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Jazz from Socialist Realism to Postmodernism


Edited By Yvetta Kajanová, Gertrud Pickhan and Rüdiger Ritter

In the 20th century, jazz was an important artistic form. Depending on the particular European country, jazz music carried different social, political and aesthetic meanings. It brought challenges in the areas of racial issues, the politics of the Cold War between East and West, and in the exploration of boundaries of artistic freedom. In socialist Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Poland, the situation began to change after 1956 and then 1968, when the ideologists shifted from the aesthetics of socialist realism to postmodernism. In Western countries such as France and Italy, jazz transformed from a modern to a postmodern period. This volume deals with the impact of these changes on the career development of jazz musicians – even beyond 1989 – in terms of various phenomena such as emigration, child prodigies, multiculturalism, multi-genre approaches, or female jazz musicians.

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Jazz Artists in the Former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and Their Conflicts with the Socialist Ideology


Abstract: This study presents and compares three Slovak jazzmen and their successes in establishing themselves in the Western world: the trumpeter Ladislav Martoník in Austria, the drummer Ladislav Tropp in Bohemia and Germany, and the double bass player Jan Jankeje in Germany. Martoník was shot dead by the Warsaw Pact forces in 1968. Tropp’s passport was consfiscated.


The history of jazz in the former socialist Czechoslovakia, Poland, German Democratic Republic, Hungary and Yugoslavia was marked by specific developmental paths in each of these countries. The political and ideological background which influenced the shaping of jazz musical culture in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (ČSSR) was connected with the 1968 Prague Spring events. After the pressure of the Zhdanov ideology of socialist realism had faded away (having prevailed in the ČSSR up until the early 1960s), a period of political liberalisation followed. Artists were free to travel to the Western countries and study abroad. However, free movement between the West and the East ceased after 1969 and remained barred until 1989. Although the official doctrine of socialist realism aesthetics was over, the ideological censorship still continued up until 1989.

Ladislav Martoník

For a long time, the Slovak trumpeter Ladislav Martoník (b. Košice, 28/12/1944; d. Košice, 21/8/1968) was the subject of legends and obscure jazz stories. Regular jazz listeners in 1960s Czechoslovakia never knew what had happened to Martoník because communist censorship had hidden the...

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