Natalia and her sister, Paulina, entered the star-bereft music scene with a bang. As Sistars, they sang witty soul, and they were adored by hip-hop musicians. Later on, however, Natalia, the elder of the two, started rummaging through the history of Polish and global music, and trying to discover her very own sound and voice.
Born in 1983. Used to form the group Sistars with her sister, Paulina.
She was born in 1983, and her sister Paulina – two years later. They both attended cello classes in music school. When she was eleven years old, the two of them received the Grand Prix at the Morda festival. They founded their first band, called Cebion. They started playing as Sistars in 2001, when they were teenagers. Having released two successful albums, performed at the Eurovision contest, sold a lot of records, and received Fryderyk Awards, the group disbanded. The line-up, playing a lot of soul and hip-hop music, with elements of r'n'b, regrouped twice, but never recorded another full album.
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After Sistars fell apart, Natalia – who has also performed as N'Talia, and is presently still referred to as Natu – launched her solo career. She spent some time in London, and upon returning recorded her own albums: the English-sung Maupka Comes Home (with the producer Envee), which received excellent reviews, and Gram Duszy. Following a longer break, she took a radical turn when in 2013 she released Kozmic Blues: Tribute To Janis Joplin, on which only one song was written by her. Now, her perfect performance skills were enhanced with some harsh emotions, previously only introduced when on stage. According to the promotional material in the album's booklet, coming across Janis Joplin's songs led her to address life’s difficult aspects in her works.
There was another side to this project, which she recounted in an interview for Wysokie Obcasy:
When I was singing the songs from my previous album [Kozmic Blues], all of which but one were written by Janis Joplin, I felt that that didn't really belong to me. That the applause after my concerts was also for her, that I had to face the ghosts.
That one song she wrote was co-created with Jurek Zagórski, a guitarist, and privately her brother-in-law – her husband's twin. She decided to create a whole album with him. However, prior to releasing Prąd (Current), Natalia and Jurek, together with Anna Parynek, playing on the percussion instruments, created Natalala. The band, announced as her most personal creation thus far, was a thread connecting the expressibe CD dedicated to Joplin, and the bluesy Prąd. The acoustic, ascetic songs which exposed the vivid interaction of voice and instruments were a true test for the artist. As well as for the compositions from Prąd, before they were revealed.
The album, which came out in the autumn 2014 – and was recorded at the time when Przybysz went into therapy – is filled with blues, rock, and even country references. The sharp guitar sounds and powerful, organic drums, could be compared to Neil Young or even The White Stripes. On the other hand, she introduced some covers of songs by Breakout with Mira Kubasińska or by Czesław Niemen, as well as straightforward blues lines in her lyrics. Przybysz managed to write her most brilliant lyrics so far. In an interview for Wysokie Obcasy, Saturday insert to Gazeta Wyborcza daily, she explained:
After the first few sessions I wrote Miód (Honey) – it is a song rooted entirely in questions. When one starts a therapy, a lot of doubts appear. We are completely shattered and resentful towards oir surroundings. I imagine I was difficult person to bear at the time. After one year, I wrote Niebo (Sky), and only then understood what I actually wanted to express in Miód. I managed to find some new answers. I understood that my tolerance issues do not originate in my surrounding, but within me.
In Nazywam Się Niebo (My Name is Sky), there is a phrase which goes: “How did I manage to forget about my breasts” (Jak to się stało, że zapomniałam o moich piersiach).” The singer explains that she has always been a tomboy and though she admired a lot of women around her, she never felt attracted to feminity. Królowa Śniegu (Snow Queen), on the other hand, is about the fact that she “was never able” to have a best girlfriend.
The record earned Gold Album status, while Natalia received the Fryderyk Award for Best Rock Album of 2014 and Best Composition for Miód. The rapper Ten Typ Mes said on the TOK FM radio about this track:
World-class, this is a woman singing and being on about something. This is a very bold, and at the same time superbly composed track, while its vocals demonstrate something completely unheard of in Poland. Honestly, I am shaken. This is a breakthrough piece.
Natalia performs as a singer but not lead in the ephemeral band Shy Albatross, led by Raphael Rogiński, the frontman of Wovoka and Cukunft. The group explores American culture while its lyrics, which draw on the tradition, assume the perspective of women – those who arrived in the New World voluntarily or as slaves. This ethno-blues line-up also includes Miłosz Pękala (of Kwadrofonik) and Hubert Zemler. Many of the above are connected to the Lado ABC music label; Natalia had collaborated with artists from those circles once before, too – on the album The Wrong Vampire she sang with the band Baaba. They remade music composed by Krzysztof Komeda for Roman Polański's film The Fearless Vampire Killers.
The two Przybysz sisters created a group called Archeo with the musicians from the Night Marks Electric Trio. In 2015, they gained some notoriety for their single Burning Down The House, originally performed by Talking Heads. That was admittedly an interesting path for the sisters to go down: a combination of the Western pop with African rhythms and simple electronics. The track featured two prominent drummers who had previously collaborated with the sisters: Marcin Ułanowski (who used to play in Sistars) and Hubert Zemler (also playing on synthesizers). Several months earlier, Archeo also published a heavily electronic, mighty sounding track Warsoul (Cleansing Transients), featured on the EP U Know Warsoul. In 2014, both sisters did the vocals on the track Leki, authored by NMET and Archeo.
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Natalia made guest appearances in songs by Wojtek Mazolewski's (I Love Your Smile from the radio play Karaluchy / Cockroaches, 2014), Tymon & The Transistors (three songs on the album Rock & Roll, 2014), on the album Yugopolis 2 (2011), where Polish artists created remakes of hits from the former Yugoslavia. On the latter, her and Mazolewski performed the tracks Dom na Miękkiej Trawie (House on a Soft Grass) and Pogrzeb Śniegu (Funeral for Snow). The Przybysz sisters also collaborated with their mother on Czarno-biały (Black and White) on the compilation Panny Wyklęte (Cursed Maidens, 2013). Natalia also appeared in Voo Voo's track To Co Zostanie (What Will Remain), which became a part of the band's anniversary album 30 Lat Voo Voo (30 Years of Voo Voo) from 2015.
The list of collaborations could go on. After releasing Kozmic Blues, Natalia has received increasing amounts of propositions for rock collaborations – on which she performs loud, emotional songs, which she also has been practising in her own studio. She commented on Prąd rather modestly, promising to pursue explorations in that direction and speak up on her next album.
Her fifth solo album Światło Nocne (The Night Light) was released in September 2017. On one hand, Przybysz added certain soul features that evoked Motown Records' releases, on the other she picked a song from the repertoire of Kabaret Starszych Panów (Old Timers' Cabaret). The most poignant song, Przez Sen (Through a Dream), refers to her abortion. Przybysz spoke about that event in an interview she gave to Wysokie Obcasy. The interview coincided with the Polish ruling party Law and Justice's attempt to enact stricter abortion laws. It brought down hatred of right-wing circles upon her, simultaneously guaranteeing her the support of the participants in the Black Protest, nationwide demonstration against the proposed abortion ban.
Many compositions from Światło Nocne, such as the title track or Vardø, refer to women's strength, while Świat Wewnętrzny (Internal World) and Mandala address the bodily aspect of femininity. She performed the latter song with her sister Paulina. The album was produced by Jurek Zagórski, just as in the case of Prąd, and performed by the permanent members of Natalia’s band: Zagórski, Jurczyszyn, Waśkiewicz, and Zemler. Światło Nocne earned Natalia Przybysz the Fryderyk music award for the best pop album of the year (2018).
- 2008 – Maupka Comes Home (with Envee)
- 2010 – Gram duszy
- 2013 – Kozmic Blues: Tribute To Janis Joplin
- 2014 – Prąd
- 2017 – Światło nocne
- 2003 – Siła sióstr
- 2004 – EP
- 2005 – A.E.I.O.U.
Shy Albatross discography:
Originally written in Polish by Jacek Świąder, Gazeta Wyborcza, transl. Ania Micińska, June 2015; updated by MG, March 2019.
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