Karolina Cicha is one of the most exceptional musicians of her generation. She is a singer, multi-instrumentalist and musical interpreter, and is often compared to the legendary Polish artist Ewa Demarczyk. Cicha plays piano accordion and harpsichord, sings in Yiddish and Esperanto, and effectively merges stage singing with rough rock, jazz, and traditional notes.
Karolina Cicha holds a PhD in Literary Studies. She learnt how to play music by herself and when performing, she is able to play several instruments at once. She plays piano accordion, keyboard, and she experiments with the harpsichord. She has worked at the famous Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices, where she starred in performances inspired by the culture of ancient Greece: Ifigenia w Aulidzie (Iphigenia at Aulis) and Elektra (Electra).
Cicha commenced her solo music career in 2009. The Warsaw Uprising Museum commissioned her to compose a rock melody for Tadeusz Gajcy’s poem Miłość bez jutra (Love with no Tomorrow). The track was to promote the album Gajcy!, dedicated to the oeuvre of the talented poet and Home Army soldier, who died aged 22 in one of the Uprising's battles in Warsaw’s Old Town. The Polish INTERIA website announced the song to be one of the top 10 tracks of 2009.
On year later, Cicha invited several leaders of the Polish alternative scene – Tomasz Budzyński, Tymon Tymański, Olaff Derriglasoff, Jorgos Skolias, Mamadu Diouf, and Czesław Mozil – to collaborate on another record released by the Warsaw Uprising Museum, WAWA2010.PL – a musical tale about the history of Warsaw, from the interwar years to the present day.
She joined each of the musicians (who represented various musical styles) in a duo to perform new interpretations of cult songs about the capital derived from different epochs. She performed songs from this record at the summer Open’er Festival, where her album was very well received.
In 2010, Karolina Cicha released the long-awaited CD List do Ludożerców (A Letter to the Cannibals) with poems by prominent author Tadeusz Różewicz, which Cicha interpreted musically. It took her several months to prepare this material, and she then had to wait the same length of time for Różewicz’s consent.
Upon its release, this album also had very good reviews. Ewa Orczykowska wrote for the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza:
Cicha closely investigates very many styles, but manages not to stick to any one of them […] she does a great job interpreting the straightforward texts by Różewicz – the world’s observer. She intonates in a humorous, and occasionally ironic, manner, but not without humility. Even a simple recitation does not sound obvious when it’s coming from her. She is a sound revelation of the last few years and her talent can be compared to the greatest Polish performers.
In 2012, Cicha recorded her first fully self-authored album Miękkie maszyny (Soft Machines), under the patronage of Polish Radio Three. All of the music and most of the lyrics were created by her; some of the tracks also featured such artists as Tomasz Budzyński and Mamadu Diouf. Apart from samples and some odd sounds, the artist also included her favourite instruments on this record, predominantly the piano accordion. As Cicha admits, it is a difficult, slightly apocalyptic record – the gravity of the lyrics is balanced by energetic melodies.
On the 2013 album Wieloma językami (9 Languages), co-created with Bart Pałyga, Cicha recalled the musical landscape of her native region, multicultural Podlachia. She tells the stories of its inhabitants in Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, Russian, Tartar, Yiddish, and Esperanto. She not only mixed languages, but also sounds: on 9 Languages, samples and loop machines meet exotic instruments: morin khuur, dutar, jew’s harp, duduk, accordion, pipe, mandola, cymbals, and gadulka. One can also hear archaic overtone singing.
Even though, as the artist’s website says, the music on the record is inspired by traditional musical scales, it is not an archival music compilation but a coherent project speaking a contemporary language. This language is founded on the unique styles of the two characters, their charisma and artistic experience, gained through experiments with ethnic, archaic and rock music.
Karolina Cicha, together with Bart Bałyga, took part in the Polish-Pakistani music project at the invitation of the Polish embassy in Islamabad (Poland & Pakistan: Music Without Borders). These two musical worlds: Eastern European and South Asian met in Pakistan in December 2014. On the Polish side: the hurdy-gurdy, cymbals and electric guitars, and on the Pakistani: zithers, sarangis, tablas. Cicha’s vocals were complemented by Shafqat Ali Khan, a singer and master of the Ghazal tradition.
Karolina Cicha developed the Jewish theme which first appeared on Wieloma Językami (9 Languages) on her subsequent album JIDYSZLAND (Yiddishland), based on texts by Jewish poets of north-eastern Poland. The poetic copiousness of Yiddish is yet enriched by ethno-jazz compositions co-created with Piotr Domagalski. Jazz-rock instrumentation is complemented by exotic, ethnic sounds. The album opens with a solo version of the song Białystok majn hejm. The album also includes one of the forgotten texts by Rabbi Eliezer Szulma from Tykocin, and a fragment of the song Simches Tojre Lid by Rivka Tiktiner, a 16th-century scholar, whose ancestors came from the region. The album features the song by the Jewish poet Andrzej Włast, Rebecca, as a bonus track
Karolina Cicha has been awarded at numerous Polish and international festivals and reviews: she received the 2nd prize at the Stage Song Review (Przegląd Piosenki Aktorskiej) in Wrocław and the main prize at the Chansons Festival in Köln. In 2013, she received the Grand Prix, Audience Award and the Czesław Niemen Award at the Polish Radio’s New Tradition Folk Festival.
Sources: www.karolinacicha.eu, Polityka, Gazeta Wyborcza, Ed. AL, December 2014 r., transl. AM, update: GS, August 2015