The band's name suggests a great love for klezmer music, although Klezmafour – not a quartet, by the way – perform it in an unorthodox manner. They take contemporary jazz and blend it into the Jewish music scale, then add Balkan and Arabic influences, as well as punk rock energy. All this combined creates a unique composition that is certainly one of a kind.
Music band influenced by klezmer music, jazz and punk rock.
Klezmafour consists of Andrzej Czapliński on the violin, Wojciech Czapliński on the clarinet, Rafał Grząka on the accordion, Kamil Siciak on the percussion, and Gabriel Tomczuk, who is also the band manager's, on the double bass. Up until 2014, Tomek Waldowski played percussion, but in the meantime, he became an essential member of the trio Chłopcy Kontra Basia.
The band members all graduated from The Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw. They began their rigorous musical education at the age of six and training from a young age has allowed them to attain their goal: ‘We want our music to sound as if it's being played on one single instrument. (…) being ‘ideally in tune’ in a professional, carefully thought-out way.’ The band members come from Lublin, Białystok, and Warsaw. Their musical inspirations are drawn from that region's klezmer traditions.
Lublin played a special part in the band's history because it was the place where the band was established in 1999. They see this town as an intersection, like Andrzej Stasiuk in his most recent book Wschód (East), the ideal crossover of musical traditions of the east, west, and south. It is a gate that is open to all sides of the world. The suffix ‘four’ in the band’s name previously meant to indicate the 4 members (when they were still a quartet), now symbolizes the four sides of the world. ‘Klezmer’ is an important word for them, the musicians refer to its primary meaning – music that can be played with ease at various occasions such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals as well as… in the philharmonic.
How did all of this start?
When we were finishing high school, we sometimes played (‘do kotleta’) at events in restaurants in Lublin. From time to time, we performed traditional klezmer pieces and noticed that people really liked this type of music. At one point, we decided that it would make sense to devote ourselves to klezmer and Balkan music completely. At first, we stuck with traditional pieces, but very soon we realized it would be much better if we created our own pieces.
– Andrzej Czapliński explained in an interview with Jazzsoul.pl
In 2011, Klezmafour released their debut album. It was supposed to reveal the atmosphere that is present during their concerts, therefore (of course due to the musicians' talent) recording lasted less than a day. Klezmafour’s concert energy is a combination of the ferocity of folk music with the roughness and liveliness of hip-hop. The musicians use such instruments as the goblet drum or the futujara and Dubbist from Vavamuffin accompanied them with scratches on their album.
W górę, their album released three years later, is much more experimental. The quintet reached for synthesizers and programmed beats this time. Their musical inspirations come from the Middle East, Arabic music, Syria and even as far as India. The violinist, Andrzej Czapliński, created a mixture of singing and rapping, that brought Klezmafour’s music closer to, for instance, Balkan Beat Box.
The band won two prizes at Amsterdam's extremely prestigious International Jewish Music Festival in 2010. 200 bands from 12 different countries took part in the competition. After winning, the band toured through the United States and Canada and this was all before they released their debut album.
The founders of both awards came to the conclusion that it would be best to organize our recitals all in one go. The distance between Vancouver and New York City is quite big and none of us wanted to spend it only on sightseeing… A very long concert tour is planned and it is our goal to show America and Canada how to play klezmer music.
– Andrzej Czapliński said in an interview before the tour.
It turned out to be a success, as the concert tour performing along such artists as Balkan Beat Box was only the beginning. Ever since then, they have performed in Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK. On the other hand, after releasing their debut album, they started to perform in Poland more frequently. They have performed at such domestic festivals as Opener Festival in Gdynia, Woodstock Festival in Kostrzyń nad Odrą, Ethnoport in Poznań, and they even got the finale of the talent show ‘ Must Be The Music’. They have also received the Czesław Niemen prize in the 2006 Nova Tradycja radio contest for young musicians (Kwadronik won that year), the first prize at the Ecological Culture Festival in Józefów 2006 as well as the Grand Prix at the Polish Highlander and Folk Music Festival Zakopane 2008. After their success following Nova Tradycja, a new percussionist joined the band. In January 2015, Klezmafour performed at the the Szczecin Philharmonic. They were joined on stage by an orchestra led by Nikola Kołodziejczyk.
Jacek Świąder, June 2015, Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska