An Atypical Polish Summer Playlist
small, An Atypical Polish
Summer Playlist, Dancing on the beach, photo: National Digital Archives, plaza nac.jpg
Whether you’re lying on a beach, travelling to faraway lands, sitting at your desk or just plain bored – this playlist is for you. This is no ‘hot summer mix’ that you’ll hear on the radio. This is no ‘top 10’ ranking. This is… well, take a listen! Let’s have some fun, travel through different musical landscapes and enjoy this unusual summer playlist.
‘Bazar w Aszchabadzie’ (Bazaar in Ashgabat) by Jerzy Milian Trio
Ustka, Mielno, Zakopane, Solina, Mikołajki, Krynica-Zdrój… There are many wonderful tourist destinations in Poland, but we’ll set off on our summer musical journey from faraway Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.
It is a city of contrasts: glass and concrete skyscrapers, portraits of Arkadag Berdimuhamedow and tall monuments of old kings tower over the ancient ruins and palaces, which look like the scenery from the One Thousand and One Nights. When Jerzy Milian’s Trio was recording their album Baazaar in 1969, the cityscape was significantly more modest.
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The dance rhythm of Bazaar in Ashgabat is accompanied by the more aggressive and noisy parts of the song, which are intended to imitate the sounds of the Orient. The song was inspired by Middle Eastern melodies and the newly emerging genre of free jazz.
‘Pocztówka z Wakacji’ (Holiday Postcard) by Papa Dance
After a visit to the local community centre, it’s time for a stop at the pier by the Baltic Sea.
The beach and the pier only happen once
the sun’s heat brought me here again
on the pier a disco, a bird from the sky
someone's kneading sand under their tie
As with many summer songs, comprehensible lyrics don’t seem to be a priority.
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Papa Dance was formed in 1984 under the name Papa Dock. Censors didn’t like the name because it was sounded like the nickname of the Haitian dictator François Duvalier, who goverened the island country from 1957 to 1971. So, the band was renamed.
‘Batumi’ by Filipinki
Thanks to votes from listeners, Batumi ranked first in the Polish Radio’s playlist presenting the best songs of 1963. We’ve just visited Ashgabat, then the Baltic Sea, so now, it’s time to head to Batumi. Filipinki can enjoy pebbly beaches and the biggest harbour on the Black Sea.
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With heavy hearts, we’re bidding farewell to the Georgian shore
Whose voice is resonant like the echo of a long road
Today, when we close our eyes we see it again –
This view, the dream of all our dreams!
‘ERDADA 80/50/39.40 na Taśmę’ (ERDADA 80/50/39.40 on Tape) by Eugeniusz Rudnik
Holidays aren’t just about carefree relaxation. It’s also the season of extreme heat and boredom. We often end up just staring at the wall, listening to of the buzzing of flies, the happy screams of children out the window or the chirping of birds. There’s no better time to cut and paste sounds…
According to Eugeniusz Rudnik, the mastermind behind the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, it may turn out to be a very ‘erotophonic’ experience. In Studio Eksperyment: Leksykon (Experiment Studio: Lexicon), published by Bęc Zmiana in 2012, Daniel Muzyczuk explains:
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‘Erotophony’ is a term used by Eugeniusz Rudnik for some distortions of the recorded human voice, and techniques of sound processing that are acceptable to some extent […] Rudnik notices that while applying effects that drain meaning from the uttered words, for example, editing, reversing, transposition, or while synthesising speech by applying a loop effect, we can get surprising results that sound just like romantic intercourse.
‘Cykady na Cykladach’ (Cicadas in the Cyclades) by Maanam
The next stop on our holiday songs tour is Ios, one of the islands in the Cyclades Archipelago located in the Aegean Sea. It is where Kora Jackowska once enjoyed the sound of the cicadas and she put the experience to music.
‘Fajka Pokoju’ (Pipe of Peace) by Izrael
From Latin jazz, we move to an even hotter climate – the steamy Caribbean island of Jamaica, the homeland of such musical genres as rocksteady, reggae, ska and dancehall. Pipe of Peace, a song from the second album by Robert Brylewski and Paweł Rozwadowski’s band Izrael, enchants listeners with its dense trance sounds of reggae and dub.
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‘Jamaican Ska’ by Alibabki i Tajfuny
When it comes to Jamaica, we can’t forget about Alibabki. The band recorded this single in 1965, becoming one of the first female bands to perform ska. In Kingston, the genre had already growing in popularity since the 1950s, but the first ska record wasn’t released until 1962 – and just three years later, the music had made its way to Poland.
But how? How did this musical trend travel from the United Kingdom to Poland under the communist regime? We owe this to Juliusz Loranc, a composer and the music director of the ‘girl band’ Alibabki. Or maybe to the unidentified person who gave Loranc Byron Lee’s single Jamaican Ska.
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RSS B0YS – 0W 00
The members of the anonymous group RSS B0YS met on holiday in faraway Benin. The basis of their productions are samples taken from unknown folk records found on blogs about old, forgotten music from all over the globe. Some of the samples were cut from tapes they bought during their holiday in Africa.
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Daniel Brożek, a.k.a. the Black Kite, is a Wrocław-based DJ and curator who created this mix, based on one of the biggest analogue album collections recorded in Yiddish. The result lives at the intersection of pre-war hit songs and modern dance music. The sad voice of clarinet blends with the synthesizer distortions and bass line to create a rumbling sound that gives the listener goosebumps.
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‘Plaża’ (Beach) by Eldo
Summer trips to the seaside don’t always have to be happy. Eldo, a rapper from Grammatik, was clearly in a dark mood. He used his beach time to criticise modern-day consumerism. ‘I was listening to the screams of seagulls’, he says, ‘and they reminded me of people’:
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Who’s louder, who’s better – it’s a never-ending race,
Today cunning and conniving are ethics base,
I looked for people like me, that’s why it hurt so much,
So as not to go insane, you have to escape into loneliness,
So many people before us believed in an idealistic world,
Today we’re left with nothing, we’re alone on this beach.
‘Zimny Dzień’ (Cold Day) by Super Girl & Romantic Boys
Every holiday risks some days with bad weather. And on the days when it’s cloudy and rainy, and bitter winds blow, who doesn’t like to to listen to sad songs about love? Perhaps Cold Day by Super Girl & Romantic Boys will do the trick.
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‘40 Stopni w Cieniu’ (40 Degrees in the Shade) by 3H
The issue of temperature keeps popping up in the lyrics of summer songs. Obviously, the heat can be unbearable at times. Rapping about it here is the legendary Warsaw hip-hop ensemble 3H (later renamed Warszafski Deszcz ‘Warsaw Rain’). with whom the popular rapper Tede launched his career.
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Such a song would never released today because of copyright issues, but in 1990s Poland, this branch of law wasn’t treated too seriously. Thanks to the use of samples in Tede’s song, we can hear… the late Kora Jackowska.
‘Babylon Samba’ by Tomasz Stańko
If you’re tired of disco’s synthetic sounds, shop around for a different beat – just remember that ultimately, you should be dancing. How about a samba? Together with Witold Szczurek (double bass), Apostolis Anthimos (string instruments, drums) and Jose Torres (conga, percussion), jazz maven Tomasz Stańko (trumpet) invites us to move.
On C.O.C.X. – probably the most easy-going album the trumpeter ever recorded, Stańko and company take listeners to the land of dreamy Latin jazz. Stańko himself called this genre ‘free pop’. In an extended interview conducted by Rafał Księżyk for Desperado, the musician said:
My approach was different back then. It was a ‘high’ music. My life was ‘high’. It wasn’t my intention to play pop, make something easier to sell. The idea was quite different, but very precise at the same time: to put on my own music instead of Marley's when I'm with a woman. Light stuff – to listen to in bed. Now I realise that this was my inclination to make music that was communicative.
‘Krystyna’ by Ptaki
Ptaki is a musical duo made up of Jaromir Kamiński and Bartosz Kruczyński. Krystyna is their most famous song – it can be heard all over Poland and even at parties in Ibiza. Samples for this track were borrowed from Krystyna Prońko’s song Specjalne Okazje (Special Occasions).
‘California Dreaming’ by Andruchowycz/Trzaska
Sometimes we get tired of just listening to music and feel the need to reach for a book or try our hand at a foreign language. The Ukrainian poet Yuri Andruchowycz and the Polish jazzman Mikołaj Trzaska come to the rescue with their ‘album-book’ of recorded poetry. On California Dreaming, Andruchowycz talks about his experiences in America.
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‘Hidden Force’ by Kompozyt ft. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
We’ve already visited Jamaica on our musical tour a couple of times, but always with a Polish flavour. Kompozyt – the brothers Michał and Piotr Żuralski, who live and work in London – reached for Lee Perry, the legend of Jamaican music, reggae and (above all) the precursor dub singer and composer. He was an inspiration for Bob Marley, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney and The Clash... What great company!
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‘Goniąc Kormorany’ (Chasing Cormorants) by Piotr Szczepanik
Everything must come to an end – even summer. Piotr Szczepanik puts it beautifully in his song Chasing Cormorants.
‘Finlandia’ (Finland) by Świetliki
Meanwhile, Świetliki’s song Finlandia (Finland) speaks – or rather sings – for itself:
Never again will cigarettes be so good,
And vodka so cold and refreshing,
Never will there be such pretty girls,
Never will there be such delicious pastries
Our team will never do this well again
There will never be such meats, such Coca Cola,
Such mustard, such milk,
Never will there be such a summer.
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Originally written in Polish by Filip Lech, Jul 2013, translated by AA, Jul 2013, updated Jul 2018, translated by AS, Aug 2018