John Berberian and The Rock East Ensemble – Middle Eastern Rock (1969)

capa cópia

Armenia. Beginning in the eleventh century, a long series of invasions, migrations, conversions, deportations, and massacres reduced Armenians to a minority population in their historic homeland on the Armenian Plateau. A large-scale Armenian diaspora of merchants, clerics, and intellectuals reached cities in Russia, Poland, Western Europe, and India. Most Armenians remaining in historical Armenia under the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century survived as peasant farmers in eastern Anatolia, but others resettled in Constantinople and other cities in the empire. There they became artisans, moneylenders, and traders.

In the nineteenth century, the political uncertainties that beset the Ottoman Empire prompted further insecurity in the Armenian population. During the WWI, Armenians from the Caucasus formed volunteer battalions to help the Russian army against the Turks. Early in 1915, these battalions organized the recruiting of Turkish Armenians from behind Turkish lines. The Young Turk government reacted by ordering the deportation of the Armenian population to Syria and Palestine.

Genocide Map
Genocide Map

More than 1 million (!) died from starvation, were killed by Arab or Kurdish tribes along the route, either massacred or forcibly removed from the eastern Anatolian provinces, what became known as the (forgotten) Armenian Genocide.

(Due to the graphic content of this little-known Holocaust, we decided not to show these horrors committed on the page, there are links in the text for this.)

Aside from the historical persecution and diaspora, Armenia is a unitary, multi-party, democratic nation-state with an ancient cultural heritage. The Satrapy of Armenia was established in the 6th century BC, after the fall of Urartu. In the first century BC, the Kingdom of Armenia reached its height extension under Tigranes the Great.

Mesrop Mashtots Moument
Mesrop Mashtots Monument

Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion, in the early years of the 4th century (301 AD). They got their own distinctive alphabet and language, invented by Mesrop Mashtots in 405 AD, a fundamental step in strengthening the Armenian statehood and the bond between the Armenian Kingdom and Armenians living in the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire.

Located between the East and the West, a place of collisions between great empires of antiquity and the Middle Ages such as Rome, Iran, Byzantium, Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols crossed Armenia and destroyed it interrupting its cultural development leaving behind nothing but the smoking ruins. Having managed to resist each of the powerful newcomers, the people have saved fidelity to their culture which nevertheless underwent some changes. As a result, the national culture of Armenia acquired some features characteristic to both civilization then: Eastern and Western.

Cilician Traditional Costume
Cilician Traditional Costume

Sergei Parajanov was a Soviet film director and artist who made significant contributions to UkrainianArmenian and Georgian cinema, with an own cinematic style, which was totally out of step with principles of socialist realism. 

This, combined with its controversial lifestyle, led Soviet authorities to consider him a persona non gratapersecuting, imprisoning and banning its films!

The Color of Pomegranates
The Color of Pomegranates

Let’s go to our artist:

John Berberian (October 9, 1941) was born in New York City. Berberian’s parents were Armenian immigrants that came to America in the early 1920s with a rich musical culture. His father was an accomplished oud player, as well as an instrument maker. Oud masters of Armenian, Turkish, Arabic and Greek heritage frequented his family’s home. He first recorded traditional oud music with violinist Reuben Sarkisian, when a student at Columbia University in the mid-1950s. John subsequently recorded for a variety of labels including MGM, RCA, Roulette, Verve and Mainstream Records, two recordings from this series, Expressions East and Oud Artistry, were record-breaking in sales expanding beyond the ethnic market.

As a younger member of the longstanding Armenian community of Massachusetts, Berberian worked on a musical style known as Taksim (improvisation), a firm deeply rooted in traditional Middle Eastern folk music. Berberian has commanded the respect of musicians worldwide, he has been featured in numerous concerts and dances throughout the USA, Canada, and South America, and is one of only a handful of musicians worldwide given the title of Udi (oud master) (!). He presently lives in Massachusetts and maintains a very active performance schedule, up to this day.

60's Portrait
60’s Portrait

Let’s go to our album:

In 1969, two producers from the Verve label, Peter Spargo and Harvey Cowen, tried to do for the oud what others did for the sitar. Spargo knew Berberian, having used him in various sessions. They hired him, with other Armenian musicians from New York and two jazzmen, including Joe Beck; they mostly did not know each other and rehearsed and recorded the same day they met for the first time. Verve fired the two producers before they could make of Berberian the new (sic) Ravi Shankar.

‘The Oud and The Fuzz’ is an original sound derived from the Druze tribe of Northern Africa. ‘Chem-OO-Chem’ is a popular Armenian song, 6/8 is the traditional rhythm for Armenian dances. This features lead vocalist Bob Tashjian. ‘Flying Hye’ (with hye referring to flying in Armenian) starts in 9/8 which changes to 6/8 and has a melody taken from the (famous) Greek dance form of Tsamiko.

Armenian Ensemble
Armenian Ensemble

Also ‘3/8 + 5/8= 8/8’ refers to how complex Middle Eastern melodies can build up, based upon Turkish classical music. ‘The Magic Ground’ is a based upon A minor (or Kurdi for Arab music), which takes off in 2/4, then breaks into a swing.

Once again do not be fooled by this tacky cover art! Released originally in 1969, Middle Eastern Rock is a unique, compelling fusion record from Armenian-American oud player John Berberian. The results, which blend elements of psychedelia, free jazzklezmer, African, and Middle Eastern textures, are dazzling, and are sure to thrill anyone with a taste for outside albums, be ready and Բարի ճանապարհ:!

The ‘IM’ highlights are The Oud & The Fuzz and 3/8 + 5/8 = 8/8.

Tracks Include:

A1 The Oud & The Fuzz (Berberian) (4/4)

A2 Tranquility (6/8)

A3 Chem-OO-Chem (6/8)

B1 Iron Maiden (2/4)

B2 Flying Hye (9/8)

B3 3/8 + 5/8 = 8/8

B4 The Magic Ground (Berberian, Baronian) (2/4)

A2 To B3: Traditional

Credits

  • Art DirectionSid Maurer
  • Artwork (Cover Art) – Jim O’Connell, Sandy Hoffman
  • Bass (Fender Bass) – Chet Amsterdam
  • Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone SaxophoneSouren Baronian
  • Drums – Bill LaVorgna
  • Electric Guitar (Amplified Rock Guitar), Guitar (Fuzz) – Joe Beck
  • Engineer – David Greene, Tony Maye
  • Goblet Drum (Dumbeg) – Steve Pumilian
  • Leader, Oud – John Berberian
  • Liner NotesJack Maharian
  • Percussion, VocalsBob Tashjian
  • Producer – H.H. Cowen, Peter Spargo
  • Rhythm GuitarEd Brandon

Companies

Recorded At A&R Studios, New York City

Produced By H.H. Cowen, Peter Spargo

Director of Engineering – Val Valentine

Engineers: David Greene, Tony Maye

Verve Forecast FTS-3073

Sunny Yerevan
Sunny Yerevan

Omar Khorshid (عمر خورشيد) – Rhythms From The Orient (1974)

capa

Egypt has one of the longest histories of any modern state, tracing its heritage back to the 10th millennium BCE (!), which saw the emergence of one of the earliest and most sophisticated civilizations in the world. Egypt’s iconic monuments, such as the Giza Necropolis and its Great Sphinx, as well the ruins of Memphis, Thebes, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings outside Luxor, are a significant focus of archaeological study and popular interest from around the globe.

The country’s rich cultural legacy is an integral part of its national identity, enduing and assimilating numerous foreign influences throughout the times, including Roman, Greek (Hellenism), Persian (Islamic), Ottoman, and European (Christianity).

Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings

As early as 4000 BC, ancient Egyptians were playing harps and flutes, as well as two indigenous instruments: the Ney and the Oud. However, there is little notation of Egyptian music before the 7th century AD, when Egypt became part of the Muslim world. Contemporary Egyptian music traces its beginnings to the creative work of luminaries such as Abdu al-Hamuli and Sayed Mekkawi, who were patronized by Khedive Ismail and who influenced the later work of Sayed Darwish, Umm Kulthum, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim Hafez, and other Egyptian music giants.

From the ’70s onwards, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly important in Egyptian culture, particularly among the large youth population. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Egyptian music was a way to communicate social and class issues. Egyptian pop singers such as Tamer Hosny, Mohamed Mounir, and Ali El Haggar have consolidated careers and fame among the Arab world.

Ancient Musicians
Ancient Musicians

Belly dance or Raqs Sharqi (oriental dancing) is the classical Egyptian style of belly dance that developed during the first half of the 20th century. Based on the traditional Ghawazi and other folk styles and formed by western influences such as marching bands, the Russian ballet, Latin dance, this hybrid style was performed in the cabarets of Kingdom of Egypt period and in early Egyptian cinema.

The style is often considered the classical style of belly dance, although that term historically referred to the Ghawazi style, and today covers a much wider range of Middle Eastern dance as well as Western styles developed from them. Today the country is considered an international center of the art.

Raqs Sharqi ~ 20's
Raqs Sharqi ~ 20’s

Let’s go to our artist:

Born Omar Mohammed Omar Khorshid (October 9, 1945, ~ May 29, 1981) in Cairo at the glittering age of Egypt’s cultural reinvention, Omar Khorshid was soon to become one of its luminaries and most well-known, if short-lived, voices. He is regarded as the greatest guitarist the Arab world has ever known. (!!) With a natural gift for music, at a young age, he was taught piano but quickly discovered the guitar, much to the annoyance of his father, Ahmad Khorshid (a cinematographer) who even smashed his first guitar, but Omar was persistent enough to continue with a new one on credit!

By the mid 60’s he was established with his group Le Petit Chats, an Egyptian beat group modeled after the prevailing influence of Elvis and The Beatles. It was at this time that one of the reigning figures of contemporary Arabic music, Abdel Halim Hafez, asked Omar to join his orchestra. It didn’t take long before he was adapted into an Egyptian orchestra as a soloist. Arranger Baligh Hamdi helped him with arrangements to show his (freshly) western-inspired guitar talent.

Heartthrob Musician
Heartthrob Musician

Time with the Hafez orchestra offered Khorshid instant fame, and it wasn’t long before he was asked to play with the queen of Arab music, the voice of Egypt herself: Oum Kalthoum. Over the next few years, he was heavily featured in live concerts, national TV and radio, and studio recordings, playing for the leading artists of the day. The guitar had now become an essential ingredient in the Oriental orchestra.

Omar began recording albums under his own name for the prestigious Lebanese record labels Voice of The Orient and Voice of Lebanon. Working with visionary engineer Nabil Moumtaz at Polysound studios in Beirut, Khorshid would take his music into some of the most progressive and innovative musical terrains of its time!

A Film Excerpt
A Film Excerpt

Besides he also played as an actor, produced and composed music for over 40 films over the years (in Egypt and Lebanon). He lived for a few years a great life in Lebanon until the 1975 civil war, which over a short period in Syria made him return to Egypt. In that time span, he had four marriages! By 1979 he was invited to play at the White House on the invitation with president Sadat being present and with violinist Menuhin, as an Arab/Israeli exchange idea. Rumors indicate that after that day, he happened to be persecuted by extremists, dying in a mysterious car accident at age 36.

Let’s go to our album:

HEADS UP! Do not be fooled by the cheesy cover. Today’s album brings one of the greatest virtuosos who has appeared in Egypt and surroundings. Previously we appreciate the talent and the ways that Aris San had but with Omar Khorshid the thing takes another panorama, he simply rolled upside down the guitar concept from Middle Eastern music. With psych sounding, eastern sounding organ, percussive instrumentation, an originally styled electric guitar leading, surf reminiscences, all mixed with some additional Moog/synth, proves that this isn’t a regular record!

The ‘IM’ highlights are for Raqsed El Fada and Takkasim Sanat Alfeyn. બોન વોયેજ!

Tracks Include:

A1 Raqset El Fadaa (Nourl Al Malah)

A2 Guitar El Chark (Nourl Al Malah)

A3 Takassim Sanat Alfeyn (Omar Khorshid)

B1 Laylet Hob (M. Abdel Wahab)

B2 Lama Bada Yatasana (Traditional)

B3 Teletya Mahla Nourha (Saeed Darwesh)

B4 Ah Ya Zen (Traditional)

Credits

  • Recorded ByNabil Moumtaz

Voice of Lebanon ‎– VLMX 39

Misty Cairo
Misty Cairo

Mimis Plessas (Μίμης Πλέσσας) – Greece Goes Modern (1967)

capa cópia

Greece. Hardly any other pop genre in Europe has been influenced so deeply by its own musical history. No wonder if you take into consideration the numerous dramatic social and political events the country had to endure in the 20th century:

WW I and IIGreco-Turkish War (1919-1922), The Greek Civil War (1946-49) and the dictatorship of dictators Ioannis Metaxas (in the thirties) and Papadópoulos (in the sixties) had a huge impact on the music singers and songwriters.

Basically, Greek popular music falls apart in two separate genres:

The Rembétiko / Éntekhno genre is the more traditional of the two, a sort of Greek blues with songs filled with drama, passion, romance, and bitterness.

On the other hand, the more up-tempo (‘positive’) genre called Laïkó (later Laïká), it incorporates more international known music styles but they always seem to slip in a typical Greek instrument or arrangement. For a foreigner, it sometimes is hard to distinguish whether a song is Rembétiko or Laïkó and you probably have to be Greek to hear the difference! ας πάει στην ιστορία μας?

Greek People's Liberation Army
Greek People’s Liberation Army

The basis of Greek pop music is the Heptanesian Cantatha, Athenian Cantatha and (aforementioned) Rebetika. The cantatha style was common during the period 1870-1930 where they were performed on the revues and operettas that dominated the Greek theatres. The cantatha culture has a similarity to the cantautore tradition in Italy. These Athenian songs, despite their original connection to a total dramatic work, also achieved to become hits as independent demotic songs.

Rebétiko (ρεμπέτικο) evolved from traditions of the urban poor, such as refugees, drug-users, criminals and itinerants, the earliest musicians were scorned by mainstream society. In 1923, many ethnic Greeks from the Asia Minor in Anatolia fled to Greece as a result of the Greco-Turkish War, many of these immigrants were highly educated, and included songwriter Vangelis Papazoglou and Panayiotis Toundas.

Rebétiko Trio, 1930
Rebétiko Trio, 1930

Its popularity increased until embraced by the majority of the working class, reaching its classical period in the 40’s/50’s. The principal instruments of Rebétiko were the bouzouki, baglama, and guitar. The classic songs were distinguished for their power of expression and passion. Within the music style, one can detect the contributions/influence of the folk song, Byzantine chant, and Eastern music.

After the end of WWII and the Greek Civil War, Greece entered a period of relative economic prosperity and the middle class, which had suffered through extreme poverty during the ’40s, began living more comfortably, a fact that was bound to be reflected in its choice of entertainment. These social and economic improvements transformed the music: its themes, structure, and visibility.

Along with the ’50s, two dominant styles for Greek pop became clear. On one hand, you had the Rembétika, a softer more western approach to Rebétiko. On the other, you had Laïkó music, that became the mainstream music of Greece during the coming decades, with love and relationships figuring prominently as key themes.

Cretan Traditional Dance
Cretan Traditional Dance

Let’s go to our artist:

Mimis Plessas was born on 12 October 1924 in Athens. He attended the Lycee Leonin, studied at the Physics Department of the University of Athens and then went to America to pursue his studies. At a young age, he became the first solo piano in Greek Radio. In 1952, it won the first prize of music at the University of Minnesota. He then began working with composition and since 1956 as a conductor and composer.

Its artistic and compositional activity covers the last 50 years, all areas of music: theater, cinema, radio, and television, having to his credit 104 movies and 70 plays (!!). He has conducted numerous major orchestras around the world, such his offer in Paris in 1958, Edinburgh and the U.S. in 1964 and 1965 respectively.

60's
60’s

The maestro was also the producer of the historic radio show ‘In 30 Seconds’ over the decades of 60’s/70’s. He equally participated in most international and Greek juries of music festivals, artistic events and such. Lastly, Plessas is a member of the Greek Society of Playwrights, Composers and Songwriters, as well as numerous honorifics awards. He is currently retired and lives in Athens.

Let’s go to our album:

In 1967 he released what is often mentioned as ‘the holy grail’ of Greek jazz music. This was a jazz fusion based on Greek traditional folk songs, the outcome was a fresh jazz, beat, psychedelic, funky, samba, bossa nova (!!) orchestration that re-introduced the old material, improvised and suggested a new and very interesting sound.

Originally recorded in 1966 for the needs of an advertising broadcast (‘Fix’ beer!), the 10 tracks of the album are masterfully treated in a modern way by Mimis Plessas and his band, the Orbiters. Playing ultra-loungy, with some fuzzy guitar overtones, they follow a jazzy direction without losing their folk originality!

Newly Maestro
Newly Maestro

The ‘IM’ Highlights are for: O Menoussis and Vassilikos一路顺风!

Tracks Include (polytonic, romanized and translated):

A1 Λεμονάκι, Lemonaki (Peloponnesian Dance)

A2 Ο Μενούσης, O Menoussis (Dance of Thrace)

A3 Γυαλό Να Πας, Yalo Na Pas (Dance of Zante)

A4 Καραγκούνα, Karagouna (Thessalian Dance)

A5 Καράβι Απ’ Τη Χίο Karavi Ap’ Ti Hio (Dance of Chios)

B1 Τρία Παιδιά, Tria Pedia (Dance of Volos)

B2 Η Πέρδικα, I Perdika (Dance of Corfu)

B3 Βασσιλικός, Vassilikos (Dance of Epirus)

B4 Καλαματιανό, Kalamatiano (Dance of Kalamata)

B5 Κρητικός, Kritikos (Cretan Dance)

Credits

  • Bass: Andreas Rodousakis
  • Clarinet, Flute: Nikos Guinos
  • Conductor, Arranged By, Liner Notes: Mimis Plessas
  • Cover, Painting, Sleeve, Design: Vassilis Fotopoulos
  • Drums, Percussion: Igor Raniets
  • Electric Guitar: Titos Kaliris
  • Flute, Electric Guitar: Andreas Ortega
  • Orchestra: Orbiters, The
  • Organ [Philicorda]: Mimis Plessas
  • Recorded by: Yannis Smirneos
  • Written by: Traditional

Companies

  • Distributed: Music-box, Martin Th. Gesar S.A.
  • Printed: Ο. Φωτιάδης & Α. Ιωαννίδης

Notes

Dedicated to Eleana and to the newborn Emmeleia.

The original sleeve artwork is by painter and stage designer Vassilis Fotopoulos (Academy Award winner for Art Direction of the film ‘Zorba’)

Pan-Vox (2) ‎– X 33 PV 10101

Santorini View
Santorini View

Tihomir Pop Asanović – Majko Zemljo (1974)

capa cópia

Alexander III of Macedon, better known as Alexander the Great, single-handedly changed the nature of the ancient world in little more than a decade.

Alexander was born in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia in July 356 BC. His parents were Philip II of Macedon and his wife Olympias. Alexander was educated by the philosopher Aristotle until the age of 16.

Philip was assassinated in 336 BC and Alexander inherited a powerful yet volatile kingdom. He quickly dealt with his enemies at home and reasserted Macedonian power within Greece. He then set out to conquer the massive Persian Empire.

circa 330 BC
circa 330 BC

Against overwhelming odds, he led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat. His greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela, what is now northern Iraq, in 331 BC.

The young king of Macedonia, leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor and pharaoh of Egypt became ‘great king’ of Persia at the age of 25. (!!)

Over the next eight years, in his capacity as king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer, Alexander led his army a further 11,000 miles, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents.

The Kingdom
The Kingdom

The entire area was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects. Alexander was acknowledged as a military genius who always led by example, although his belief in his own indestructibility meant he was often reckless with his own life and those of his thousands of soldiers.

The fact that his army only refused to follow him once in 13 years of a reign during which there was constant fighting, indicates the loyalty he inspired to his men.

He died of typhoid fever in Babylon in June 323 BC.

Diogenes and Alexander
Diogenes and Alexander

Let’s go to our album:

Tihomir Pop Asanović (1948, Skopje, FYROM Macedonia) is one of the best ex-Yugoslavian keyboard players. He started with The Generals (Latin rock) in 1968 and played frequently across East European and German jazz clubs.

He was original line-up member of legendary prog-rock Time taking part in their celebrated eponymous debut album in 1972. During the mid-1970s he either played occasionally with Yu Grupa (classic) and Smak (jazz-prog), while in 1974, founded a supergroup called Jugoslovenska Pop Selekcija (The Yugoslavian Pop Selection), which gathered some of the best rock and jazz players of the era.

Presently
Naši Dani: Priče O Hrvatskom Rocku – Tv Show

Together with a colleague from the Selection, vocalist Janez Bončina, he founded jazz-rock band September in 1975. After they disbanded in the late 70s he also joined in Boomerang (funk) and finally as a prominent session musician to then (phew), finish its career as a musical instruments dealer!

The ‘IM’ highlights are for Majko Zemljo and Ostavi Trag. 

Get ready for some Yugo Funk and имаат убава патување!

Tracks Include:

A1 Majko Zemljo (vocals by Dado Topić and Janez Bončina)

A2 Balada o lišću (vocal by Dado Topić)

A3 Berlin I

A4 Tema za pop LP (vocal by Nada Žgur)

B1 Rokenrol dizajner (vocals by Dado Topić and Janez Bončina)

B2 Ostavi trag (vocal by Josipa Lisac)

B3 Telepatija (vocals by Nada Žgur, Dado Topić, and Doca Marlot)

B4 Berlin II

Credits

  • Bass, Bass [Fender] – Mario Mavrin (tracks: A1, A3 to B3)
  • Conductor – Tihomir Pop Asanović
  • Congas, Percussion – Braco Doblekar (tracks: A1 to B3)
  • Drums, Percussion – Ratko Divjak (tracks: A1 to B3)
  • Producer – Miljenko Prohaska, Vladimir Mihaljek
  • Saxophone [Alto] – Ozren Depolo (tracks: A1 to B1, B3)
  • Saxophone [Tenor] – Dušan Verble (tracks: A1 to B1)
  • Trombone – Boris Šinigoj (tracks: A1, A3 to B1)
  • Trumpet – Pero Ugrin (tracks: A1 to B1), Stanko Arnold (tracks: A1, A3 to B1)

Jugoton / LSY-63003

Ohrid Lake
Ohrid Lake

Orkiestra PR I TV W Lodzi Dyryguje Henryk Debich – String Beat (1975)

cover

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.

Traditional Art
Traditional Art

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.

Bohemian Polka
Bohemian Polka

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).

British Propaganda
British Propaganda

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. (!!)

Warsaw, 1945
Warsaw, 1945

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.

Polish Underground State
Polish Underground State

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).

Warsaw Uprising Monument
Warsaw Uprising Monument

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.

(Square) Folk Ensemble
(Square) Folk Ensemble

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.

Dave Brubeck Quartet
Dave Brubeck Quartet

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 MilianAndrzej 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.

Polish Jazz Cover
Polish Jazz Cover

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:

Henryk Debich, Cartoon
Henryk Debich, Cartoon

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.

Henryk's Portrait
Henryk’s Portrait

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.

Live
Live

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!

Tracks Included:

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)

Credits

  • 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

Nowoczesny, Warsaw
Nowoczesny, Warsaw