Vladimír Pinta played the saxophone and trombone on the Old Town Square for 17 years. Originally a teacher, he performed in cafes, nightclubs, ships, and foreign hotels. Although his love to perform is on the street, he was threatened with thousands of crowns fines due to the new Busker Decree (recently became valid).
The 86-year-old has been performing regularly on the streets of Prague’s center since 2002. The municipality excluded street artists from the Old Town Square and the musician had to leave his usual place.
Vladimír Pinta sits comfortably on his folding chair opposite the Baroque church of St. Nicholas. With his back to the Old Town Square, he prepares a mouthpiece for his saxophone. While carefully cleaning the musical instrument, people look at it curiously.
The ban on so-called busking extends to the whole of Old Town Square, Velkopřevorské náměstí, náměstí Míru, Nerudova Street and part of Spalena. In addition, it prohibits “appearances in disguises of animals or characters from films, television programs or computer games” and “appearances in disguises clearly beyond the proportions of an adult.”
“As soon as I blow, I’ll tell you a nice story,” said Vladimír Pinta. He used to perform on Charles Bridge—where the amended decree does not apply and is governed by separate conditions—but had to leave his spot.
He has no fear of city policemen and intends to defend himself against a possible fine. Years ago, he obtained permission to operate artistic activities in public space and intends to prove it in the event that the officers hit him. This also happened on Sunday and, in his words, his permit did not help him with the police officers, so he had to leave his place under the threat of a fine.
“On the street, I can see what the regime has changed,” he says. When the musician plays the first tones of his favorite jazz records on the saxophone, tourists and strangers stop by and listen to him with a smile on their lips as they record Vladimír Pint on their phones.
The artist is a favorite among tourists in Prague; his recordings of theatrical performances can be found on a number of YouTube videos. He even has a fan group on Facebook. People throw small coins into his hat and get a sight from his wife.
“And now I’ll play Ave Maria unaccompanied”
He goes to the center to play from Revnice near Prague, where he lives with his wife several times a week (according to his mood). Years ago, Vladimír also performed in cafes and nightclubs throughout Prague, and during his engagement, he met Karel Gott at Alfa Café on Wenceslas Square. While he was already a seasoned musician, Gott’s career was just at the beginning.
Pint used to play with Bob Šmidrkal, Ladislav Bezubka, Zbyněk “Hennessy” Červinka or Karel Hála, and Olabí Svobodová.
“When the Russians arrived in ’68, the whole band I played with ran away to Germany and no one could understand why I didn’t run away with them.” “And now I play unaccompanied Ave Maria,” he says, beeping and then singing. The financial contributions from the listeners did not wait long.
Nevertheless, during his life, Vladimír Pinta has become famous abroad as well. “He could play in various places; he was recently invited to Mexico, too. But he’s happy and especially to play whatever he wants,” explains wife Daniela Pintová.
Sinatra [and] salsa
Vladimír Pinta also likes to play his own compositions, which mostly deal with contemporary society and problems. You can also listen to them on the Internet Youradio.
“I like this one,” he says before blowing into the saxophone, from which the tones of Sinatra’s hit The Way You Look Tonight line up with the accompanying music from the speaker. Pinta sings not only in Czech and English but also in Italian or Spanish. He learned the correct pronunciation of Latin and Spanish songs from [a] Colombian, whom he met during one of his street-playing sessions.
Mr. Pinta does not understand the municipality’s decisions too much. “It’s strange. We were in Valencia and the buskers we met in Prague, we met there. They take turns in different places and may have amplifiers. I don’t understand why they cut it here,” he says.
“I’m not the one lying in bed watching or walking in the waiting rooms. So if I have to go away, I’ll go abroad for example,” concludes the musician, then puts a saxophone back in his mouth and closes his eyes to begin another tune.
After being banished from Old Town Square, he moved temporarily to the nearby Franz Kafka Square.