Muzykanci is formed by the original founders of the group: Joanna Słowińska (vocals, violin), Jan Słowiński (viola, bass, vocals), Jacek Hałas (vocals, accordicon, hurdy-gurdy), and Alicja Choromańska-Hałas (drum). In 2015 they were joined by Stanisław Słowiński (violin). In the summer of 2016, after their performance at WOMAD 2016 in Great Britain, the most important festival of folk music in the world, the Irish Times dubbed Stanisław ‘the secret weapon of the band’. The organisers of the festival described the band in the following way:
[Muzykanci] take much of their source material from the folk tales of their homeland, dark fables that revolve around dark deeds. Set to a musical palette of fiddles, accordions and hurdy-gurdy, these tales remain gripping, despite the language barrier. The strident, dramatic vocals of Joanna Słowińska describe the action, set to an irresistible, attractively spiralling collective sound.
The band was established in 1997 and disbanded in 2002. To put the matter simply, it can be said that for the Słowińskis it was important to go beyond ethnic music and make brave attempts at joining it with popular music. For the Hałases, contact with the masters of rural music and ethnographic exploration were more vital. However, in 2008, Muzykanci started playing together again.
Joanna Słowińska, the band’s soloist and violinist, performs cantatas, oratorial music and theatrical songs – including Zygmunt Konieczny’s compositions set to the words of Wyspiański, Norwid, and priest Twardowski. From 2003 on she performed as Joanna Słowińska z Zespołem [editor’s translation: Joanna Słowińska and the Band], and co-operated with Jarosław Bester and Elliot Goldenthal. Jan Słowiński is the organiser of the Etnokraków / Crossroads Festival which presents the most interesting folk acts of the Carpathians and Central Europe. Stanisław Słowiński is the founder of AKT – a group rendering folk songs into electropop pieces, featuring Joanna Słowińska on vocals.
Jacek Hałas, who formerly played accordion and bass in Bractwo Ubogich, a legendary traditional folk band, has also performed in the Ket Jo Barat duet together with Stefan Puchalski. Hałas also gave solo lyre performances of the so-called pieśni dziadowskie – songs that were originally performed by beggars, troubadours, and minstrels that in the past wandered around Polish villages. Dom Tańca [editor’s translation: House of Dance] in Poznań was also established by Jacek Hałas. The musician and his wife perform with Kwartet Wiejski and Hałas Trio (together with Maciej Filipczuk). Filipczuk, Hałas, and the clarinetist Michał Żak also co-operate as Lautari.
Muzykanci have performed at the most important folk festivals in Poland: Nowa Tradycja and Skrzyżowanie Kultur in Warsaw, EtnoKraków / Rozstaje (EtnoKraków / Crossroads), Brave in Wrocław, and Ethnoport in Gdańsk. They’ve also given numerous concerts abroad (including Germany, Scotland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Macedonia, and Belarus, among others), and several performances at ethnic music expos, such as WOMEX, Ulsan World Music, and Jeonju International Sori (South Korea).
Muzykanci were given the Grand Prix award in the competition Nowa Tradycja (1999) organised by Polish Radio, and the Grand Prix in the Euro Folk festival (1999). Their debut album, Muzykanci, was dubbed Folkowy Fonogram Roku [Folk Phonogram of the Year], and in 2012 listeners decided it was the best album among all the releases nominated and awarded in the fourteen-year history of the Folkowy Fonogram Roku competition.
Muzykanci recorded numerous materials for the Polish Radio, Telewizja Polska (Polish public broadcaster), and other European broadcasters. In the spring of 2017, a double album by the group is to be released, containing new studio material and a concert recorded the BBC at Muzykanci’s performance at WOMEX 2015.
Written by Jacek Świądek, Gazeta Wyborcza, November 2016, translated by ns, November 2016.
1999 – Muzykanci
2000 – Folkfiesta (compilation)
2002 – A na onej górze...
2002 – Gore Gwiazda
2003 – Hradistan a Muzykanci (recorded together with the Moravian group of Jerzy Pavlica)