Polish Toledo

This blog is associated with www.polishtoledo.com

Thursday, December 29, 2005

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!


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Wesolych Swiat oraz Szczesliwego Nowego Roku! I hope everyone in Polonia had a great Wigilia and Merry Christmas. It is always a challenge here in America, I think, to come up with 13 courses of meatless dishes on Christmas Eve. But, this year I tried making wild rice, mushroom mixed with rye meal goloubki. My standard family recipe for haluski is a real God Send. I am surprised nobody I’ve met in Toledo Polonia is really familiar with the dish. Basically it’s drop dumplings, mixed with sauerkraut, little chunks of bacon or salt pork bound by light roux seasoned with salt. So, here we go with the menu of courses.

Sharing Oplatek

Toasts with Polish Luksusowa Vodka and smoked salmon
Relish tray – with assorted peppers, pickles, olives
Mushroom Caps stuffed with crabmeat
Cheese assortment with crackers and little rye bread slices
Herring, three kinds – marinated, creamed, and tomato sauce
Waldorf salad
Cabbage Soup – my world famous recipe, so thick you’ll want to use a fork
Pierogi – cheese plain, cheese with chives, potato with cheddar
Rainbow trout fillets – oven baked in lemon butter
*this is were we take a break to exchange presents*
Meatless Goloubki
Squash with vegetable medley
Kolachki for dessert

Coffee with Frangellico (hazelnut liqueur made by monks)

As usuage we left a vacant chair open and the front door slightly ajar in case a wandering stranger having no place to go would happen by.

Obviously the gift of choice is a belt two sizes larger than the recipient’s waist. There ought to be a law requiring at least one person to not eat and be the designated dishwasher. Clean up is always a difficult task when you feel like the Goodyear blimp after such a large meal. Certainly, you don’t want to leave a mess for Christmas Morning, which we traditionally start out with hand made potato pancakes and pork sausage. Later in the day we’ll prepare Fresh Kielbasa, kapusta, and golden whole potatoes, and reheat the cabbage soup and left over haluski.

I read an article recently about a company that manufactures upside down artificial Christmas tress. The idea is to have more floor space to place presents. That’s not such a new idea. While the Germans who supposedly started the Christmas tree tradition sat their evergreen upright, the original Polish CHOINKA (Christmas tree) was the top three or so feet of a fir or spruce hung upside-down from the rafters. But, floor space was never the real issue. The kids always got their presents from St. Nick on his namesday, the 6th of December. Other gifts were exchanged of course on Christmas Eve on a personal level. And, another special gift came to the children before heading off to PASTERKA (the Shepard’s Midnight Mass) left by a little invisible angel called God’s helper. We would all be alerted to the arrival by the tinkling of little bells signifying the ANIOLEK (angel) had done it’s duty.

Well, tomorrow is St. Stephen’s Day, a time to go out visiting neighbors and friends. I really feel like a sleigh ride, but alas, in our world today even this simple pleasure is hard to come by, even if you live out in the countryside. For this today, I envy the Amish.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Blog for Toledo Polonia

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