Polish band Dikanda re-imagines traditional Eastern European songs. Americans will have their first taste of Dikanda’s lively intensity in September 2011, as the group tours the United States for the first time. Hitting world music festivals and venues in New York, Chicago, and Minneapolis, the band brings Polish mountain hollers and Kurdish melodies, rollicking dance beats and searching ballads together.
“Dikanda is about this expression of death and birth, longing and loneliness. Our concerts are not something set apart from the rest of life,” explains singer, accordionist, and group founder Ania Witczak. “People in the audience may not understand what we sing, but they’ll often break into tears. Or into wild dancing.”
Witczak calls the coming together of the band “miraculous.” Hailing from Szczecin, an industrial port on the Baltic with mixed Slavic and Germanic roots, the group has long stood out in a music scene dominated by standard-issue pop. Witczak and guitarist Piotr Rejdak teamed up as cash-strapped students to finance a hitchhiking foray to Western Europe by busking. Before they knew it, one jam session and lucky encounter led to another, and Dikanda was born.
They became more than a mere band; they became a tight-knit group of friends-the group’s name stems from an African dialect word for “family”-and that intimacy shows on stage. “When we play a concert, we try to keep the truth of the matter,” Witczak reflects. “In every moment, we hear these voices inside us, the voices of our forefathers and mothers, and then we return to our own voices.”
These voices speak though tight rhythms, swaying fiddle, bouncing upright bass. They also speak their own uncharted language, which the band has dubbed “Dikandish.” For Witczak, it flows from children’s universal habit of making up sounds and remains a way to get beyond the bounds of everyday speech into a deeply personal yet widely comprehensible world of feelings and stories.
“I get a story in my head, and I want to tell it. But I’m not in the right frame of mind to use language,” Witczak says. “When I start to sing, words just come.”
Along with intensely intuitive originals, the group draws on Witczak’s bountiful collection of traditional songs. A life-long singer, Witczak crisscrossed rural Eastern Europe as a young woman, hanging out with elder musicians and learning songs that stuck with her. She never took notes, but remembers hundreds of songs from across the Balkans and Carpathians, songs that Dikanda has transformed together, adding new rhythms and fresh harmonies.
“Our music comes from traditional music, but sometimes it comes from nothing, out of nowhere,” laughs Witczak, “while we sleep or peel potatoes.”
Dikanda’s tour is co-presented by the Polish Cultural Institute in New York.
Full Tour Schedule
9/16/2011 Chicago, IL at World Music Festival
9/17/2011 Chicago, IL at Edgewater GRalley Festival
9/18/2011 Burbank, IL at The Club
9/19/2011 Wood Dale, IL at Art Gallery Kafe
9/20/2011 Troy, MI at American Polish Cultural Center
9/21/2011 Madison, WI at The Brink Lounge
9/22/2011 Minneapolis, MN at Cedar Cultural Center
9/23/2011 Cedar Rapids, IA at Landfall Festival – Legion Arts
9/24/2011 Bloomington, IN at Lotus World Music & Arts Festival
9/25/2011 Manhattan, NY at Le Poisson Rouge