Ida Kelarova (Bittova)

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Ida Kelarová, née Bittová was born in 1956 to her parents Koloman and Lidmila. Ida predominately spent her childhood in Vrbno pod Pradědem, Prešov, Opava, Brno and Horné Saliby. Ida is the eldest of 2 other siblings. Her father Koloman Bitto was an excellent musician and a Romany man. He worked in the Brno Radio Orchestra of Folk Instruments (BROLN) and passed on his love of music to his family. Ida’s sister, Iva Bittová, is also a very respected and successful international artist. Ida’s soul combines the spontaneous creative power and love of a beloved Romani man (her father), and the depth of her cultural heritage as well as the purposeful diligence of her Czech half (her mother is Czech). Ida Kelarová believes that music is here to help us heal the wounds we each carry deep inside.

Ida Kelarová first studied at the Folk Art School in Opava and then at the Janáček Conservatory in Brno, where she studied piano and cello. She received excellent training at the Divadlo na Provazku Theater in Brno from 1975-1982. In 1982 she decided to travel and venture abroad. After travelling through Europe Ida settled in Great Britain. Ida started performing and teaching Romani songs that she had remembered from her childhood. Ida’s teachings were extremely successful in the UK and soon began to be sought after in other European countries, her work then took her to Denmark and Norway for several years. Ida soon became an unmissable and unique figure on the European music scene not only as a solo singer, vocal teacher but later also as a choirmaster and producer.

After spending a few years in Norway and Denmark, Ida decided to relocate to North Wales (United Kingdom). Whilst living abroad Ida learned the tragic news that her father had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away and therefore this of course evoked strong emotion within her and she sadly had to grieve alone. Thanks to her music, she managed to cope with this difficult situation and grieved through her music, she then discovered almost a new voice and truly felt like she had found herself. This terribly sad time in Ida’s life could be why she now doesn’t let sadness, loneliness and fear take over but expresses these emotions in her music and shares her knowledge through her powerful voice workshops. Ida conveys this philosophy to people and children all over the world.

Ida learnt through this grief that life itself is the best teacher!

In 1995, Ida returned to the Czech Republic and began to rebuild her life. She founded the International School of Human Voice. Ida Kelarová does not train her vocal cords as much as her courage to reach deep inside and manifest her true nature. She believes that the power of the voice lies within the soul of every singing person.

Over the years, Ida Kelarová has founded and collaborated with several bands and choirs, she has also organised many international music festivals and workshops and founded many multi-ethnic projects to name one was the very successful Gypsy Celebration festival at Svojanov Castle. She performed on various European stages and led the choirs she founded – Apsora, Chaj, Bogoro and Chavorenge. As the artistic director of the project, she also collaborated with the group Kale and Věra Bílá. When she collaborated with Kale she also met  her life partner Desiderius “Dežo” Dužda, and they founded the group Romano Rat (Roma Blood), with which they then performed all over the world with great success.

After a short break from performing with Romano Rat Ida decided to slightly change the genre of her music into more gypsy jazz and coincidentally met some amazing musicians which then joined her and Dezo to create a new band called she Jazz Famelija. Ida and Jazz Famelija were extremely successful and still to this day they collaborate and are still representing Romani culture. Jazz Famelija’s musicians include pianist Ondřej Krajňák, double bassist Tomáš Baroš “Kaštan”, drummer Marian Ševčík and the excellent percussionist Yonatan “Bar” Raschi amongst others.

She considers meeting Desiderius “Dežo” Dužda, as a key moment in her life.  Desiderius Dužda is an amazing musician and the author of almost all of the songs they perform, Dezo truly is her soul mate. Whilst Dezo is the key author Ida will interpret, arrange and produce his songs. They have been working together for 25 years. In 2001, Ida Kelarová was nominated for the Czech Lion Award for music for the film A Report on the Journey of Students Petr and Jakub.

Ida believes that everyone needs to breathe properly to be able to sing. Because somewhere deep inside there is the true voice of each of us. She believes and stands by that there is an incredible power in each of us, and singing from the heart releases that power, and one cannot separate one’s pain from joy. Then the performer does not have to hide behind any mask and can give away their gifts. After all, Ida considers this creative process of self-distribution to be the true heritage of her Roma roots. Ida makes no distinction between human emotions, everything is part of her creative process and ancestral culture. Ida’s work includes elements of music therapy and laboratory acting. She herself and the singers she leads undergo a transformation with each performance. In it, they hand over everything they came up with. During the performance, Ida Kelarová hands over only what she has experienced herself and also supports her charges in doing so. Ida Kelarová does not strive for technical perfection, but prefers the authenticity of the moment, which the type of music she makes fully enables her.

The essence of her teaching work is to understand the fragility of each performer separately. According to Ida, people who have created a psychic block in the past can also sing. All you need to do is realize your own mistakes, forgive yourself and others and be open to life.

Her singing workshops are open to all people who feel the need to find the courage to express their voice, to experience the power of fear that usually prevents us from taking a deep breath, opening our hearts and singing our song. Ida believes that when we find the courage to go through fear and live our emotions sincerely, we can create something beautiful and thus improve the world around us.

Ida Kelarová has dedicated her whole life to singing and working with emotions. According to her, the accumulation of fear, sadness and anger is a mistake, because this decaying force then acts against man (either inside or outside). In her singing workshops, she offers an imaginary third way which she passes on to her students, perhaps also because of her experiences of life, which she went through herself and which saved her.

Ida is the mother of two children – Tomas and Nicole. She also has six beautiful grandchildren. She does also count among her children the members of the children’s choir Čhavorenge, which she founded in 2011. In recent years, Ida Kelarová’s life mission has been fulfilled by caring for children and young people and helping to let them embrace and show off their amazing talent.

Since 2014 Ida has taken a little step back from performing with her band and now focuses on collaborating with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. This collaboration has had a huge success and they perform together with Jazz Famelija and the Čhavorenge choir all over Europe.

In 2015 Ida, Ara Art and over 200 Romani students were nominated for the Jaroslav Herden Prize for their work and contribution to Romani culture.

The Society for Music Education (founded in 1934) awarded Ida Kelarová the award for her long-term successful work in the field of out-of-school music education, work with children and youth and specifically with disadvantaged children and youth choirs.

In 2018, the Pangea Foundation awarded Ida Kelarova the Prize for “efforts and redress of human affairs.”

In 2019, Ida Kelarová received an award from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

© 2021 Ida Kelarová