Posts Tagged ‘Polish Music’


Janusz Prusinowski Trio (plus 2) live in Warsaw, May 13, 2013 from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

The Mazurkas of the World Festival took place in Warsaw the second week in May, sponsored by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. There were daytime workshops in music and dance, and wonderful performances at night. The band needed a lively video in a hurry, so I threw this one together. These guys rocked the joint!

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The World Music Expo (WOMEX) took place in Thessaloniki this year. Despite my best intentions to inform myself beforehand about the bands that would be playing there I found myself as usual, deluged with choices of which music to cover, and surprised by many of the acts. It was easiest to cover the daycases, as they did not overlap, were all in the same intimate room, and mostly acoustic music was presented.
Still, I was unprepared for how much I would like the Janusz Prusinowski Trio, which appeared here with two other members. (The band members maintain that they still want to be called a trio no matter how many members ultimately join, in order to continue referencing the three-beat meter upon which so much of the music is based.
What struck me right away about this music was its amazing ability to mix the feel and power of village dance music with the personal contemporary sensibilities of the players. (Currently The Warsaw Village band are the most high-profile ensemble working with the Polish folk repertoire, but they have injected art-punk into the music, and so they are a different animal entirely.) The addition of wind and brass to the Quintet’s sound really pushes their music into another realm. Listen to the music about 3 minutes in and hear the amazing resemblance to some of those classic jazz improv tracks from the late sixties and early seventies. I questioned wind player Michal Żak about the jazz references and he wrote back: “I wouldn’t call it jazz, but somehow it can be perceived – long notes, fade ins and fade outs in intervals on such instruments always bring the thought of a big band. But we’d rather call it spontaneous creation. We never plan with Szczepan (trumpeter) how it will go. We’re just trying to catch each other on the spot so that can make the common ground with jazz. The other thing is that improvisational feature of traditional music will always get the connection to jazz. But we don’t play jazz, nor arrange it intentionally.”
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this music comes from its dance origins. The mazurkas and polkas as danced in the Central Polish villages have a built in SOMETHING…not exactly syncopations or tricky time signatures per se, but time stretches and beat emphases determined by the dancers stepping and spinning. Look at how dancer/bassist Piotr Zgorzelski moves as he plays, and you can get an idea of this elastic approach. In his introduction to the set, Andrew Cronshaw compared the spinning to Sufi dancing, and I believe there is a relationship to the hypnotic, floating ride of an hours-long couple dance like this to the ever-circling trance of the dervish.
Prusinowski is actively involved in documenting the music of the last generation of village players, so that it can be passed on, rejuvenated, enjoyed, and most importantly, danced, by the next generation. To find out more about the band, visit
The band gives special thanks to Andrzej Bienkowski, who first inspired Prusinowski through his archive of great folk music, and who has led the band to all the masters and mentors of the style they are playing. To find out more about Mr. Bienkowski and his endeavors, go to:

Janusz Prusinowski, fiddle
Michał Żak,shawm, clarinet
Piotr Piszczatowski, baraban drum
Piotr Zgorzelski, folk bass
Szczepan Pospieszalski, trumpet

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I met Maria Pomianowska in Samarkand, where she attended the Sharq Taronalari festival as a guest speaker. But as you can see, this woman could well have been not only one of the musicians performing, but one of its finest. I heard her jamming out on the terrace of the Afrasiyob hotel, and immediately knew that I wanted to get her and that unusual instrument of hers alone for a solo videotaping. We found a room between the basement floor lobby and the kitchen that had decent acoustics and was reasonably quiet (considering its proximity to the kitchen). I just said “play” and off she went. The room was not that well lit, so please forgive the somewhat grainy image.
Maria’s credentials are impressive. She graduated in cello at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw. There she was granted a scholarship to learn the sarangi under the guidance of maestro Pandit Ram Narayan in India. From 1997-2002 she lived in Japan, and in 1999 she started composing cross cultural works which were commissioned by cellist Yo Yo Ma. In her continuing efforts to find connections between Asian music with her own cultural heritage, together with Dr. Ewa Dahlig and violin maker A. Kuczkowski she managed to successfully reconstruct a Suka from Bilgoraj which is what you see and hear in this video.
There are many kinds of “fusions” happening in music these days. Maria seems to be her own personal reactor, following her love of western classical music to an equal devotion to Indian classical music, and then adding a dash of Polish gestalt to the mix.
Ms. Pomianawska teaches music and runs a festival of world music in Warsaw. For more information on this amazing woman and musician, visit:

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Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.