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Warsaw Return #11

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The story of the Polish band POLMUZ is a good example of what happens if a long-forgotten piece of music falls into the right hands. Some shellac recordings found on a flea-market, a Soviet analog synthesizer from the 80’s added to a seemingly traditional jazz trio, and multi-generational yet timeless experimental music is created.

POLMUZ was founded right after the shellac recordings mentioned were found by Jacek Bochiński, a collector and researcher of phonograph recordings from Poznań. The band was accepted for an art residency program to the Zamek Cultural Center for a 3-months period. ‘Art residency programs are an increasingly popular form of collaboration between artists and cultural institutions. The Zamek Cultural Center in Poznań was perhaps the first such project in Poland. In our case, the fact that Zamek Cultural Center organizes the Ethno Port Festival, a significant event in the world music genre, also played an important role. During the program, we organised weekly public rehearsals so the audience could follow the repertoire in the process.’ tells Michał Fetler, the saxophonist and composer of the band. Their main idea was a contemporary interpretation of these recordings which - suggested by the phonograph technique - were made sometime in the 1920s at the latest, and the material comes from the southern part of Greater Poland. ‘We have about 14-16 similar recordings. We first selected those from which we most easily created new compositions, the others we kept for following albums and opportunities.’

‘The main goal was to set up a group of musical personalities where members were able to create an original musical language together. According to the initial idea, we would have made a kind of updated and devoted reproduction of the original melodies. However, it soon became clear that our attempts to perform the melodies in a contemporary way on modern instruments, by following the original way of thinking of the music played by the village musicians, did not achieve the expected result. They, just like us, met each other every day and played the most modern music imaginable at the time: music that was often the result of improvisation.’

In 2018 the band competed in the New Tradition Festival (organised by Polish Radio) in Warsaw and won a 1st prize. Why could their unique and fresh performance be a loud success? In their belief folklore does not necessarily have to be a purely historical phenomenon. As they say, hundred years ago, musicians did not call the music they were playing traditional. ‘The development of the phonograph, radio, and the turbulent changes in 20th-century history have disrupted the order of development of amateur music. Polmuz is trying to answer the question of how traditional Polish music would have sounded if it hadn't become a museum piece but had been evolving constantly.’

The band released their first album in 2018 which actually is 2 in 1. The intention of producing two albums with the same material was that they tried to emphasize the nature of improvised, live music. ‘Improvisational bands record unique performances on their recordings, while their concerts could be an entirely different experience. On the other hand, we thought it would be a pity to leave out an interesting performance for the sake of another’. The album(s) titled Drzewiej is absolutely worth listening to, but if you have the chance you’d better listen to them live, whether you recognize yourself or not: ‘It is difficult to define our audience. I think our music goes first and foremost for the conscious and open people. If you are interested in music in general, you are going to interpret Polmuz as a new musical phenomenon, that is not necessarily from the genre of world music. If you listen to improvised and avant-garde music, the folklore context adds an extra meaning to the music we play.’

POLMUZ

Michał Fetler - saxophones
Rafał Zapała - synthesizers
Ksawery Wójciński - double bass
Asia Glubiak - percussions

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More  Warsaw Return articles here

THE INTERVIEW WAS SUPPORTED BY THE WACŁAW FELCZAK FOUNDATION

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