Maria Pomianowska holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree and is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and teacher. She founded the groups Raga Sangit, Zespół Polski, San-Nin Trio and Arcus Poloniae. She took part in the reconstruction of the Biłogoraj suka and the Płock fiddle and is a professor at the Academy of Music in Kraków and director of the international Cross Culture Festival.
Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and teacher.
From the Cello to the Sarangi
She was born in Warsaw on the 26th of June, 1961. At the age of seven she began to learn to play the cello and in 1992 she graduated in cello from the Academy of Music in Warsaw. Since 1984, she has traveled to India, China, Korea, Japan and the Middle East to study local techniques of playing instruments. As Pomianowska herself claims, the skills acquired at Polish music schools – such as a number of techniques for concentrating while playing string instruments and the ability to practice systematically – had a great impact on her later experience with non-European instruments.
When I was a music school student I went to a concert at the Warsaw club Remont, where Pandit Ram Narayana was performing. He is a great Indian sarangi player. My first impression was that some man from India came onto the stage with a peculiar cello-like instrument. In the background someone was playing the tabla (a set of two drums) and another person was playing the tampura – a long-necked lute, which in India serves as a sort of musical incense. I didn’t understand back then who was playing what and why it all sounded so strange, but I felt as if I had been given a drink of fresh spring water. Such expression in music was very appealing to me.
After that concert she decided to go to India, where she learned how to play from masters of Hindustani music (music from the north of India). Her first teacher was Ustada Sabri Khan, later she learned from Pandit Ram Narayan, who is responsible for the renaissance of the sarangi as a solo instrument. The sarangi is an instrument that has three main (goat gut) strings and tens of steel drone strings. It’s worth mentioning that Pomianowska founded the first Polish band playing Raga Sangit (a kind of Indian music).
The Biłgoraj Suka and the Płock Fiddle
In 1994, together with Professor Ewa Dahlig and the luthier Andrzej Kuczkowski, Pomianowska reconstructed two forgotten ancient Polish string instruments: the Biłgoraj suka and the Płock fiddle. She used her rich experience of playing Asian fiddles when she was reconstructing the technique of playing these forgotten instruments. In December 2014, a publication entitled Polish knee-fiddles. (Re)Construction by Pomianowska and Professor Dahlig was published. In an interview conducted by Dominika Węcławek, Pomianowska stated:
In the 16th century, for instance, Martin Agricola referred to them. He wrote that these strange instruments, which one plays using the fingernail technique, were distinctly Eastern European and much admired. Today, when many things are found and reconstructed, the Płock fiddle and the Biłgoraj suka are most interesting curiosities. It’s not just the reconstruction that matters, creating something anew matters as well. After all, no-one can be completely sure how people played music in those times – we have different strings, different wood, different air, people’s expectations are different as well.
In 1995, Pomianowska founded the group Zespół Polski which focuses on presenting Polish folk music from the Mazowsze region and this music’s ties to the works of the great Polish composers such as Frederic Chopin. Zespół Polski recreated his music using folk instruments on their album U Źródeł Muzyki Chopina from 2010. This ensemble has played concerts all around the world. During a five-year stay in Japan (1997-2002) the artist presented Polish classical and folk music at the biggest concert halls of the country. The reconstructed instruments and Mazovian songs and melodies were presented a number of times at the Japanese Imperial court. Pomianowska also collaborated with the world-famous cellist Yo Yo Ma.
Since 2011, she has been creating unique musical programmes with Arab and Pakistani musicians by organizing intercultural musical projects in Asia and Africa. In 2012, she released the CD Poland-Pakistan. Sound from Two Continents in Pakistan, recorded by her and Pakistani musicians. The same year, she released the DVD Rawabit-Więzy in Tunisia, which she recorded with Arab artists. Another such album was Warszawa-Dakar, recorded in 2015 with musicians from Senegal.
Teaching and Scientific Work
In 2010, Pomianowska created the artistic scenario for the exhibition Chopin in Love, or Mazovian Inspirations / Zakochany Chopin, czyli inspiracje mazowieckie organized by the State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw. This exhibition is now a permanent part of the museum. In May 2010, she received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Academy of Music in Kraków for the work The Reconstruction of the Performance Technique for Playing Knee-Supported Fiddles and New Sonoristic Qualities / Rekonstrukcja techniki wykonawczej na historycznych (polskich) fidelach kolanowych a nowe wartości sonorystyczne. Since October 2010, she has been leading an authorial study course at the Academy of Music in Kraków, which is called Knee-Supported Fiddles. In this course, she teaches students how to play the Biłgoraj suka and the Płock fiddle. This might lead someday to the creation of the first department of folk and ethnic music at a Polish academy of music.
Decorations and awards
The year 2011 was very eventful for Maria Pomianowska. In February she was awarded the Chopin's Passport for her outstanding contribution to the Chopin Year Celebrations, in particular for her project Chopin on Five Continents / Chopin Na 5 Kontynentach and for an album bearing the same title, released in 2010. A few months later the Minister of Culture and National Heritage awarded her Gloria Artis Medal for Merit to Culture. At the end of the year she was decorated with the Silver Cross of Merit by President Bronisław Komorowski. She has also received an Award of the Marshal of Mazowieckie Voivodeship for her contributions to Polish culture in the province, a medal for merit to the city of Mława, and in 2016 the Award of the Marshal of Lubelskie Voivodeship.
Sources: http://www.pomianowska.art.pl, Kultura Online (portal), Gadki z Chatki (periodical), T-mobile Music (portal), edited by: fl, transl. MK, updated by MG, March 2019.