Karel Fialka

Karel Fialka

Singer, songwriter

Born in Bengal of Highland and Czechoslovakian parentage, Karel Fialka was launched in 1980 as the street poet of the 1980s. As a songwriter, traveler, musician and actor, he achieved a a minor hit in 1980 with The Eyes Have It (Blueprint Records) and a top ten hit in 1987 in the United Kingdom Singles Chart with Hey, Matthew. His family were from Tain and he was partly schooled there but later spent time in London and Bristol before returning to the town to live in the 1990s. He visited often to see his mother and was around when North Rising was experimenting and took an interest in what they were recording. Christine Martin recalls the lively local musical environment of the time:

In the 1990s Wolfstone were around at the same time as Karel Fialka and there was also Coinneach a band started by Davy Cowan in Alness in the early 80s. Davy Cowan had a punk band first then Coinneach as folk /rock band and they made quite a few recordings. The fiddler in Coinneach was Debbie Swanson who took over my strings job in Tain Royal Academy. So many connections!

See his Wikipedia entry, this discography and his webpage.

Karel states:

I always thought that the Highlands were the heart and blood of Scottish music and there was too much concentration on what came from the Central Belt without enough recognition of the talent pool in the North…and also, I am Highland Scottish (despite the name…as I have said in the past, if my parents were the other way around I’d be called Charles MacKenzie). When we were abroad “home” always meant Easter Ross, not some non-specific expat reference to GB. After I returned to the Highlands I also started lecturing in music technology at the newly-opened North Highland College in Alness.

Coming Home

Composed and arranged by Karel Fialka. Recording kindly supplied by Christine Martin of Taigh na Teud.

Karel had heard the recording that North Rising had made of the pipe tunes The Wee Man from Skye and Crossing the Minch that had been arranged by Terry Small, with whom he had done some work in his Proles Pleasure studio in Tain. Karel recalls:

In 1988 I loaded my Fostex E16 and Roland mc500 into my VW camper and drove up from Bristol to sequence and record the basics with Terry. Christine Martin recorded the fiddle in Tain when I was up on that visit, I believe. The track stayed as an instrumental (with changing voicings) until 1996 when I returned to live in the Highlands and wrote the lyric partly referencing my own return but from the point of view of somebody who worked offshore. We used to play it at gigs with my band Sgian Dubh. It always went down well. Charlie Carruthers was the vocalist.


Composed and arranged by Karel Fialka. Recording kindly supplied by Christine Martin of Taigh na Teud.


The Stevie Urquhart who wrote the words was the street sweeper in Tain. He recited his poem to me one night in that hotbed of music, The Star Bar, Tain. I set up the music, got local involvement. Richard Easson did the photography, my son Matthew laid out the artwork, the backing vocals were by Carrie Forbes and Louisa Kennedy who came down in their lunchtime from school, Iain Inglis played the guitar and put together a video, and the Northumberland pipes were played by Robbie Brett. We sold lots of signed and numbered copies of the track to raise money for the project to renovate the Tain Picture house, a project dear to my heart at the time…and also (halfheartedly) tried to position it in the press an alternative anthem for Scotland’s World Cup hopes that year.