One of the WOMEX highlights in Poland this year was for sure the opening performance of Kapela Maliszów, a family band from Poland, including the multi-instrumentalist Jan Malisz and his children, Kasper and Zuzanna. As said on the band’s official site, Jan Malisz got most of the instruments from his father, Jozef so the band called their music “Father’s notes.” I so rarely meet female drummers in Eastern Europe, especially in folk music, so from the first second I decided to talk with Zuzanna.
Daryana: Ok, first of all of course I would love to know your personal story of becoming a musician — how and why did you start playing, singing, which instruments and so on?
Zuzanna: I think my story has begun when I came up to this world. It’s a generational thing, my grandparents were musicians, and lots of my family members still are. They aren’t educated musicians, they are just people who love music. So, with so much genes and family I think I couldn’t have a choice… could I? I mean, of course I did but music is something that grew up with me, has been with me since I was born, and I didn’t even realize how much I was soaked by it, how much it affects my life.
My first serious instrument was piano. I went to a music school as an 8 years old child, and, it would be worth mentioning, that a music school had a huge influence on my adventure with music (and it still has). I’ve met teachers that taught me a lot, made me love classical music.
I’m not sure about singing, I believe that I started singing right after I learned how to speak. But 2-3 years ago, I started being interested how to sing properly, and, again, music school, and choir that I have been going to, has helped me to learn technical stuff.
What kind of percussion do you play? Is it a totally traditional way of playing? Does this drumming and percussion tradition exist in old folklore? Is the number of girls playing drums growing or spreading in Polish folk tradition?
Zuzanna: The drums I play are traditional polish drums called baraban (the big one) and bęben obręczowy (the small one). My way of playing is based primarily on improvisation. It’s obvious that the rhythm must be preserved but except that (and some parts in our compositions which I always play the same) the only limit is my imagination.
I always try to play to my brother and improvise with him. I can’t tell if it’s traditional way of playing, I think that in the past there also were several madmen that broke down the rhythm in every possible way… but perceived as more accurate and traditional is playing simpler and without so many wonders. The way of drumming depends on what region you play in, because it can be a little different in different regions. When I started playing drums, I listened to drummers from central Poland, so if you hear central-drumming-style in my playing, maybe that’s why.
Traditional drumming, as a traditional music was dying out few years ago, but now, fortunately, there are many young people who are interested in it, and want to resurrect it. There are also some girls that play drum pretty well and I often meet them at festivals like Wszystkie Mazurki Świata. Regarding women drummers from Eastern Europe, I don’t know any, but I hope that it’ll change soon. In general and apart from percussion I play piano, drum, sometimes trying to play guitar, I can also play on traditional Polish cello.
Why folklore? Don’t you plan to try out some other genres?
Zuzanna: Folk and traditional music have always been in our house. My parents always listened to it, and played it so I think they had a big influence on it. It wasn’t like one day we decided to play traditional music. The traditions chose us, and we had to continue it. Everything came naturally.
But, of course I listen to a lot of different genres! Jazz, indie pop, pop, rock, folk from different countries like Ireland or Bulgaria and a lot of others styles. I love listening to blues, soul, jazz, R&B singers and singing it. And, who knows, maybe this is what my future will be about. I wish it would.
What’s special in working in a family group?
Zuzanna: Probably the best thing about a family band is that we all live in the same place, so we can play whenever we want.
Once, at attempt, we got angry at each other, and we were arguing a lot. And then, Kacper started to play a random melody, improvisation. With all of those emotions, we made a new song.
Please tell about your repertoire and what are your favorite songs?
Zuzanna: We mostly play our compositions, based on tradition. There are some traditional songs that we changed a little bit. All of our compositions are unique and have a nice story behind it, but my favorite is “Chodzony od Józefa” (Kacper’s composition), which is played on our grandfather’s violin. It was broken by a horse, and after grandfather’s death, our dad fixed it.