The name of the ensemble encapsulates all of the important information in itself: a band playing music you can dance to, Warsaw music, and musical instrumentarium - an old-fashioned word used to describe the nature of the group, as well as the band’s choice of instruments, such as the bandżola, acoustic guitar, saxophone, musical saw, and melodica.
The musical ensemble uses well-known instruments on Warsaw streets, such as the bandżola (similar to a banjo, very popular in Warsaw before World War II), acoustic guitar, saxophone, a musical saw and a melodica.
It all started out on the city streets. That’s where the band honed its skills, previously known as Janek i Jego Combo (the melodica substitutes for an accordion, which isn’t convenient due to its weight). Jan Emil Młynarski, the band's leader, decided to try his hand not only at a strictly Varsavian repertoire, but also to explore the circumstances in which such music is listened to. Before they recorded their debut album, Warszawskie Combo Taneczne visited the courtyards of local tenement buildings, both in Warsaw's centre and in Praga, which is known for its distinctive character, such as Targowa and Ząbkowska streets. There, they played hit songs from at least half a decade ago, like Bal na Gnojnej, Grunt to rodzinka and Warszawo ma.
His frequent musical collaborator is Piotr Zabrodzki, a multi-instrumentalist, producer and vocalist (who also features in one of Warszawskie Combo Taneczne’s song), known for working with such artists as Cinq G, Mitch & Mitch, Baaba, LXMP, The Kurws, and Paula & Karol. Młynarski and Zabrodzki had already worked together in the band Pole. Młynarski also plays in the band Nervy and in the duet J=J with Joanna Duda. Zabrodzki recently joined Baaba.
The other members of Warszawskie Combo Taneczne are Mateusz Waśkiewicz on the guitar, Tomasz Duda on the clarinet and saxophone, Anna Bojara on the musical saw, Wojtek Traczyk on the double bass, and Lesław Matecki on the mandolin and guitar. A band that was primarily established just as a fun way to spend their spare time soon began playing concerts – not only on courtyards, the first of which was on the stairs of Café Kulturalna on 1st August, 2009. WCT has two different ways of playing: a concert version or a dance/club version.
Jan Emil Młyanrski was born in 1979. He is the son of the famous singer and songwriter Wojciech and actress Adrianna Godlewska, and brother of Agata and Paulina Młynarska, who are both TV presenters and journalists.
Sometimes, I think that I just had to become a musician. All of my childhood, my father was writing on a typewriter and listening to yet another track that a composer sent him on his old cassette player. Probably an even greater influence was my mother, who taught song interpretation and diction and students would come to the house for lessons.
– said Młynarski to the PolskieRadio.pl portal.
He’s an excellent percussionist, educated in the US (he once gave an interview in which he said that the famous movie Whiplash is very accurate and authentic). His instrumental mastery can be heard not only in the previously mentioned bands he plays in – but also in the soundtracks for such movies as Komornik / The Collector directed by Feliks Falk or Wojna polsko-ruska / Snow White and Russian Red by Xawery Żuławski (which Zabrodzki also acted in).
Warszwskie Combo Taneczne is another story though. They play traditional pieces from Warsaw, not only prewar ones – they stick with classic street/courtyard instruments, playing with respect to tradition but not enslaved by it. They want to be authentic today, not a copy of what once was. Młynarski, a percussionist, intentionally deprived the ensemble of percussion.
Emotions are the most important thing for the band. Tracks from the album Przyznaj się that came out at the end of 2014 describe not only non-existent places but also a non-existent type of people – that live by a certain set of rules, somewhat at odds with the law, but always fair towards others; rough but sensitive, unhappily in love, but still capable of having fun.
About the selection of songs Młynarski said:
When I was little, I used to visit my aunt Zenotka, who was born in 1910, my grandfather’s sister, that lived on Targowa street. Once a year, my aunt would organize a birthday party, at which music would play either from the television or the record player. And always, there was a point, in which everyone would sing together. While recording the album, choosing songs, arranging them in a certain order, I imagined that it would be like a visit to my aunt’s place. There will be a few universal tracks, somewhat wistful, a few songs about love and of course there will be a war taste.
The band performed at the opening ceremony of Warsaw’s Praga Museum and at the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Warsaw metro.
Author: Jacek Świąder, June 2015, Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska