Musicians from the Janusz Prusinowski Kompania (formerly Janusz Prusinowski Trio) follow and continue the traditions of the rural instrumentalists of the past, whilst at the same time exploring their own means of expression. The members of the band, led by Janusz Prusinowski, include: Piotr Piszczatowski, Michał Żak and Piotr Zgorzelski.
One of the leading Polish bands engaged in the revival of traditional music and culture
The Kompania members learnt from musicians from central Poland: Jan Lewandowski, Kazimierz Meto, Tadeusz Kubiak, Józef Zaraś, Piotr and Jan Gaca, Tadeusz Jedynak, and others. Their music greatly relies on cultural encounters. Its members draw on the archaic melodies passed on to them by the old masters to create their improvisations. While employing traditional musical expression, they create their own melodies which nevertheless remain hallmarked by their masters. Hence, the band members have emerged as the next generation of folk musicians. They formulate new traditions: music which in the near future they will be able to pass on to their continuators in turn.
It is not enough, however, to learn and teach the melodies and playing techniques of forgotten instruments. The goal of such education is also to create (or, more precisely, recreate) a community joined together by music.
Each melody has a meaning; it is impossible for us to uncover it without the presence of the folk masters – Janusz Prusinowski explains to Dorota Szwarcman – We don’t want to pull out this music’s roots, but cultivate the whole plot that it is a part of. Young people who come to the country, to experience music and its creators, in a way reactivate the entire traditional context. It sometimes happens that the locals are so touched by these occasions that they admit they had not had this much fun together in the past twenty years. These new situations also breed new contexts – the encounters also take place in the cities, and welcome new crowds. This musical language expresses a constant human quality: we always seek contact, friendship, love, and expression. And we can build on that.
How about the musical notations which are abundant in Polish archives (largely thanks to the achievements of Oskar Kolberg)?
The collections of Polish traditional music notations are extremely vast – Piotr Piszczatowski says – and reading them always turns out to be an experiment. The musical notations are not able to contain the specific characteristics that the musicians introduce to those melodies. We are always puzzled about how to play them. As a result, a new arena for the imagination opens up, as well as room for musical quotations from those musicians who have left the strongest marks on our imagination.
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Janusz Prusinowski Kompania also collaborates with musicians unrelated to traditional Polish music. These have included classical pianists (together with Janusz Olejniczak they presented the folk roots of Frédéric Chopin’s music), jazzmen (Tomasz Stańko, Michał Urbaniak, Artur Dutkiewicz) and representatives of other musical cultures (Alim Qasimov, a continuator of the Azerbaijani mugham tradition). The goal of these kinds of encounters is not to create fusions – straightforward amalgamations of various musical styles – but to find points of overlap and ways of establishing connections between different musicians.
Rhythm, trance and dance
Another component that Janusz Prusinowski Kompania could not exist without is rhythm, a physical stimulus that becomes a dance and eventually verges on trance. The band’s repertoire includes obereks, kujawiaks, polonaises, and chodzonys (“walked” dances), but most of all, mazurkas.
The mazurka has been Poland’s signature dance for centuries, functioning in high and popular culture alike – Prusinowski tells Roman Pawłowski – In the 19th century, it was the tango of Europe, as couples could dance it in a close embrace [...] What amazed me and converted me towards the mazurka was the fact that I didn’t have to turn to blues or jazz to be able to express myself freely, as there is also room for improvisation in this Polish melody. Just like jazz, mazurka is a type of music that is created ad hoc.
Janusz Prusinowski Trio - Mazurek Ciarkowskiego z Mazowsza - polski taniec tradycyjny from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
In the early 1990s, Janusz Prusinowski took part in the foundation of Dom Tańca (Dance House) in Warsaw – an association dedicated to research, documentation, but most of all, performance of traditional music and dance in its most faithful and purest form. The folk dance revival movement reaches back to the 1960s and ‘70s, when dance activists were inspired by similar institutions springing up throughout Europe (the first dance houses were founded in Hungary).
Since 2010, Prusinowski has been the co-organizer of the Wszystkie Mazurki Świata (Mazurkas of the World) Festival, which comprises, apart from dance parties and concerts, workshops and the Instruments’ Fair, showcasing traditional and experimental instruments made by luthiers from all over Poland.
Touring around the world
Festiwal Wszystkie Mazurki Świata 2014 from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
In 2008-2012, the Janusz Prusinowski Trio toured most European countries, as well as Asia, Canada, the United States (playing at, for instance, the Carnegie Hall and Chicago Symphony Center), but, most of all, Poland. Together with the pianist Janusz Olejniczak the band prepared the programme The Village Roots of Frédéric Chopin’s Music. 2012 saw the creation of a unique project Kujawy, engaging three Polish musical masters: Tadeusz Kubiak, Tomasz Stańko, and Janusz Olejniczak, with a vocal group led by Ewa Grochowska. The trio also played concerts with such musicians as Michał Urbaniak, Artur Dutkiewicz, and the classic of Azerbaijani mugham music Alim Qasimov. Apart from concerts, one can come across the band’s music at dance parties in village and city dance clubs, or in performances of the National Theatre and the Polish Radio Theatre.
In October 2012 Janusz Prusinowski Trio played in Thessaloniki at the prestigious Womex world music fair. In 2013, they went on a month-long tour of the United States, where they played almost 30 concerts. They also performed in Germany, France, the Benelux, Great Britain, Croatia, and other European countries. They attended Womex again in 2013, in Cardiff, with the project Wild Music from the Heart of Poland, which promotes new Polish folk music to international audiences. In 2014, Prusinowski’s band participated in the celebrations of the Oskar Kolberg Year and events associated with Polish Year in Turkey, commemorating the 600th anniversary of Polish-Turkish diplomatic relations.
janusz prusinowski trio
oskar kolberg year
polish year in turkey
- Janusz Prusinowski Trio, Mazurki / Mazurkas (Słuchaj Uchem, CD, 2008)
- Janusz Prusinowski Trio, Serce / The Heart (Słuchaj Uchem, CD, 2010)
- Janusz Prusinowski Trio, Po kolana w niebie / Knee-high in Heaven (Słuchaj Uchem, CD, 2013)
Janusz Prusinowski Trio/Kompania online: official website, Soundcloud, Facebook
Band’s manager: Joanna Wiedro, firstname.lastname@example.org, +48 507 942 332
Sources: press materials, Polityka, Akademia Kolberga, Polish Radio, T-mobile Music, Gazeta Wyborcza, Dance House Association, ed. FL, December 2014, transl. AM