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From pop to psytrance: Christian music in Slovakia

Published August, 2014
by Samčo, brat Dážďoviek

Slovakia may not be the most religious country of EU, but it’s certainly the country, where religious structures, especially the Roman-Catholic Church have exceptional influence. Naturally, there also exists a Christian music scene in Slovakia as a sort of autonomous subculture. It’s quite big, but if you’re not a young Christian, it isn’t likely you will ever notice it. It’s also a sort of secret subculture – not because it’s closed to non-Christians, but because non-Christians are not interested in it – it’s quite hard to find anything interesting musically there. While other contemporary subcultures try to differ from what’s considered normal, the Christian music subculture worldwide, and especially the Slovak one, had been the true normcore long before this term was coined.

Why so? Before the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, Christianity itself was sort of an underground movement. In the atheist Czech Republic, musical underground was directly connected with Christian dissidents (that’s why Christian music scene in the Czech Republic is still smaller, but more diverse than in Slovakia). Underground music movements in Slovakia itself started relatively late compared to the Czech Republic – at the beginning of 80’s – and Christian music began to spread this way just about that time on its own, and without any connection to non-Christian underground music scene. One of the notable examples was priest Anton Fabián, who ran an illegal home recording studio in the village of Hýľov near Košice, Slovakia (equipped with a Korg synthetiser and a Japan-made reel tape recorder – machines rarely available in Eastern Bloc at that time), where the music by various Christian bands (“Košičania”, for instance) was recorded and then copied onto MC tapes – at that time, it was the most common way of spreading banned music in socialist Czechoslovakia.

After the Velvet Revolution, the Christian scene continued to rise, but still spreading among people mostly, not through mass media, but spontaneously as “campfire folk music” or as songs sung on so-called “youth Holy Masses” (where instead of organ-played compositions, the Christian pop music is played on guitar – accompanying youth amateur ensembles – it is still quite common in Slovakia, and for lot of Christians also a nightmare – one quote from an attendee of such event says it all: “The level of musicality was even worse than at Baptists and Adventists events!”) – so, it can be considered as contemporary folklore which has its authors, and it is still spreading this way today.

The professionalisation of this scene arrived only at the end of 90’s.
The Christian music scene in Slovakia is now quite big – over 10,000 people regularly attend the so-called “evangelisation tour” the Godzone Tour, and thousands of people head to Christian summer music festivals (Campfest, Festival Lumen) – in the Slovak context, that’s quite a big number for a non-mainstream music festival (especially the one including sermons, testimonies and a Holy Mass celebrated right on stage).

Though it’s frequently called “gospel scene” by musicians and fans, it has very little to do with American gospel music – in fact, it’s only (with a very few exceptions) Slovak pop-rock or pop-folk, occasionally mixed with some traditional Christian music influences taken from classical music. “The only way we can differ between the sacral and the profane music is through the lyrics”, says the Slovak Christian musicologist Yvetta Kajanová. Nevertheless, the sacral and the “profane” scenes are still separated. Very few Slovak Christian musicians or bands made it to the mainstream, and if so, the Christian songs play only a minor part in their output (like the currently quite popular singer Sima Martausová, well-known for lyrics which sound like “Slovak pop on acid”).

These musicians don’t want to break new musical grounds, or often even sound good – the aim is to worship God and sound true to the genre’s conventions, be it pop-rock or church organ music or metal, etc. “Everybody wants to sound like Hillsong and Delirious?, every Slovak gospel keyboard player has a red Nord Stage and we are afraid as devil of cross, when our music has a ‘Slovak’ sound,” Slovak Christian-pop, as described by one of his protagonists, Vlado Bis, who also runs the Slovak Christian music chart GosAmKa. Even less conservative musicians prefer to sound like rural Slovak pop-rock music did 15 years ago. For the illustration of the generation gap, a review of a visitor of the summer festival Campfest might illustrate this: “Everybody stood up, and then they all went dancing and worshipping God, our Father. And then, suddenly I saw Jesus dancing above us all. It was a beautiful dance of never-ending joy.” But more conservative Christian musicians (mostly the classical music-based ones) are afraid of this approach. “Spiritual music is supposed to elevate your spirit, not to make your body dance”, or somebody even takes it from the nationalist point of view: “To clap hands and dance, that’s culture of an ANOTHER country. We must have our own pride, think on our own”.

It’s still quite common to teach young people on Christian meetings, that every rock music, including Christian rock music is the work of the Devil. So, as you can see, it’s a little bit hard to come with something new in Christian music in Slovakia, when even clapping your hands acts as an invention of evil Western culture and electric guitar is Satan’s preferable instrument. In this light, even playing obsolete Christian folk-rock music on summer festivals is – in Slovak context – the true spirit of rebellion. “Our band is called Kéfas. It is from Aramaic and it means “rock”, because we play rock music and our spiritual base is solid as a rock”.

The epicentre of this scene could be the more conservative Eastern Slovakia – in the other parts of country, some musicians go even further, and you have Christian metal, rap or dubstep – of course, every such sort of generic Christian music emerges only after these genres become generally accepted by non-Christian audiences. Unlike in the Czech Republic, in Slovakia you have no Christian experimental, underground or non-genre music, you have only generic music with Christian lyrics. “To me, Slovak Christian music sounds all the same. The same piano or guitar-based songs… that’s a pity. We need more experimental, electronic, hip hop, dance or house Christian music”, says DJ Besiky, one of the few acteurs of Slovak electronic Christian music, who began with remixing traditional worship songs and now he also does Christian dubstep or trap music.

While Slovak Christian music web servers or are focused more on conventional Christian music, there was also an attempt to run a webzine about alternative Christian music culture in Slovakia – – but it did work only for two years and mostly did not get past generic Christian rock, metal, rap or dance music, because “in a secular world, this sort of music is not considered to be an alternative. But in Christian music scene, it is”, as stated by one of members of this project. “I asked a Christian web to support us, but they refused to do so, because they thought, that young people shouldn’t listen to hard-sounding music”. So, instead of digging into the local scene, more sophisticated Christian music fans fed up with same-sounding Christian music have to dig into worldwide-visited alternative Christian music servers like

Below are some of the Slovak Christian songs of my choice – many of them are more or less bizarre in some way, because this sort of bizarreness is likely the only type of originality you will find in this musical scene. Because of that, do not take them as a typical examples of this scene, even if some of them are very popular among Christians.

S2G Band (from “Step to God”) is one of the most famous Slovak Christian pop-rock bands, based in the region of Vranov nad Topľou, probably the most religious part of Slovakia. Musicians are characterising themselves as “pop-rock band with progressive electronic elements”

Home-made and obviously inspired by Slovak pop-hiphop, here you can see young people worshiping God while washing dishes.

Majco8Kuna, another rapper, seems to be stuck more to hip-hop than Christian scene, but his lyrics are often Christian-themed.

A track by DJ Besiky, Christian electronic music producer, alternating the worship song with “real” dubstep

Služobníci Najvyššieho (Servants of the Lord) is a Christian-metal band, focused mostly on heavy-metal covers of well known Slovak Christian pop-songs. This one is for example heavy-metal version of this classic.

“God Loves Little Horses” is probably the most famous Slovak Christian song between non-Christian audience – as sort of novelty song, though. Authors of the song, Mária Podhradská and Richard Čanaky were doing also “adult” Christian pop-music in various bands before, but after they got together, they became much more famous for their children’s songs (mostly non-Christian). Their children-song project “Spievankovo” got so famous, it outsold most of the Slovak pop artists, and in recent years started a new wave of children songs projects in Slovakia, often even more creepy – like this one .

This is more like a parody project called Psylitanism, mixing various Christian samples with electronic dance music (preferably psytrance, hence the name). On the other hand, maybe this is the way the serious Slovak Christian psytrance music will sound like, if it will ever come.

This article was supported by the Intenda Foundation.