Czech singer Věra Bílá, dubbed the Ella Fitzgerald of Gypsy music, dies
days before her comeback tour|
It was supposed to be the week when she started her comeback tour. Instead,
it ended with her death on a hospital bed. Věra Bílá, who died on
Tuesday, was just 64-years-old. But those who knew her say her songs will
remain an important contribution to the genre of world music forever.
Known for her wild lifestyle, Věra Bílá experienced many ups and downs
in her career, going from a rising star in the early 1990s to an indebted,
lonely and sick woman living in a lodging house towards the end of her
Filmmaker David Vondráček, who made a documentary about the singer in
2018, says Věra Bílá’s fate was a consequence of her character.
“If she hadn’t been the way she was, her story would perhaps be less
tragic, but less memorable as well. Those few songs she made in the world
music genre will remain great forever.”
Born in the west Bohemian town of Rokycany into a poor Roma family in 1954,
her life seemed statistically destined to be unremarkable, but after
learning to sing by herself, she started performing with her band Kale,
singing in Roma, Czech and Slovak.
Her talent was discovered by Czech singer and songwriter Zuzana Navarová
and in 1996 Mrs. Bílá and her band experienced their first real success
after the release of their second album Kale Kaloré.
Soon they were not just performing across the Czech Republic, but also
touring Europe and North America.
In Britain, newspapers at the time described her as the Ella Fitzgerald of
Roma music and many believed Věra Bílá was on the right road to becoming
an international celebrity of the world music genre, filling up major
venues such as the Teatro Real in Madrid.
In 2005 her manager Jiří Smetana organised another series of
international concerts and there was talk of big contract deals from
But suddenly, Mrs. Bílá disappeared. Instead of embarking on her world
tour she went to the Eastern Slovak city of Prešov and started performing
on her own.
In a short period of time, both her adoptive son František and her husband
died. The once great singer had a breakdown. She became addicted to slot
machine gambling and after accumulating many debts ended up living in a
David Vondráček’s documentary, The Last Hope of Věra Bílá, did raise
awareness of the singer once more and she was planning to go on a European
However, the plan hit the rocks after the manager of her band was arrested.
But this did not dissuade her, and in a recent interview the Romany singer
said she was still eager to return to the stage.
“I am really looking forward to this concert. I want to sing to them and
make them happy.”
This week, it was all supposed to happen. But in a final twist of her
tragic life story, Věra Bílá died of a heart attack in a hospital in
Plzeň, just two days before a planned comeback tour, which she was set to
undertake with Jan Bendig, a rising star on the Roma music scene.
Her wish to die on stage was left unfulfilled.
Mr. Bendig’s manager, Lukáš Rejmon, had this to say.
“A great personality has left us with an even greater heart and an