Kazimierz Staszewski, also known as Kazik, is a singer, songwriter and composer. He was born on 12th March 1963 in Warsaw. He is one of the most creative Polish musicians, and his hallmark is a unique mix of hip hop, rock and folk.
Kazik’s first band was called Poland. He performed with the band from summer of 1979 to June 1981. Poland’s successor was named Novelty Poland and existed from September to December 1981. In February 1982, he formed Kult, with whom he continues to perform today.
He decided to start solo career in the early 1990s, finding that his musical fascinations did not match with the artistic image of Kult. At that time, Jacek Kufirski became Kazik’s main collaborator. Their first songs were Nowy Konflikt Światowy, Piosenka Trepa and the frivolous Spalam Się (New World Conflict, Song of a Grunt, I’m Burning Up, trans. MG). Later, they recorded a hip hop-styled album entitled Spalam Się. The song Dziewczyny (Girls, trans. MG) with the lyrics ‘I know sometimes there are downs and ups / Girls are nothing more than trouble’ and Jeszcze Polska (Poland Is Not Yet, trans. MG), in which the capitalism then emerging in Poland was very aptly portrayed, were the most popular pieces from the album. It enjoyed commercial success, although it is difficult to assess the amount of copies sold as at that time pirate recordings were rampant in Poland.
After the release of Spalam Się, Kazik was named the first rapper of the Republic of Poland, but the artist disagreed with the nickname, saying ‘The roots, the inspiration, the way the music is made and the approach to human voice certainly come from rap. However, I immediately felt that it wasn’t rap’. The album was recorded in collaboration with bassist Piotr Shpenyagah Strombicki, guitarist Wojciech Waglewski and producer Wojciech Przybylski.
A lot of fuss was made over the song Jeszcze Polska – a continuation of Kult’s famous song Polska. It was not to the liking of senator Jan Szafrański, a member of the right-wing Christian National Union party (Zjednoczenie Chrześcijańsko-Narodowe or ZChN), who found the title to be an insult to the Polish nation and reported it to the prosecutor’s office. Kazik had to appear before the authorities; fortunately, the case was closed. Another widely discussed event was Kazik’s performance at the Sopot festival in 1991, where the artist ‘sang’ Spalam Się and Dziewczyny holding a hairdryer instead of a microphone as a protest against having to lip-synch.
Nonetheless, he was invited to Sopot next year, but this time he played and sang live in the company of a band composed of guitarist Adam Burzyński, bassist Michał Kwiatkowski and drummer Kuba Jabłoński. He caused another scandal by singing his song 100000000 with the chorus ‘Wałęsa, give my hundred million back!’. The performance caused a nationwide discussion, even the then president of the Republic of Poland Lech Wałęsa commented on the event, and a journalist of Gazeta Wyborcza described Kazik as an anarchist Młynarski.
100000000 is from Kazik’s second solo album Spalaj Się (Burn Up, trans. MG). It was a continuation of Spalam Się with sampled and rapped songs that commented on the reality of the early 90s. Kazik was not only a reporter bringing the dark side of life to light but also a publicist evaluating it on the fly. For example, in Spalaj Się, Kazik criticised the ruling elite, in Jeden Przykład Fortuny Z Rodzimego Kraju (An Example of a Fortune from Homeland, trans. MG) he referred to the Art B affair (at the beginning of the 1990s, Art B was the richest Polish company, which developed itself by offering bribes and using legal loopholes) or Pocztówka Z Chorwacji (Postcard from Croatia, trans. MG), written in the form of a letter, with Kazik impersonating a young boy recruited for the Balkan war. Spalaj Się was also released in a two-cassette edition, which included more songs than the compact edition. Spalaj Się marked the end of Kazik’s cooperation with Kufirski and Strombicki.
In 1995, Staszewski’s first solo work entitled Oddalenie (Remoteness, trans. MG) was released. It was created from samples prepared by the artist on his home computer, with a sad bass background being its characteristic feature. It’s a depressing album, but also blunt and direct. As Wojciech Staszewski wrote in Gazeta Wyborcza, ‘It’s the story of a person’s helplessness in confrontation with the system.’ The song Łysy Jedzie Do Moskwy (The Bald One Goes to Moscow, trans. MG), commenting on the visit of the then prime minister Józef Oleksy to Moscow which took place during the Russian aggression against Chechnya, earned the most recognition. Kazik presented songs from Oddalenie live only once, when in May 1995 he performed in Warsaw’s Remont club. He was accompanied by music played from a tape and a self-made film displayed in the background.
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Two years after the release of Oddalenie, the album 12 Groszy (12 Pennies, trans. MG) came out. With almost two hundred thousand copies sold, it is so far the most popular of Kazik’s productions. The title song, lasting almost seven minutes and seasoned with vulgarisms, became a huge hit in the late 90s and one of the greatest hits in Staszewski’s solo output. 12 Groszy is a masterpiece composed of several dozen chaotically scattered thoughts – as Kazik himself said – a sequence of associations. The title song was recorded a year earlier in accordance with the recipe from Oddalenie, that is, by Kazik completely by himself. And this was also how he wanted the entire album to sound.
However, when he started creating new songs, it turned out that he needed other musicians. He invited the rhythm section of Kult – bassist Irek Wereński and drummer Andrzej Szczota Szymańczak – as well as guitarist Sławek Pietrzak, once a musician of Kult, and then the owner of the SP Records label which released Kazik and Kult’s albums. The recording also featured DJ Feel-X, guitarist Adam Burzyński and clarinettist and saxophonist Jerzy Mazzoll. 12 Groszy is an album without any weak spots. Kazik almost masterfully combined ‘live’ music with the art of sampling. The songs Maciek, Ja Tylko Żartowałem (Maciek, I Was Only Joking, trans. MG), Sztos, which was created for Olaf Lubaszenko’s film of the same name and Idę Tam, Gdzie Idę, (I’m Going Where I’m Going, trans. MG) also turned out to be hits. The promotion of Sztos included three concerts of songs from 12 Groszy.
Almost simultaneously, Rozmowy S Catem was released (editor’s note: the title is a play on words and a reference do Kazimierz Moczarski’s book Conversations with an Executioner). It was the most experimental album which Kazik has recorded to date. The release was signed by Kazik Mazzoll and Arhythmic Perfection. It was recorded by Kazik and leading yass musicians over a few sessions in Toruń’s Mózg studio. The album is captivating with its lightness and the ease with which the musicians traverse different aspects of the sound world. Some songs were concise, but in most cases, the compositions surprised with their extensiveness and unbridledness.
Three years after the release of 12 Groszy, Kazik presented Melassa, which turned out to be a continuation of that album. This time, Kazik’s main collaborator was Olaf Deriglasoff, former leader of Dzieci Kapitana Klossa, and later a member of, Apteka, Pudelsi and Homo Twist, among others. Another important figure was Piotr Wieteska, co-founder of Kult, who became its manager in 1995. The song Cztery Pokoje (Four Rooms, trans. MG) turned out to be the greatest hit from that album. It was co-composed by Wieteska, and featured Edyta Bartosiewicz, who sang in it as a special guest. Interestingly, another former Kult musician, Jacek Szymoniak, also participated in the recordings. Melassa brought two more great hits. The first was the ballad Gdyby Wiedział To, Co Wiem (If I Knew What I Know, trans. MG) with a beautiful piano solo by Leszek Możdżer. The famous pianist can also be heard in Każdy Potrzebuje Przyjaciela (Everyone Needs a Friend, trans. MG) and Do You Remember. The other was entitled Mars Napada (Mars Attacks, trans. MG), the music video for which featured Maciej Maleńczuk, Muniek Staszczyk, and members of Kazik’s family.
His two subsequent albums were recorded in cooperation with Roman Kołakowski, who was then the director of the Actors’ Song Review in Wrocław. In 1999, Kołakowski invited Staszewski to prepare a recital with Kurt Weill’s songs. The concert took place in 2000. Later, the pieces were recorded and released as an album Melodie Kurta Weilla I Coś Ponadto (Kurt Weill’s Melodies and Something More, trans. MG). Apart from the songs of the famous composer, there was a Polish version of Nick Cave’s The Mercy Seat. The songs Singapur and Ballada O Kobiecie Żołnierza (Singapore, Ballad of a Soldier’s Woman, trans. MG) turned out to be the most popular.
Their second mutual undertaking concentrated on Tom Waits’ songs translated by Kołakowski. Kazik performed them with his band during the Actors’ Song Review in 2003. The material was recorded and released as the album Piosenki Toma Waitsa (Tom Waits’ Songs, trans. MG). Bourbon Mnie Wypełnia, based on Waits’ Jockey Full of Bourbon, became a hit and the whole album was an artistic success. The artists presented that repertoire only twice more, in the Warsaw Congress Hall in May 2003 and half a year later in the studio of Polish studio Radio Three. During the recording of both albums Kazik was accompanied by musicians associated with Kult (horn player Krzysztof Banan Banasik, drummer Tomek Ghoes, keyboard player Janusz Grudziński, trumpet player Janusz Zdunek, guitarist Piotr Morawiec, saxophonist Tomasz Glazik), members of the band Kazik Na Żywo (guitarist Adam Burzyński, bass player Michał Kwiatkowski), Olaf Deriglasoff (guitars), Wojciech Jabłoński (guitars, drums), and Andrzej Izdebski (guitar), as well as Kazik’s sons Kazio and Jan.
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Kazik’s next release appeared in 2004. Czterdziesty Pierwszy (Forty-first, trans. MG) was a double album and thus turned out to be the longest release in his solo discography. Song Polska Płonie (Poland Is On Fire, trans. MG), full of interesting observations about the then Poland, was the most popular one, but other songs such as Idol, mocking a popular talent show, and Stalingrad (Adam und Klara) written under the influence of Wojciech Kuczok’s novel Gnój (Piece of Shit), were also well-received. Czterdziesty Pierwszy also featured Anarchia W WC (Toilet Anarchy, trans. WC), a piece originally played by Kazik’s first band, Poland. A year later the album Los Się Musi Odmienić (The Fate Has to Change, trans. MG) was released.
The inspiration for that album was Leszek Wosiewicz’s film Crossroads Cafe, in which Kazik made a brief appearance. He also wrote a few songs for the film. Apart from them, the album included, among others, W Polskę Idziemy (We’re Going out into Poland, trans. MG), a song by Jerzy Wasowski and Wojciech Młynarski (the single included eight different versions of the piece) and a dance version of… the Polish national anthem. This time Staszewski was accompanied by Izdebski and Jabłoński, as well as Glazik, Zdunek, Banasik and T. Love bassist Paweł Nazimek.
Izdebski also co-authored Kazik’s next release, Silny Kazik Pod Wezwaniem (Strong Kazik Under the Invocation, trans. MG). It’s the most ludic and festive of Staszewski’s albums, containing songs by Stanisław Grześkowiak and Silna Grupa Pod Wezwaniem, who were active at the turn of the 60s and 70s. The songs Anusia and Piwko (Beer, trans. MG) were the most popular, however, Kazik also reminded, among others, Grześkowiak’s most famous song Chłop Żywemu Nie Przepuści (A Peasant Won’t Let Anything Alive Go, trans. MG). Kazik and Izdebski presented songs from that album just once. The performance took place in September 2009 during the Fe Fighters 2 charity event in the Centralny Basen Artystyczny in Warsaw. Izdebski was also present on the PRL-inspired Zakażone Piosenki (Infected Songs, trans. MG), an album by Zuch Kazik.
Since 2012, Kazik has been collaborating with the ProForma Quartet from Poznań. Although their cooperation was meant to be a one-off, the project resulted in the release of two albums. The double album Wiwisekcja (Vivisection, trans. MG) from 2015 is a semi-concert album consisting of songs known from Kazik’s earlier output, but it also contains a new, joint composition of Staszewski and the Quartet entitled Kalifat (Caliphate, trans. MG). The second album, Tata Kazika Kontra Hedora (Kazik’s Dad vs. Hedorah, trans. MG) from 2017, recorded as part of this collaboration, complements the series of albums with arrangements of lyrics by Stanisław Staszewski. It’s Kazik’s third approach to his father’s works. The break in the artist’s solo releases is also filled with the album Warhead released in 2018, on which Kazik and Janusz Zdunek, the trumpeter of Kult, presented their own versions of British punk classics from the 1970s.
The premiere of Kazik’s first fully solo album since 2008, entitled Zaraza (The Plague, trans. MG), was announced for June 2020. The release is promoted by the single Twój Ból Jest Lepszy Niż Mój (Your Pain Is Better Than Mine).
Apart from his solo activity, Kazik regularly performs with El Dupa and KNŻ bands, and in 2005-09 he performed with Buldog. He may also be heard on albums by such artists as Acid Drinkers, Piersi, Voo Voo, Katarzyna Nosowska, Stasia, Kasia i Wojtek, Yugoton (together they recorded the hit Malcziki – The Lads, trans. MG), Spec, The Syntetic, Zacier and Plagiat 199. He also wrote a song for the film Pitbull directed by Patryk Vega, sang The Ballad of Janek Wiśniewski for Black Thursday by Antoni Krauze as well as Piosenka Członka and Piosenka Milipantów (The Song of a Member, The Song of the Milipants, trans. MG), promoting Jacek Dukaj’s novel Wroniec. The latter two songs were used in an animated film based on the book.
He has repeatedly participated in concerts of other bands, such as Pidżama Porno, T. Love, Armia, TPN 25 and Płonąca Pyta. Kazik’s solo achievements were described in the book Kult Kazika published in 2000. Staszewski himself has written several books, including a collection of his columns entitled Niepiosenki (Unsongs, trans. MG), a biography of Stanisław Staszewski written jointly by Kazik and Jarosław Duś, and Kazik’s autobiography Idę Tam Gdzie Idę (I Go Where I Go, trans. MG). Wiesław Weiss’ book Kazik: Biała Księga (Kazik. White Paper, trans. MG) from 2017, is the latest publication about Kazimierz Staszewski. Moreover, at the end of 2019, the premiere of the documentary Kult: Film directed by Olga Bieniek took place. The film was shot between 2013 and 2019, and also included archival materials.
Kazik has won numerous awards, some of which he does not accept. Among those he collected are Polityka’s Passport, the Machinery Award, the Yach Film Festival Award and award from Tylko Rock monthly. He did not collect, among others, several Fryderyk Awards and an MTV Award. In 2014, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta for his outstanding merits in creative work and artistic activity as well as achievements in promoting Polish culture.
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rozmowy s catem
piosenki toma waitsa
los się musi odmienić
silny kazik pod wezwaniem
ja tylko żartowałem
ballada o janku wiśniewskim
melodie kurta weilla i coś ponadto
- Spalam się (CD and LP), 1991, Zic-Zac/Arston
- Spalaj się (CD and 2MC), 1993, Eska
- Oddalenie (CD), 1995, SP Records
- 12 Groszy (CD), 1997, SP Records
- Rozmowy s Catem (CD), 1997, Mózg Production, album recorded as Mazzoll Kazik & Arhytmic Perfection
- Melassa (CD), 2000, SP Records
- Melodie Kurta Weill’a i coś ponadto (CD), 2001, SP Records
- Piosenki Toma Waitsa (CD), 2003, Luna Music
- Czterdziesty Pierwszy (2CD), 2004, SP Records
- Los się Musi Odmienić (CD), 2005, SP Records
- Silny Kazik pod Wezwaniem (CD), 2008, SP Records
- Wiwisekcja (2xCD), 2015, SP Records (with Kwartet ProForma)
- Tata Kazika Kontra Hedora (CD), 2017, SP Records (with Kwartet ProForma)
- Utwory Odnalezione (CD), 2017, Kosmos Kosmos (album was attached to the book Kazik. Biała Księga)
- Warhead (CD), 2018, SP Records (with Zdunek Ensemble)
Artist’s website: https://kazik.pl
Originally written in Polish by Leszek Gnoiński, May 2011. Translated and updated by MG, May 2020.