Happy 2014 to all our friends, I was away for a few days but we’ll resume gradually the number of posts, January is always a little slower, isn’t it? Today’s artist is a small (late) tribute to our Polish friends, nothing less than one of the biggest visitors of our page!
The culture of Poland is closely connected with its intricate thousand-year history. With origins in the culture of the Early Slavs, over time Polish culture has been profoundly influenced by its interweaving ties with the Germanic, Latinate and Byzantine worlds as well as in continual dialog with the many other ethnic groups. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Polish focus on cultural advancement often took precedence over political and economic activity, these factors have contributed to the versatile nature of Polish art. Nowadays, Poland is a highly developed country, however, it retains its tradition.
Poland still suffers from a bad image in a way that people who are not from there see the country as the pool where your local painter, farm-help or building constructor comes from (sic). And those people lack the sophistication we, of course, had in our years after WWII, Right? Wrong!! (XO)
Let’s go to our history:
In fact, Poland has a long history of being one of the most cultural evolved countries in Europe. With an empire that once stretched from the East Sea to the Black Sea with an elective monarchy in the 16th century (probably the first of the western world). Thanks to Nicolaus Copernicus we finally found the scientific proof that the world was round! Musically Poland shows influences from composers like Chopin and folk music like the Mazurka, Bohemian Polka and Polonaise.
Not to mention in its world-famous writers and filmmakers like Adam Mickiewicz and Stanisław Lem; or legendary Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Kieślowski.
Poland should be famous for its jazz scene during the communist regime and has an interesting pop and rock scene evolving in the 70s and 80s, with artists and acts like: Czesław Niemen, Novi Singers, Niebiesko-Czarni, Halina Frąckowiak, Big Band Katowice, SBB, Breakout, Marek Grechuta, and Stan Borys.
But let us return a little bit, to understand the darkest period of the country.
Started on the night of 1 September 1939, when Wehrmacht wore on their battle lines, Polish forces were the first to face the German war machine, unfortunately, defeated in just over a month. Even with the 4th largest army, without the presence of the allies, any country would ever accomplish the deadly feat. The Soviets advanced on 17 September as agreed in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (split into two zones).
The Poles were the people most affected by WWII. There too the war ended in 1945, but the end of the conflict did not mean the liberation of the country. In 1945, Poland was a country dismantled, its western border had been pushed 500 kilometers to the west (!), in accordance with agreements made in November 1943 by Soviet Joseph Stalin with the then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Tehran. Millions of Poles living in the east were transferred to territories formerly under German rule. Warsaw was uninhabited and in ruins.
Six million Poles died in the conflict, of which more than 95% were civilians. (!!)
Czeslaw Milosz (writer and Nobel laureate) would recall: ‘For six years, Poland seemed a mechanized slaughterhouse, whose treadmill constantly carried the corpses of murdered human beings’ (!)
Intellectual, religious and noble were transported by the thousands to concentration camps or executed immediately. The goal was Germanizing Polish territories and transform the population into slave labor.
The main concentration camps were located in occupied Poland: Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Chelmno, and Maidanek. Only 10% of the 3.3 million Polish Jews managed to save themselves. The Polish resistance decided on two fronts: against the Germans a military struggle, against the Soviet Union, a policy.
In 1944, when the Red Army began to approach the east of the country, the Poles wanted to present them as masters of their own place. Planned so that, a few hours before the arrival of the Soviets, Warsaw take up arms to expel the Germans. The 1st of August 1944, the Polish resistance began fighting against the Nazis but was left in the hand by the Soviets, because Stalin refused to help. Soviet troops had been halted by Moscow across the banks of the Vistula River – at the gates of Warsaw – and watched 63 days of bitter fighting, with a balance of 200.000 Poles killed. (!)
The Germans dominated the uprising and drove the survivors out of the city that was completely ruined. Hitler even ordered the implosion of what was left standing, consecrating Warsaw as the most destroyed capital in WWII.
The Resistance was cruelly fought by Nazi occupiers, for each dead German, hundred Polish hostages were executed. Until today, the Warsaw uprising isn’t just a national trauma, but also a double symbol of resistance – against the Nazi terror and against Soviet oppression. Every year, the 1st of August, thousands of residents of the capital gather to pay tribute for the uprising.
1945 was the year of liberation from the German terror. The 60th anniversary of this date is remembered by Poles accordingly. But nobody forgets that Poland wasn’t free after the War. The communist regime installed by Moscow only made the Nazi terror be replaced by the Stalinist (sic).
The development of WWII, its battles and countless other situations will be addressed in future posts, this is just a small summary to contextualize, ok?!
Let’s go to our music:
With the coming of the world wars and then the Communist state, folk traditions were oppressed or subsumed into state-approved folk ensembles. The most famous state ensembles were Mazowsze and Śląsk. Though these bands had a regional touch to their output, the overall sound was a homogenized mixture of Polish styles. The whole field seems unhip to young audiences, and many traditions dwindled rapidly.
The entrance of Jazz music, much more appealing to the young audiences, shook up the Soviet structures, in the 50s. Changing once and for all the Polish soundscape.
Before WWII, bands playing in restaurants and bars of Warsaw, Krakow or Poznan already had jazz elements in their repertoire. After the war, the initial period of fascination by youngsters with jazz music was quickly suppressed by communist authorities. The Catacomb Period tried to ban the genre, jazz was played unofficially as a piece of underground music, but two events helped to change that.
First, Stalin died in 1953 which brought a political change that brought freedom also in the field of art. Second, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck visited Poland which had an enormous impact, it was the beginning of the development of an authentic jazz movement and the start of Polish pop music.
During the 50s and 60s, Polish musicians reached for records of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, of hard-bop quintets as well as for the records of bands led by Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The main promoters of modern jazz during the 50s were Andrzej Trzaskowski, Jerzy Milian, Andrzej Kurylewicz, among others.
Polish popular music in the 60s was relatively tame compared to its Western contemporaries, mostly because the Communist government was rather skeptical about rock’n’roll and tried to limit its cultural influence on the young generation. In fact, to avoid trouble from the association, a new term was coined – big beat and its Polish-language equivalent, Mocne Uderzenie. The big beat performers were mostly imitating British stars of the time, sometimes adding elements of Polish folk music.
The 60s also brought Poland one of its most original artists, Czesław Niemen. He started out performing Latin and big beat songs, but soon transformed into a superstar when his protest song Dziwny Jest Ten Swiat (Strange Is This World) was applauded to no end at 1967 Opole Festival. The key to his success was not only an extraordinary voice and image but also very expressive, soul repertoire and poetic lyrics.
At the end of the decade, big beat finally gave way to more evolved rock genres, which would dominate the Polish scene in the following years: blues, soul, prog, disco, etc. The complete unfolding of the 70s will be studied at a later time, after this overview (phew!), let us return to today’s artist, shall we?!
Let’s go to our album:
Henry Debich (18 January 1921 – 4 July 2001) born and buried at Pabianice, was a Polish conductor, composer, arranger, and educator. Born in a family of musicians, his father, Bernard Debich, was a bandmaster from the factory’s orchestra. Before the war, he had private lessons on piano, trumpet, and trombone. He graduated in Theory, Composition and Conducting at Lodz Academy of Music.
During WWII, he was arrested on May 16, 1940, as part of a large share of the Lodz Gestapo, being placed in a camp in Radogoszcz, and then in Dachau. After the war, he took a job teaching in Pabianicka music school and began working with the Polish Radio. At the same time, he continued his studies at the Conservatory H. Kijeńska-Dobkiewiczowej, and studied music theory and conducting.
Debich was co-founder and since 1952 the conductor and artistic director, of The Entertainment Orchestra of Polish Radio and Television in Lodz. Being a multi-annual music director, conductor and juror at festivals in Opole, Sopot, Kolobrzeg and Zielona Gora. He was the second conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra (1956-1958), and together with its ensembles, recorded music for over 20 films and released more than 50 Lp’s throughout its brilliant career!
As a conductor and arranger, the maestro worked with orchestras in Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Netherlands, Cuba, East Germany, Portugal, USSR and so on. He also collaborated with opera and Musical Theatre in Lodz.
Finally, some Polish jazz and funk to roll you upside down! It took a while for us to enter in Poland, this String Beat is almost a sum of every genre that was happening in a strong instrumental act: rock, soul, funk, fusion, soundtrack music, with lots of woodwinds and reeds. It is always good to see the intersection between classical and popular music, with some (dope and mellow) Western covers included.
The ‘IM’ highlights are Bez Metalu, straight from some Blaxploitation movie, this insane groove will leave your jaw open with every single aspect, the arrangement here is some real deal, get ready. And Kameleon, Hancock’s famous song, got a classy drapery here, with swinging guitars, flute/sax solos, and light synths. Frightful!
O Dara Irin Ajo!
A1 Na Opak (Z. Karwacki, J. Delong)
A2 Bez Metalu (M. Racewicz)
A3 Gry Flute (A. Żylis) – [Solos, J. Delong & Z. Karwacki]
A4 Oscypka (Z. Karwacki) – [Solos, A. Szczepański & K. Osiński]
A5 Standard In B (J. Malinowski) – [Solos, J. Delong & Z. Karwacki]
B1 Melodia Z Filmu “Shaft” (I. Hayes / M. Hoffmann)
B2 Opadający Widnokrąg (A. Żylis)
B3 Kameleon (H. Hancock) – [Solos, J. Malinowski &J. Olejniczak]
B4 Obladi – Oblada (J. Lennon, McCartney / M. Hoffmann)
B5 Bądź Wieczorem W Dyskotece (J. Malinowski)
- Conductor – Henryk Debich
- Design (Artwork) – J. Flisak
- Engineer (Reżyser) – M. Targowski
- Liner Notes – Andrzej Jaroszewski
- Orchestra – Orkiestra PR I TV W Łodzi
- Photography – K. K. Czapliński
Polskie Nagrania Muza – SX 1276