Posts Tagged ‘polish village music’


Mazurkas of the World Festival from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

There’s something shakin’ in Poland these days. Musicians who are curious about their folk legacy (the real one) have been discovering its joys, and are passing that joy along to a whole new generation of young people. And they are dancing up a storm….to the Mazurka.
They even got ME dancing.
To backtrack a bit, the folk heritage of Poland got buried during the Communist years as state sponsored folk troupes were kitsch at best, and distorted its guts and glory into an over-produced, homogenized cliché. Poles turned away from this package, and with the passage of time many thought that this weird product actually WAS their music.
But 30 years ago, a man named Andrzej Bienkowski lugged a video camera out to the hinterlands of Poland and started to document the real stuff. It became a passion, and now his Warsaw flat is a salon for this new wave of musicians to embrace the singing, playing and dancing of their homeland. And just as the Hungarians discovered in the 70’s, it is a rich tradition indeed, full of complexity, drive and enduring melodies.
I also found it to contain an odd mixture of stoicism and hedonism. The folksongs which are primarily non-polyphonic, tend to stress the hardships of life –with the exception of wedding songs– while the couple dancing (and the music for it) is intensely physical, joyous, and even trance inducing. So forgive me if I concentrate on the instrumental side!
If it wasn’t for my profile of the Janusz Prusinowski Trio when I saw them at WOMEX I would not have been invited to this invigorating event They are the main organizers of the “Mazurkas of the World Festival,” a total immersion, and non-stop environment of music and movement. There are workshops for violin playing, Baraban (drum) playing, singing, and of course, dancing. There are people like Maciek Zurek, spreading the word and setting up dance parties, and this year’s festival saw greater attendance, by people already knowing the music and dances, than ever before. The festival takes place in May, so if you headed to the area at that time, and you like to dance, or just enjoy an intensely energetic musical experience, check it out.
After the festival, the press group and I spent three days in the country, meeting the people who still create the music, and seeing how it fits into life there. I confess that a large part of our time was spent slugging back home made vodka, as each song sung requires an introductory quaff. I’m still reviewing my footage, hoping it is not too shaky to use! If it is passable, you can look forward to part 2 of my visit.
The video here is just a sampler.
To see six songs by the Kapela Brodaw visit:
To see the entire Finale, go to:
I will be adding more exclusive full performances to my site at InterMuse shortly.

For more information about the Mazurkas of the World Festival please visit:

For more information about the Janusz Prusinowski Trio, visit:

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

This is an excerpt from a wild set that the Trio (plus 2) performed at the festival. After all the hard core ethnic music, the ensemble illustrated just how innovative and galvanizing they can be, while still remaining true to their musical heritage.

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NOTE: edit is rough at the beginning, but it smooths out.

Witek Broda is the driving force behind the Kapela Brodow, which in this video consists of Marta Maślanka on cimbalom, Witold Broda on fiddle, Iwona Sojka on violin, and Anatol Broda on cello.
I met him at the Mazurkas of the World Festival, where he gave a lecture about his researches into the folk fiddling styles of Poland, a tradition that was in danger of dying out prior to the recent resurgence of interest in it. He impressed me as a forceful and committed person, in thrall with his country’s music.
When I saw this ensemble play at the festival, I knew, even as I was shooting it, that it was a performance I would want to post. There is a lushness about the sound, and a wonderful energy that comes bursting out of it. These guys really know how to lay into the bow.
I wrote to Mr. Broda requesting information on the pieces herein. Here are his answers.
“The first recorded piece – consists of 2 combined Mazurkas from the Rzeszowskie region, the south of Poland (the area is also referred to as Małopolska), this is specifically dance music, I know these pieces from an old violin master, born in the 19th century,
2nd piece – “Polka przez nogę” – danced quickly with a strange choreography, the rhythm is 2/4; the dancers dance as if it were 3/4; it also comes from the Rzeszowskie region; the south of Poland (Małopolska);
3rd piece – Wolny (the Slow Dance)- a type of Mazurka which is played very slowly; sung at weddings; from the Rzeszowskie region; the south of Poland (Małopolska);
4th piece – this is a Polka I composed myself;
5th piece – Polonaise – comes from the collection of Oskar Kolberg, the most eminent 19th century Polish ethnographer.”

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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.