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Sample Track 1:
"To You Kasiunia" from People's Spring
Sample Track 2:
"Chassidic Dance" from People's Spring
Sample Track 3:
"Who is Getting Married" from People's Spring
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People's Spring
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Warsaw Village Band, People's Spring (World Village) The Shepherd’s Screams and Ancient Polish Fiddle of the Warsaw Village Band

The sheep-herding mountaineers of Poland used a style of singing called “bialy glos” or “white voice;” a type of powerful, melodic screaming used to communicate across long distances. The Warsaw Village Band revives this musical style on their new CD, People’s Spring, to be released on February 10th, 2004 by World Village. The band travels Poland’s countryside in search of the old people who recall the traditional folk music of their regions. The band—which emerged in 1997—simultaneously conserves traditional music and experiments with modern instrumentation and subject matter.

“Traditional music in Poland isn’t exactly widespread,” writes Simon Broughton in World Music: The Rough Guide (1999). “The country has Westernised rapidly and the memory of Communist fakelore has tainted people’s interest in the genuine article. …the Communist regime, as throughout eastern Europe, co-opted folk culture as a part of its own ideology, as a cheerful expression of healthy peasant labour. The Communist espousal of folk music was a near killer blow for the tradition. Both folk music and traditions were sanitized almost to irrelevance, emerging mainly through presentation by professional folk troupes… the overall effect was homogenisation rather than local identity. …Nonetheless, there was just about enough slack in the system for local bands to keep some genuine tradition going.”

The reemergence of the folk music scene began in the 1970’s, but since then, few folk bands have endured. The surfacing of Celtic and other world folk bands on the music scene in the ’80’s was noticed in Poland, and in the early ’90’s Polish folk bands began sprouting up again. Even so, little of this music has made it beyond Poland’s borders. Now the Warsaw Village Band is shining the spotlight on the country’s traditional music by combining ethnic and modern elements. They have created a genre of music at times punk-like but with a traditional singing style. The fresh approach has already earned them international recognition with a recent nomination in the newcomer category of the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards.

On their countryside journeys, the band keeps their material fresh using the same means as classical ethnographic research; documenting dying traditions with live recordings of various Polish folk festivities and village celebrations. Their lineup includes the suka—a Polish fiddle from the 16th century that is only known from historical drawings and whose strings are played with the player’s fingernails rather than the usual fingertips. The suka is joined by an hundred-year-old Polish dulcimer and the hurdy-gurdy—a unique instrument that sounds similar to the bagpipe, thanks to a drone that is played by a cranked wooden wheel rubbing against the strings of the instrument.

The Warsaw Village Band’s lyrics address social and political concerns, in part, due to the music’s close ties with punk circles. “Who is Getting Married” takes a feminist stance on her assumed marriage. It is about a young girl in the countryside that refuses marriage in order to sing, dance, and be free rather than being dependent on someone. “Crane” is a protest song of defiance advising the country’s youth to “be nobody’s servant.”

The music and research of the Warsaw Village Band has inspired many in their home country. Their performance at the “Pastoral Celebration” in the mountainous region of Orava opened doors to the sound of the Mazovia Province. Although the music of the Polish plains was largely unknown to this audience, the band was welcomed with warm admiration and was honored with the distinction of being the first lowlanders ever to perform at a “highlanders only” party.

The Warsaw Village Band’s youthful but mature take on Poland’s roots music has allowed them to introduce this tradition to audiences at home and around the world, and has made audiences take a fresh look at the once forgotten sound of Poland.  

“Proud, inquiring, revolutionary, masterly performed, imbued with a youthful enthusiasm that revitalizes you on every listen and manifests why it still means something to be searching for music all over the land, instead of being content to listen to mainstream pop.” – Nondas Kitsos, Rootsworld  

“A very mature work with lots of energy. Another proof that we should have a closer look towards the Polish scene.” – Christian Moll, Folkworld