Region (Labské pískovce), which comprises the much-frequented tourist area, known as the Czech-Saxon Switzerland. The city is especially well known for its industrial character, and is a large producer of chemicals and brown coal; its history and heritage are strongly linked to its position on a main water artery and the beauty of its surrounding landscape which has inspired many painters throughout the centuries. One of the city's main points of interest is the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, with its bell tower leaning about two meters off its vertical axis.
Presently, Ústí nad Labem (www.usti-nad-labem.cz) with a population of 100,000, is the regional administrative center of North Bohemia, and functions as the seat of the borough council and ward authorities. It also seats a number of other bureaus, such as the agrarian and trade-licensing offices, and the financial board, thus setting a prime example in government administration.
THE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL of folk & country music and tramping songs designed for all kinds of non-professional ensembles and contestants from the Visegrad Group Countries.
Founded in 1967 in Usti nad Labem, the Porta Music Festival has become the biggest, the oldest and the most prestigious event of its kind in the Czech Republic; using proper organizational structure with round-by-round level advancement is designed for all kinds of non-professional ensembles and contestants. At the beginning of the imaginary "starting line" in the Czech Republic is only about 250 competing groups and more then a hundred in Poland, Hungary and the Slovak Republic. About 60 amateur as well as professional bands and soloists will be presented on five stages at the final event in Ústí nad Labem. Preliminary rounds and national qualifications (23) will run from 1 February 2012 to 13 May 2012. From regional rounds 30 songs will be qualified to the Czech-Slovak songwriting competition. The first three bands from the Czech national qualification, the first two bands from other national rounds (Polish, Hungarian. Slovak) and the Brána children's festival winner will advance to the final round of musician competition. This means that from regional rounds will be qualified 30 bands to the final of the international songwriting competition and from national rounds 10 bands to the final of the international musician competition. About 200 mostly young aspiring musicians from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will attend the final contest in Ústí n. L. The primary purpose of the event is to build an open platform approaching outputs of mutual comparison of musical skills and various styles or genres at a global scale and increasingly provide convenient site giving people the chance to appreciate their preferential music with getting favorable response. Reports from the expert panels and jury members consisted of all Visegrad Group Countries representatives - available to discuss particular competitors' performances - have also played an important role. Concerts of amateur bands in the songwriting and musician competitions will take place on main stages in the House of Culture, Lidice Square, the Outdoor Summer Movie and Větruše Château. In addition to performances on major stages some subsidiary shows, educational events and more are held all around the city.
Mezinárodní festival Porta Ústí nad Labem (c)2016 design: EM studio