Singer and song-writer, lead singer of the celebrated band Maanam.
Olga Aleksandra Ostrowska was born on 8th June 1951 in Kraków. Due to a difficult family situation, she spent her early childhood years (1955-60) in an orphanage run by nuns, who, according to the singer's account, would abuse the children.
She first became recognizable in late 1960s when she earned the unofficial title of 'Queen of Kraków’s hippies' - her distinctive personality made her stand out in the male-dominated hippies’ society. Soon she met a guitarist, Marek Jackowski, her future husband and leader of Maanam. Even though they divorced in 1983 after 12 years of marriage, their relationship was artistically very fruitful and remains to some extent iconic.
Kora was a social activist. She strongly supported the legalisation of marijuana and the liberalisation of abortion law and criticised the Catholic Church for its paedophilia issues, inter alia, by recording a song, Seek-and-hide, based on her own experiences in the past.
Career - Maanam Years
Kora described the beginning of her career with Maanam to a Gazeta Wyborcza’s reporter:
The first concert we played was an epic disaster. Milo [Kurtis] fell asleep on stage (he is probably the only musician who took a nap during a concert in music’s history! I give him credit for that!), I was leaning against a wall trying to become invisible and Marek [Jackowski] was playing some sort of very sophisticated Indian scales on his unusually tuned guitar. It was, therefore, not surprising that this band did not last long. Yet, soon, John Porter showed up and we started to spend a lot of time together. We met mostly at ours [Kora and Marek’s] place where I cooked my eintopfs that everybody admired. It was a mixture of rice with vegetables and mushrooms. We drank beer and talked for hours! John, a ‘Welshman with a guitar’, came along and continued singing and playing with Marek and by that means Maanam Elektryczny Prysznic (Maanam Electric Shower) was founded. It was special, because surprisingly our band quickly gained enormous fame. In 1979 we recorded a few songs without John's participation [who had started his own John Porter Band] and Teresa Kowińska from Polish Radio simply fell in love with Maanam. She had her Top 10 list and put us on spot no. 2, just below Czesław Niemen. Out of nowhere! Then we realized that there was something big happening!
The real breakthrough came, however, with Maanam’s performance at the legendary Opole Festival 1980. In the subsequent months they reached new peaks of popularity and were forced to play two gigs a day. Their fans immediately started imitating the band’s style, haircuts and make-up. Boskie Buenos (Heavenly Bueons), O! Nie rób tyle hałasu (Oh! Stop Making So Much Noise) and Lucciola became legitimate soundtracks of 1980s in Poland. The song entitled Sie ściemnia (It is Getting Dark) was the first Polish song regularly broadcasted on MTV. For the next decade Manaam was continuously hitting the top of the charts with less aggressive songs like Wyjątkowo zimny maj (Extraordinarily Cold Month of May), and Po to jesteś na świecie (The Reason For You Being In The World). In 2008, Maanam ceased its activity after Marek Jackowski was severely injured in an accident.
Solo projects - Life after Manaam
Kora was not greatly artistically active outside of Maanam. In 1988, she released an album, Bela Pupa, with lyrics by Kraków poet Piotr Marek. Püdelsi, with whom she spent the time of Manaam’s inactivity, accompanied her. Her next recording was Ja pana w podróż zabiorę (I Am Taking You On a Trip, My Lord) with words by renowned lyricist duo Jeremi Przybora and Jerzy Wasowski. Ten years later, she recorded a retrospective album consisting of songs by Maanam and Niemen, as well as the most popular songs from the interwar period. Her first album on which she exercised full creative control came no sooner than 2011 and was entitled Ping Pong.
In 1989, Kora published a book of poetry, Krakowski Spleen (Kraków’s Spleen) and, in 1992, an autobiography entitled Podwójna linia życia (Double Line of a Life) wrote together with her second husband, Kamil Sipowicz. They have published poems and lyrics in Tylko Rock magazine and founded a recording label, Kamiling Co., which was Maanam’s label during the 90s.
Despite a number of films from the early 1980s showing the history of Maanam, she starred as herself in a film, Przystań (Harbour) by Jan Hryniak (1997). Kora was also one of the main characters of the recent Beats of Freedom – zew wolności, by Leszek Gnoiński and Wojciech Słota. It is an image of the communist period and Kora is presented as one of the heroes of the musical rebellion of the 70s and 80s.
From 2011, she was a juror in the Polish television musical talent competition "Must Be the Music".
Since 2013, the artist has fought cancer. During the illness she married a longtime partner Kamil Sipowicz. She died on 28th July 2018.
Author: Jacek Świąder, January 2014, translated by W.O