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Living in The Merry GhettoThe Music and Politics of the Czech Underground$
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Trever Hagen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190263850

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190263850.001.0001

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Underground Is Life

Underground Is Life

(p.139) Chapter 7 Underground Is Life
Living in The Merry Ghetto

Trever Hagen

Oxford University Press

The survival of the Underground after 1989 rests on the collective memory it has shaped in relation to establishments. This relational pair is the convention that holds the Underground together: the pathway of underground-establishment is continuous, the communist era being articulated into the multi-temporal meaning and use of establishment. This chapter addresses the nature of transformation in the Underground after 1989—although the ecology embraces change and technology, the musical material remains the same. The Plastic People of the Universe have now become the oft-quoted rock group of the Czech Underground, symbolizing Eastern bloc communist oppression, Cold War logics of liberty and freedom, and music’s borderless humanity. The Plastics maintain this legacy in local and foreign discourse while performing repertoire from their forty-five years of ensemble history. Yet the chapter also points to how new musical practices and meanings have grown in the Merry Ghetto, suggesting an Underground Renaissance. The contemporary Underground festival U Skaláka functions as an environment to reaffirm these articulations between musicking and forms of freedom, politics and historical identity. Continuing to play and to listen to Underground music nowadays provides conditions for Undergrounders to continue living within their cultural ecology and thus helps us to understand self-reflexive notions of the political during communism as not ending with 1989 but rather adapting to different forms of creative and political suppression in contemporary times.

Keywords:   trans-national memory, memory paradigms, rejecting the hero, canonization, freedom, witness, remembrance

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