Warsaw Village Band
at the National Centre for Early Music,
York, England
(2 November 2004)

An absolute blast of a gig, this one! Warsaw Village BandŐs contemporary interpretations of traditional Polish music are breathtaking -- theyŐre a young, vibrant band, and scooped the BBC World Music (Newcomer) Award this year. The opportunity to experience their live sound was just irresistible to me, and this turned out to be one of the most exciting gigs IŐve been to all year.

Incredibly gifted musicians they are, too. Youngest is Maja Klescz, who plays cello with rhythmic drive and possesses a voice of genuine beauty. Magdalena Sobczak plays hammered dulcimer with lyricism and rhythm. Sylwia Swiatkowska expresses herself brilliantly on violin and szuka. The combination of these three female voices haunts you long after the music has stopped. They specialize in an ancient rural form of Polish singing called "white voices" -- sung by shepherdesses, apparently. These voices come at you with a captivating, almost primeval urgency.

The percussion team of Maciej Szajkowski and Piotr Glinski provides driving, trancy rhythms and grooves -- the effect is hypnotic and seductive! Violinist/hurdygurdy player Wojtek Krzak was unfortunately unwell this evening and couldnŐt play his full part.

Immediate impact was created by Maja KlesczŐs truly haunting unaccompanied vocal on "Lament" -- her powerful, beautiful voice penetrated every corner of this venue for a stunning introductory song. The band played a fabulous selection of songs from their latest release, Uprooting, including the dramatic "In the Forest" and "Woman in Hell." The traditional polkas (mainly from the Sieradz region of Poland) were performed with real passion and exuberance, and made huge impact on the crowd. Quite a bit of dancing was going on in the second half of the gig!

Theirs isnŐt always an easy sound -- itŐs dramatic, passionate, urgent and raw, and completely grabs your attention throughout. That enigmatic wordless communication simmered between musician and listener throughout this gig, attracting huge roars between each song and winning a standing ovation at the end. I particularly enjoyed watching Magdalena Sobczak play hammered dulcimer with such evident enjoyment, and the percussionists were GREAT fun to watch, too.

A really excellent performance, massively enjoyed by all, and the soundmen did a magnificent job, creating fabulous loops and echoes from two sound desks. Warsaw Village Band really is world roots music at its best -- highly recommended.

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 11 December 2004