OUR ARTISTS

RADIM ZENKL
Radim grew up in the industrial town of Ostrava, which is about 200 miles northeast of Prague. His parents taught classical music theory at the local college. As a young boy he studied piano and classical guitar. But as a young man coming of age in Czechoslovakia, Radimís interest moved away from the music of his Eastern European roots, drifting instead towards traditional "folk music" from the United States. He began teaching himself to play Mandolin by listening to tapes of bluegrass music sent home by friends who had escaped to America.

His music is a mixture of his classical training as a child, his Czechoslovakian heritage, and a passion for Western music that runs so deep that he defected to the United States to be closer to his musical influences. This was a mere three months before the fall of communism!

Today Radim's virtuosity and innovation have put his music at the forefront of the modern Mandolin movement in America. When asked about his own musical style he says, "It is difficult to describe. It's a cross between Modern Classical, New Age, Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass, Folk, Rock, and Ragtime. I guess you could say that my music is eclectic."

The Western influences seen in Radimís music goes back 2 years before he was even born. Pete Seeger brought his brand of American folk music to an outdoor concert in Prague in 1964. It was the first time the five string banjo had crossed the borders of Czechoslovakia. Not long after that, Czech musicians, who had taken pictures of Seeger's band, were constructing instruments of their own, and studying and playing the music of the five string banjo.

By the time Radim was 16 there were over 100 bluegrass bands in Czechoslovakia, a communist country about one-third the size of California. Radim says "Because of censorship and complete control of speech by the government, it was difficult to do this kind of Western music. On the other hand it was something to do which was almost against the government. It was exciting! Maybe that's why there were so many bands playing that kind music!î