Only a few people would leave their musical instrument on the street or in a railway station. But there are always exceptions, such as Ondřej Kobza, the owner of two cafes, Café V lese and Café Neustadt.
Over the past three years, Kobza has been putting pianos in public spaces and on the streets of Prague. Visitors to locations like Václav Havel airport and Hlavní nádraží are often surprised to see pianos sitting there, offering random passersby an opportunity to sit down and simply play.
Kobzaʼs purpose was to change the atmosphere of public places. “With ʻPianos in the Street,ʼ like the one at the train station, I wanted to show that it is not just a place to buy a burger or clothes or where men rush to catch trains but to be enjoyed,” he told the newspaper 420.cz.
Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, especially from visitors to the city. “When I first came to Prague, I was walking around when suddenly I heard piano music,” says Marina Strekha, a tourist from Slovakia. “I was really surprised when I saw a piano standing in the middle of the street and some random people were playing it. I have never seen this before anywhere and at first it seemed weird to me. However, I soon realized that this is an amazing street project.”
Reaction among local people has also been quite positive. “I’ve been living in Prague my entire life, and I can say with no doubt that this idea is one of the most adorable! I love it!” says Jiři Kanera.
The project took a long time to come into existence. The first piano appeared as a way for Kobza to attract customers to his café V Lese, on Krymska in Prague 10. He set up the musical instrument and a few chairs nearby to catch people’s attention. Later on, Kobza put a second piano on Naplavka, the riverfront area in Prague 2, and realized that people really loved that idea.
So in the year 2013 he decided to broaden his idea and made an agreement with the state that allowed him to put pianos in public places. In early September 2013, 12 pianos were placed in random locations such as Karlovo náměstí and Hlavní nádraží. In the beginning it cost Kobza approximately 90,000 Kč, which he took from his savings. “I would say that this is my present to Prague,” he told the newspaper iDnes.
Where do the pianos come from? Usually, they are old instruments that the owners stopped using and were scheduled for liquidation. At first, Kobza bought them all on his own. Later on he created a webpage called HitHit, where people can support the project financially or donate their old pianos.
Vladimir Aksenov, a tourist from Moscow, came to Prague for a few days and was impressed by the project. “When I first saw it, I didn’t understand the point,” he says. “But later, when I was walking around, I saw how two small girls were playing the piano and that was very exciting.”
Today, pianos can also be found at Nádvoří Café Neustadt, Nemo nocni zařizeni and in the plaza next to the National Theater. And future plans have been created for them to appear in other cities in the Czech Republic, such as Pardubice and Hradec Králové.
Meanwhile, the pianos in Prague continue to generate good feelings. “It gives you a feeling of warmth and unity with people around you, even though you donʼt know them,” says Strekha, the tourist from Slovakia. “It is very nice and inspiring to listen to this piano music and discover Prague streets with beautiful architecture at the same time.”
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brad Hammonds