The Warsaw Village Band (Kapeli ze Wsi Warszawa in Polish) emerged in 1997 and simultaneously conserves traditional music and experiments with modern instrumentation and subject matter. The musicians have created a genre of music they call ‘hardcore folk’; thanks to the groundbreaking, yet traditional singing style or ‘bio-techno’; thanks to electronic remixes featured on the group’s People’s Spring CD. The fresh approach earned them international recognition with a nomination in the newcomer category of the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards in 2003.
On their countryside journeys, the band keeps their material fresh using the same means as classical ethnographic research; documenting dying traditions with live recordings of various Polish folk festivities and village celebrations. Their lineup includes the suka, a Polish fiddle from the 16th century that is only known from historical drawings and whose strings are played with the player’s fingernails rather than the usual fingertips. The suka is joined by an hundred-year-old Polish dulcimer and the hurdy-gurdy, a unique instrument that sounds similar to the bagpipe, thanks to a drone that is played by a cranked wooden wheel rubbing against the strings of the instrument.
The Warsaw Village Band’s lyrics address social and political concerns, in part, due to the music’s close ties with punk circles. “Who is Getting Married” takes a feminist stance on her assumed marriage. It is about a young girl in the countryside that refuses marriage in order to sing, dance, and be free rather than being dependent on someone. “Crane” is a protest song of defiance advising the country’s youth to “be nobody’s servant.”
The music and research of the Warsaw Village Band has inspired many in their home country. Their performance at the Pastoral Celebration in the mountainous region of Orava opened doors to the sound of the Mazovia Province. Although the music of the Polish plains was largely unknown to this audience, the band was welcomed with warm admiration and was honored with the distinction of being the first lowlanders ever to perform at a “highlanders only” party.
The sheep-herding mountaineers of Poland used a style of singing called “bialy glos” or “white voice”; a type of powerful, melodic screaming used to communicate across long distances. The Warsaw Village Band revives this musical style on their CD People’s Spring. The band travels Poland’s countryside in search of the old people who recall the traditional folk music of their regions.
Hop Sa Sa (Kamahuk, 1998)
Wiosna Ludu – People’s Spring (Orange World Records, 2001)
Wykorzenienie – Uprooting (Metal Mind Records, 2004)
Upmixing (Jaro Medien, 2007)
Infinity (Jaro Medien, 2008)
Nord (Karrot Kommando, 2012)
Mazovian re:action – Re:akcja Mazowiecka (Karrot Kommando, 2017)
Sun Celebration (Jaro Medien, 2017)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.