The tramp song, like other forms of art, is an integral part of the tramp subculture, faithfully capturing its character. The present collection includes tramp song lyrics collected between 1980 and 2017, some of which may date from even before 1980. Dozens of tramp songs are recorded in songbooks, on tapes, CDs, and DVDs and represented here.
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Name of collection
- Tramps' songs
Provenance and cultural activities
Tramp subculture was formed intially in the 1920s. Peculiar to Czechoslovakia, “tramping” has attracted individuals who shared a love of nature and its inherent freedom, many of whom were inspired by romantic ideals promoted in books by Jack London or Karl May. Despite the possible negative connotations associated with the English word (drawn originally from London's autobiographical memoir The Road), the "tramps" in question, “vandráci” or “čundráci,” would simply abandon their urban dwellings for a weekend or during vacation period and visit their favourite sites in the woods or meadows. The place to which they traveled is called a “flek,” and this could be a comfortable place to stay or set up a camp, or a site where the tramps' shed or cabin is built, perhaps itself becoming the heart of a tramp settlement [trampská osada]. An ”osada” is a stable group of tramps, which is typically formed by at least three individuals. Among tramps there are numerous unwritten rules that designate customs such as, for example, the proper way to greet a fellow tramp or shake their hand; but these rules are hardly universally accepted or acknowledged. There is also disagreement, even today, about questions such as “what is tramping?” or “who is a real tramp?”
But a common trait for all tramps is their passion for free roaming, untouched nature, and independence. It was these very inclinations that often caused them problems – and not only during the communist era, for their idea of free-time social activity for weekends or holidays was markedly different from that of the most other people. There was never such a thing as a clear personal hierarchy among tramps; there are no official leaders, the “osady” are independent from one another, and independent from these are the so-called “tramps-loners.” Each “osada” (or each individual) plans their own activities freely, according only to their own mutual agreement. The lack of transparency or clear subordination to any official political structure made tramps highly susceptible to different forms of bullying. But this never robbed them of their relative independence from the political regime or system.
The first “osady” appeared in the area of today's Czech Republic. Gradually, these were joined by their Slovak counterparts, especially in the west of today's Slovakia. The apparently first of these, named Waikiki, was founded near Bratislava. In the 1960s, the earliest tramps were noticed also in the Košice Region. The gradual spread of tramp subculture throughout the whole of Czechoslovakia was facilitated by the fact that young male citizens were conscripted and obliged to serve the military in different parts of the country.
The beginnings of tramping can be traced back to the 1920s, and tramp music was always its integral to it. Both tramp art and tramp music betray the romanticism of the Wild West as a crucial inspiration. Any outward inclination toward the west was possible only within limitations: for example: the name of the Czech band “Greenhorns” had to be changed to its Czech equivalent “Zelenáči.” But it was impossible to completely suppress or control the subculture, and the surviving artwork and music bear witness to this fact. The materials in the collection either appeared originally as samizdat or were compiled by an individual or an institution. Although it was only in 1989 that the Trampské združenie Severka [Tramp association Severka] was founded and started gathering tramp songs, many of the songs date back to earlier times. They are generally difficult to date precisely, but some of them may have originated even before World War II. Much of the lyrics are in the Czech language, as today's Czech Republic is the region where this movement started. The first tramp “osada” [settlement] in the area of today's Slovakia was reportedly founded in 1928 near Bratislava.
Description of content
- The collection consists of songs recorded in songbooks as well as on tapes, CDs, and DVDs. The present list is not exhaustive, the collection itself is more voluminous. Furthermore, gramophone records with tramp songs can be acquired upon contacting the Trampské združenie Severka.
- music recordings: unknown quantity
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): unknown quantity
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Author(s) of this page
- Semanová, Radoslava
Severka, interview by Semanová, Radoslava, November 30, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection
Last edited on: 2020-03-04 17:37:01