Not your Dzia-Dzia's Polka
They won the BBC 2004 World Music Award! The Warsaw Village Band.
It’s easy to get stuck into thinking of Poland and it’s culture the way it was in the early and mid 20th century. Our grandparents and great-grandparents immigrated a hundred years ago and brought with them the culture and traditions of their generation. Some things were meant to never change – like sharing oplatek on Wigilia and other patently fixed observances of our heritage. But, culture is not a static thing. It is dynamic.
While the skeletal structure of tradition remains a rigid foundation, the appendages have over time mutated. We still recognize the leg as a “noga” but its function no longer is just for running and dancing – today it also kicks a soccer ball. And, instead of letting the limb atrophy after the long partitions and Nazi and Communist eras, it became through steadfast determination powerful enough to kick Soviet influence the hell out of our beloved Poland keeping true the covenant “God Saving Poland.”
Among the various Christmas presents I gave to my favorite Polish Radio Program hostess this year was a CD of the Warsaw Village Band. In the Global context of Polonia there has been resurgence, a renaissance if you will, of the really traditional Polish Folk music. The revival is steadfastly based from the authentic rhythms and sounds of folk music, but some traditionalists might find it hard to embrace in its modern form of expression. I however find it not so hard to accept. Even the theater has modernized over time with stage lights, sound systems and comfortable seating. So why would we expect homeostasis in music performance?
Warsaw Village Band is a result of response against narrow-mindness and surrounding mass-culture, which in fact leads to destruction of human dignity. The band is a radical turn to sources in search of musical inspirations and immemorial virtues. It is also an exploration of folklore and archaic sounds of our ancestors and our instincts.
Warsaw Village Band was founded in 1997 by six young people who are playing violin, suka ( unique polish fiddle coming from XVIth century), cello and various traditional polish drums.
Their repertoire consists of folk dance melodies, ballads and rural songs, which are performed in a special way - using a special, old technique of singing, that consists in using so called white voices. However it's not only a simple imitation of Polish folk music, but rather adduction to the concept of folk music, giving the style of folk performance which is closer to modern aesthetic conventions.
Here is a clip of one of the Warsaw Village Band’s music videos.
See the Clip
Look at it now, who knows how long it will be posted on the Internet! The form is modern, but the substance is of drama as ancient as the Greek Tragedy in classic theater. Yes, it looks MTVish, it should – today we have television, cable, satellite, and DVDs. What? You expect to play the Warsaw Village Band on your crank up Victrola? HELLO! We pay Edison for electric power… snuff out those candles and get with it. Now, you’re cookin’ with gas!