Warsaw Village Band,
People's Spring
(Orangeworld, 2001;
World Village, 2004)

Not sure what new Polish roots music sounds like? Here's your answer.

In its first release for the international market, the Warsaw Village Band (a.k.a., Kapela Ze Wsi Warszawa) finds the inspiration for its exciting brand of new roots music straight from the villages of Poland, but the music is as relevant as ever in a modern urban setting. Based on a hard-driving string section, rolling percussion and a melodic, inspiring chant, People's Spring is an energy burst. They have brought back the neglected folk music of Poland -- including a traditional violin called the suka, played with the fingernails, to bring this sound to a wider audience.

This CD reminds us that Poland is a Baltic country firmly rooted in what is now called Central Europe. The music is a blend of many influences, but the songs come straight from rural Poland. Wedding songs, songs of longing, relationships and other simple stories are told in the lyrics. The song choices also challenge notions that a traditional society is always a backward one. "Cranes" is an anarchistic protest song. "Who is Getting Married" takes a feminist approach.

But you don't have to understand Polish to enjoy this wonderful CD. Good notes are provided in English and, besides, the sound transcends language.

Katarzyna Szurman (old Polish fiddle), Sylwia Mazura Swiatkowska (violin and traditional fiddle) and Wojciech Szpak MC Krzac (violin) together form a dynamic string section, featured in "Chassidic Dance." The strong, rumbling rhythms come from Maja Mayall Kleszcz (bass), Piotr Prof. Glina Glinski (baraban drum) and Maciej Herszt Szajkowski (frame drums, dhol). Guests include standouts Marta Stanislawska on dulcimer and Piotr Korzen Korzeniowski on trumpet on the fabulous opener "To you Kasiunia." Vocalists Szurman, Kleszcz, Swiatkowska and Krzak have adapted a peasant singing style called "white voice" that is suited to their overall sound.

As a bonus, the last two tracks are dance remixes of "At My Mother's" and "I Had a Lover," revisiting two of the finer pieces from the CD.

This is a standout album full of vitality, authenticity and raw energy.

- Rambles
written by David Cox
published 31 July 2004

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