Fragment will perform tonight at University Center

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

If Americans can perform music by composers Dvorak and Smetana, a Czech-Slovak band should be able to play bluegrass.

The bluegrass band Fragment will perform at 8 tonight at the University Center Ballroom.

Bluegrass from Czech and Slovak republics actually isn't that far-fetched. The folk music doesn't sound like bluegrass, but their inspirations are identical, says lead singer/bassist Jana Dolakova.

"They are very similar as far as the lyrics. They sing about the same things: Love and work."

About one-third of the music Fragment plays in its concert is original. The rest of the songs are bluegrass standards like "Long Journey Home" and "Wayfaring Stranger." Audiences expect to hear them, and Fragment wants to play them.

"We love that music so much," Dolakova said in a phone interview from their manager's home in Jacksonville, Ill.

Untraditional enough

Fragment also is untraditional enough to turn Sting's lovely "Fields of Gold" into a bluegrass song.

Dolakova has been named vocalist of the year numerous times in her native country, and other members of the band have won similar awards. The other members are resonator guitarist Henrich Novak, mandolinist Milan Marek, guitarist Tomas Jurena and the newest member, banjo player Richard Cifersky, who was voted Slovak banjo player of the year in 1999-2000.

Fragment was founded by another banjo player, Svata Kotas, more than 20 years ago and has undergone many personnel changes. The most recent was Kotas' departure for personal reasons.

Bluegrass exists on the edge of mainstream pop in the Czech Republic. The country has about 100 bands, some of which sing in Czech or Slovak languages. Fragment does not. "We prefer to sing in English. I think it's connected to English," Dolakova said, referring to bluegrass.

This is the band's seventh trip to the United States and third summer tour. On their tours, they travel across the U.S. in a van performing at festivals and seeing more of the U.S. This summer they have been to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park and the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

The band tours America in part because there are so few places to play bluegrass back home, but they have an added incentive.

"Our main reason to be here is to meet American musicians to learn more about the music," says Dolakova, who has a journalism degree and is a former script editor for Slovak TV.

This is not Fragment's first stop in Cape Girardeau. Last fall, the band taped a show later broadcast on KRCU FM's "Your Folk Connection." KRCU is sponsoring the band's appearance here.

Fragment also will perform live at 2 p.m. today on radio station KWKZ 106.1 and will play Thursday at the Twin Bridges Bluegrass Festival in Glenallen.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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