According to a survey done by the Music and Dance Institute, only 8,7% of respondents knew who Oskar Kolberg was. An actor, a director, a priest? Who is Kolberg?
Oskar Kolberg was an ethnographer, folklorist and composer who published thick collections of Polish folk songs classified by region. An ethnographer carefully documents the peculiarities of a specific culture, contrasting it to those of its neighbours. Kolberg collected over 8,000 folk melodies and described the customs, traditions, dances, and proverbs of the people inhabiting the territory of Poland before the partitions. Apart from reaching the Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians, Poles, Silesians, he also evidenced the cultures of Czechs, Slovaks, the Lusitzi and even Southern Slavs. He recorded the information in his renowned work "Lud" (The People or The Folk, note by editor). 33 volumes were published before his death and another 52 after, bringing the entire collection to 85 volumes or 39,780 pages. To make bookshelves look even more bulky, the Oskar Kolberg Institute is currently releasing another four volumes of supplements.
With that bookshelf-bending contribution, Kolberg is understandably remembered as an ethnographer. But his many journeys and encounters inspired him to compose himself. His compositions will be played on the occasion of the inauguration of the Kolberg Year (February 21st 2014 in the tiny village of Przysucha, where the artist was born 200 years ago).
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Oskar Kolberg was the Steve Jobs of folk traditions - he recorded the songs he gathered in a way that would make it possible for anyone to play them in the comfort of their own home (provided you had a piano). He wanted traditions to reach as many people as possible. Now, in the day and age of Soundcloud, his work can be digitalised.
The Forum Muzyki Tradycyjnej / Traditional Music Forum, together with the association "Tratwa" have organised the Kolberg Academy. Its aim is to create an educational model which will seep traditional music into society and culture. They are also holding a series of workshops for kids called Mały Kolberg / Little Kolberg.
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Sherlock Holmes in a Museum
The Janusz Korczak Children's Museum at the Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw has prepared another project, called SuperKOLBERG. The programme includes discussions about customs, games, songs, music and dance with a Holmesian twist. Participants have to find the most precious and interesting objects in the museum and find out what makes an artefact worthy of being part of a museum collection.
A Click Away
The founder of Polish folklore studies will get his own online library courtesy of the National Library (Polona Digital Library), the Polska Akademia Nauk / Polish Science Academy and the Adam Mickiewicz University which will start a digital archive of his manuscripts and the content of the Oskar Kolberg Dzieła Wszystkie. Other institutions aiding this timely process are the National Audiovisual Institute which will digitise Kolberg's songs, the NinA website which will make the pieces a click away (on ninateka.pl and muzykotekaszkolna.pl) and last but not least the Oskar Kolberg Institute in cooperation with the Art Institute of the Polska Akademia Nauk, which will put in motion a search engine, making it possible to browse the Dzieła Wszystkie for melodies.
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Both young artists and folk musicians will perform as part of the Muzyczna Scena Tradycji cycle of the Second Programme of the Polish Radio. The first two concerts are dedicated to two notable artists born at the beginning of the 20th century - Stanisław Klejnas from Raducz and Anna Malec). Other concerts introduce performances by the ''Rekonstruktorzy z Kazimierza" / "Re-constructors from Kazimierz", and young artists from Wielkopolska (Michał Umławski, Tomasz Kiciński, Martyna Żurek) and Anna Broda with her band. More popular bands rooted in folk tradition like Golec uOrkiestra and Zakopower will also have their share of the Kolberg year. They will travel to Santiago de Compostola to take part in the WOMEX World Music Expo (October 22nd to 26th).
Tales of Fairies and Albums
The Polish Radio has announced the release of three albums with traditional music. Two of them will be a continuation of the series Muzyka Źródeł (''Kapela Metów z Gliny z Mazowsza'' containing a ceremonial and a dancing repertoire from the 70s and ''Dynastia Sowów z Piątkowej z Rzeszowszczyzny'' with wedding melodies and music to traditional Polish dances the sztajerek, the wolne (slow), the polka and the suwane. The last of the three will be a studio recording of Anna Broda ''Hymny warmińskie i mazurki z Mazur'' / "Hymns from Warmia and mazurkas from Masuria" which reconstructs the traditions of the Warmian and Masurian region through Kolberg's documentary work and materials from radio archives. The Oskar Kolberg Institute will bring out a collection of books and audio books of fairytales inspired by the works of the historical collector.
Author : Filip Lech, translated with edits by Mai Jones 22.01.2014