Pop Music in 2019: What Poland Listened to
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What Poland Listened to, center
If you think that tacos are just a popular Mexican dish and dumplings are just filled with potatoes, then you’re simply not up to date with what’s been happening in Polish pop music! Come read Culture.pl’s overview of the most significant hits of 2019.
A quick note: In case you're looking for what was happening in Polish music outside of pop, then do take a look at our music writer Filip Lech's summary of the entire breadth of Polish music in 2019. But anyway, on to our poptastic breakdown!
1. Hello from Hemingway
Rapper Taco Hemingway had barely released his brand-new record Pocztówka z WWA, Lato’19 (Postcard from Warsaw, Summer’19) to the wider public when it went big with millions of plays on YouTube and Spotify and became one of the most talked-about albums of the year.
An Atypical Polish Summer Playlist
As the picture here attests, most Poles would rather listen to Taco than their own mothers! Gazeta Wyborcza has named the ‘the postcard’ the artist’s best album. Filip Szcześniak, who rarely gives interviews, doesn’t go to music awards ceremonies, and makes his music available for free, spoke about the album much more modestly – in his own style:
It isn’t a composition or journalism. Or an essay or an epic. Or a manifesto, memoir, or morality play. It’s just a postcard.
This simple attitude paired with bright cover art is a clever technique designed to attract more attention. In fact, this summer ‘postcard’ turns out to be a timely statement with a ‘note of despair’ about modern Poland:
High-school blondies bathing in the white stuff for ages
Skirts scantier than their teachers’ wages
Homies looking for lines, rubbers bursting just like the tires on their bellies,
Even though they want calendar girls from Pirelli’s pages
Trans. Culture.pl's editors
Taco Hemingway - CZŁOWIEK Z DZIURĄ ZAMIAST KRTANI (prod. Rumak)
Where did Szcześniak’s stage name Taco Hemingway come from? It’s quite simple: the rapper gave himself this nickname for the video game FIFA by taking the first and last name of two completely different people. And that’s how this whimsical combination came to be – an homage to the great writer and a musician from the American hip-hop group, Odd Future.
Hear more from Taco: Następna Stacja, Tamagochi (feat. Quebonafide)
It’s a Funny Old Game: Explaining Curiosities from Poland’s Football Culture
2. Just a smalltown boy
It may not be the latest thing, but a year after release and the popularity of Dawid Posiadło’s third album Małomiasteczkowy (Smalltown) has hardly died down.
The young musician from Dąbrowa Górnicza rose to fame in 2013 when he won the Polish edition of the TV show X Factor. Television talent show participants are rarely taken seriously as musicians – but that wasn’t the case for Dawid Podsiadło. This 26-year-old performer and songwriter has since already managed to win a Fryderyk music award, rock Poland’s top festivals and work with several big artists from the Polish music scene.
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Dawid Podsiadlo - Najnowszy Klip
Perhaps Podsiadło’s most brilliant collaboration was with… Taco Hemingway. The musician appeared twice on the previously mentioned album Pocztówka z WWA, and at the end of September 2019, the artists teamed up to give an unprecedented concert in the capital city’s main square. They also became the first Polish performers to sell out the National Stadium, which holds around 72,900 people!
Hear more from Dawid Podsiadło: Małomiasteczkowy, Pastempomat
3. Hot dumplings
You might not like dumplings (though how can you not?), but it’s impossible not to fall in love with The Dumplings. The first tracks from the young electropop duo appeared in 2014 on YouTube and instantly captivated Poles (and others!) with their fresh and unordinary sound.
They didn’t have a new album come out this year, but in June The Dumplings released the single Bez Słów (Without Words), which, according to YouTube users, was the cause of the abnormal heat this summer. That’s not very difficult to believe considering that the song is the result of a collaboration with the brand Durex.
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The Dumplings - BEZ SŁÓW | [Durex: Gorące Letnie Noce]
Incidentally, partnerships with brands have become increasingly popular in Poland – there may be different opinions and cynicism about this, but so far, the results have been surprisingly successful.
Hear more from The Dumplings: Kocham Być z Tobą, Nie Gotujemy
4. (Not only) a man’s game
Speaking of successful joint projects… in 2010, the Polish beer company Żywiec came up with a idea, which would not only promote their beer, but Polish music as well. And thus Męskie Granie (a play on words alluding to ‘manly playing’ and ‘a man’s game’) was born – a concert series that is held annually around Poland. Every year the Męskie Granie Orkiestra’s new hit becomes the summer ‘anthem’ for the entire country, the tour line-up is full of the best performers, and tickets sell like hotcakes. Or as Poles say, ‘na pniu’.
This year the project celebrated its tenth anniversary, with its annual hit song written by Katarzyna Nosowska – an influential performer on the modern Polish scene – and performed by the talented Krzysztof Zalewski, Tomasz Organek, and Igor Walaszek (Igo).
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Męskie Granie Orkiestra 2019 (Nosowska, Igo, Organek, Zalewski) - Sobie i Wam
5. Loveless, actually
Perennial Męskie Granie Orkiestra participant Tomasz Organek is primarily known as the vocalist and guitarist of the alt-rock group Organek, which formed in 2013. Curiously enough, before this he played for a long time with a band from a completely different musical genre – SOFA, which played funk, jazz, soul, and hip-hop. However, his rock project’s first album won love from both listeners and critics. Real success came with the record Czarna Madonna. Organek says that the title single is the best song he’s ever made. In 2017, this piercing ‘prayer to the Black Madonna’ got a well-deserved video version directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, with the role of the Madonna played by the Polish goddess of rock herself, Kora. This prayer was destined to become a requiem – a year later, Organek performed the song at Kora’s funeral.
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Czarna Madonna Tomasz Organek Wersja Akordeon Pogrzeb Kory
In April, the band released a new single, which surprised fans, used to heavy guitar rhythms and shrill vocals, with its light sound. In Niemiłość (Loveless), Organek addresses topical Polish issues.
Water Under the Bridge: The River Wisła in Literature, Music & Art
Look, the birds are coming back from faraway countries
with hope for a better year.
In this country on the Vistula, blood and purity on its flags,
Pyres are burnt every other day.
And not just for love…
Trans. Culture.pl's editors
This moving clip instils hope that everything will change for the better.
ØRGANEK - "Niemiłość" (Official video)
Hear more from Organek’s bands: Missisipi w Ogniu, Kate Moss
6. Scary, honest, sharp
‘Real hip-hop is alive as long as we’re alive.’ Few can merit such a statement in Polish hip hop. But its speaker – Adam Andrzej Ostrowski, better known as O.S.T.R. – is one of those artists. When Polish rap was only just emerging in the Warsaw district of Ursynów, one hundred kilometres away in Łódź 12-year-old Ostrowski was already in full swing experimenting with this new-to-Poland music. Eight years later, he released his first album, and today O.S.T.R. has put out a total of sixteen records. With such a prolific front man, the fate of Polish hip hop is in good hands.
Polish Music in American Hip-Hop: 9 Unexpected Samples
O.S.T.R. - Monochrom, feat. Green, prod. Killing Skills
Hear more from O.S.T.R.: Alcatraz, Życie po Śmierci
7. The most romantic dude
In November 2014, Łukasz Federkiewicz performed at an Opole café-club at a local music festival. His new album had not come out yet and there was not enough material for a full set, so Federkiewicz started making up words as he went. No one knew the artist yet, but a couple months later tickets for his tour were already sold out.
Kortez is a modern phenomenon for the Polish music scene. Looking at the former rhythm teacher and part-time supermarket security guard, you’d never think that this was the owner of a mesmerising voice and writer of lyrical ballads, whose concerts bring even men to tears. Kortez, having grown accustomed to the surprise at the ‘mismatch’ between his image and the music he plays, does not plan to change his look to help him gain the trust of the public. In turn, the artist confides to them the most personal things. In his songs, he reflects on his son growing up, his divorce, and his hope for new happiness.
7 Unusual Polish Love Stories
KORTEZ - Hej Wy [VIDEO]
Hear more from Kortez: Dobry Moment, Z Imbirem
8. The pearl of the Baltic
As was the case with Kortez, the watershed moment in the career of Daria Zawiałow – the young, talented singer from the town of Koszalin near the Baltic seaside – is connected to the city of Opole. In 2016, Zawiałow submitted her self-written song Malinowy Chruśniak (Raspberry Thicket) to the Debiuty contest, and promptly won several awards. Soon after, the artist came out with the album A Kysz! (Shoo!), and in February 2019 she released her long-awaited second record Helsinki. Her easily recognisable and powerful vocals, the nostalgic sound of her songs, and the cinematic music videos for her singles Szarówka (Dusk) and Hej Hej solidified Zawiałow’s status as one of the most promising Polish performers.
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Daria Zawialow - Szarówka
Hear more from Daria Zawiałow: Jeszcze w Zielone Gramy (a striking cover of Wojciech Młynarski’s famous composition), Kundel Bury
polish pop music
2019 in review
Originally written in Russian, October 2019; translated by KA, Jan 2020