Theoretically a poll to find the country’s most popular singer, the Slavík vote is usually dominated by older, more conservative fans, and ancient crooner Karel Gott nearly always wins the main prize.
November 23rd’s ceremony, shown live on TV Nova, was unexpectedly entertaining, lifted by host Jan Kraus’s near-the-knuckle gags (asking Gott’s wife Ivana if the envelope she was holding contained Karel’s will, for instance) and satirist Petr Čtvrtníček’s unusual attire.
The 2013 Slavíks will mainly be remembered for a vote-rigging scandal surrounding a new, internet-only category, however.
On November 24th, the day after the ceremony, music website Musicserver.cz reported that the Šlavíks’ organizers had secretly disqualified Řezník (“Butcher”) from the Hvězda internetu (“Star of the Internet”) category to prevent him winning.
Designed to offend, Pohl’s hip-hop alter ego celebrates rape, violence, drugs, Nazis, serial killers and anything else that might provoke a reaction.
It’s the sort of music schoolboys listen to before they discover masturbation.
Here, for example, is Řezník’s most controversial track, Ta holka v mym sklepě (“The Girl in My Cellar”):
It’s not big or clever, but PraguePig.com finds some of Pohl’s work darkly amusing.
In December of last year, for instance, he got into trouble for selling parody Call of Duty T-shirts featuring Anders Breivik’s face:
According to music website Hudba je o život, Řezník was the long-time leader of the Hvězda internetu poll right up until voting closed, but was then eliminated from the competition without explanation.
In his place, another rapper, Johny Machette, was declared the winner.
Initially, Mattoni, the fizzy water company that sponsors the Slavíks and organizes the Hvězda internetu poll, claimed that the interim results published on its website were unofficial and didn’t reflect the real number of votes cast.
When that didn’t wash, Slavík organizers Musica Bohemica and Mattoni issued an open letter to Pohl, stating that they had decided to eliminate him from the competition because they “refused to support the propagation of extreme violence, which you systematically make in your lyrics and business activities.”
The resulting furore has divided the Czech music scene into two camps: those that think Řezník’s disqualification was Communist-style censorship, and those that think music glorifying violence against women should be banned.
In the anti-censorship camp, singer/songwriter Tomáš Klus, who beat Gott to the Slavík’s main award in 2012 and finished second in 2013, announced that he wouldn’t be taking part in the 2014 Český slavík poll, and Matěj Ruppert of funk band Monkey Business returned a Slavík award he won in 2006 in protest.
The Slavík’s organizers, meanwhile, published statements by a diverse group of public figures condeming Řezník, among them Richard Krajčo of pop-rockers Kryštof, Petr Janda of ’60s veterans Olympic, film director Václav Marhoul, and singer/songwriter Marek Ztracený.
Separately, celebrity lawyer Klára Samková announced that she’s taking legal action against Pohl, arguing that the video for Ta holka v mym sklepě incites crimes of violence against women.
The Řezník controversy is a thorny issue, testing the limits of freedom of speech.
Regardless of your opinion of Pohl, however, one thing is clear: Mattoni and the Slavíks’ organizers couldn’t have handled things worse, somehow managing to make themselves look look flat-footed and under-handed at the same time.
They’ve also gifted Pohl far more free publicity than a brief appearance at the Český slavík ceremony would have won him.