An A to Z of What's happening on the Polish folk scene
When Folk music Agency "WOODWORLD" was checking the available information
on what's happenning here in Poland, on those well known and respected servers
on the web, they were a bit shocked at the sparsity of available information.
They have put together, for now, a general overview and rough guide of the more
classier festivals, competitions, and all things connected with the Polish scene,
in order to show that albeit, a not so known country in terms of folk music,
and added to that the scene being in its infancy, there are still things going
on. This overview obviously can be seen as a subjective view, and there is alot
more happening than is written. Find here information on:
Agencies - Bands - Competitions - Database - Festivals - Radio - Record Labels - Venues
Albeit there has been some form of folk scene here in Poland for a long time, in reality it has only really come into existence over the last five to six years. Obviously before, the folk scene was quite widespread, but in comparison to what takes place in the rest of Europe, the last five years has seen a dynamic boom in both bands and people interested in folk.
The grandfather of the Polish festival scene is "Mikolaki folk festival" in Lublin, eastern Poland, that takes place every year in December (first weekend), and lasts four days. The aims of this festival are to promote all things connected to Polish folk music, including: competitions, workshops, concerts, lectures, arts and crafts. The style of the festival is very similar to festivals in Germany and France. In the beginning the organisers had a very open policy to what type of bands played concerts there, but of the last three years have turned there direction strictly to Poland and all things Slavonic. In addition to organising the festival, they have their own folk band, Orkiestra Sw. Mikolaje (The Saint Mikolaj band), and are the only organisation that regularly prints a quarterly folk magazine in Poland (readership around 1000). There website address (english version available) is http://www.mikolaje.lublin.pl:1080/mikolaje/glowna.html
The next reputable and long standing festival is "Folk Fiesta", in the western part of Poland, near Wroclaw. This takes place in June/ July and lasts for three days. This has been taking place now for eight years, and has still an open policy for the type of bands playing there. This is an open air event set in the grounds of a ruined castle, and attracts around 10 - 15,000 people, and is by far the largest event in Poland. The organiser of the Festival, Krysztoff Kubanski, is possibly the most dynamic organiser in Poland, and in the last five years has spent much time trying to promote Polish folk music abroad, (this year at Rudolstadt, Germany's biggest festival for Folk & World Music, a stage just for Polish Folk bands is planned). Contact to him is: http://fiesta.netgate.com.pl/ (Krysiek's english is good.)
A long standing festival, that of the last two years has introduced an evening of world music, is Sopot. This festival has a very long and rich history in modern day Polish culture, and is situated on the northern coast of Poland by the Baltic sea. Their approach and organisation is very commercialised, the whole festival is broadcasted live on national television, therefore the whole infrastucture behind them is very professional. The festival takes place at the end of summer, and normally there are about 2000 people at the concerts. To date bands like Altan, Marie Brennan, and Buena Vista Social Club have performed here. Their Webpage is at http://www.bart.sopot.pl/festival.htm
In the mid part of Poland, Poznan, there has been a reputable folk festival for the last three years. The instigator of this festival in the beginning was a guy from Scotland, but after the first two he left to go back to Britain. The organisation of this festival has been taken over by a musician from one of the best polish folk bands, Jacek Halas. In the past the flavour of the festival was centred around Celtic folk, but this year Jacek wants to promote Scandanavian folk music from Traditional to contemporary folk. The planned dates for the festival this year are from the 25th of August to possibly the 29th. Contact to Jacek, who speaks quite good English is: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the southern Part of Poland, the only current festival of a european standard is the International festival of Jewish Culture. This takes place in July/ August in Krakow, in the Jewish quarter of this city. The organisers are the city and contact to them is: http://www.jewishfestival.pl/festiwal_en.html
Obviously there are a lot more festivals during the summer months here (around about 25), but their dates are very flexible, and at times the final date is given out only a month in advance of the proposed start dates. Also, the finances for the smaller festivals is a lot smaller, and therefore it is difficult for them to book bands from abroad.
Apart from the competition in Lublin, the only other competition at present, which is solely directed at Polish folk music is "Nowa Tradycja" (New Traditions), which takes place in March. This is organised by National Polish Radio in Warsaw, specifically the Radio Centre of Folk Culture. The competition has been based on the BBC Young folk musician awards, and this year is the fourth year of its existence. As part of the whole programme they have a gala night of world reknowned artists, Muzikas for example. This is an attempt by central government to propogate Polish folk culture on the world stage, and therefore funding and organisation is very professional. Contact to them is: http://www.radio.com.pl/rckl/ or Malgorzata Jedruch, Polskie Radio - Radiowe Centrum Kultury, Ludowej 00-977, Warszawa, Al. Niepodleglosci 77/85, tel. 0 22 645 58 62 kom. 0 608 48 50 22 fax. 0 22 645 59 81, email@example.com (Malgorzata speaks good English.)
It needs to be said that there are other competitions promoting folk culture, but these are catered and directed to the more archaic and strictly traditional forms of Polish folk music from the various regions. It is worth noting that the best known festival and competition is Kazimierz nad Wisla.
BANDS (all speak English)
The number of new bands over the last few years has been immense. However, of these there are only eight true folk bands in my opinion that are of any value promoting abroad. These are the following:
Ethnic/ World music there are only three, these being:
This is the main reason for the slowness in attracting known bands from abroad. Venues that give a warm welcome to folk musicians are not co-ordinated here in Poland. At present the venues that exist work off their own back in trying to organise concerts, and at times there is a lack of general information to what is on offer. Larger venues for playing concerts are very few, and even then there is a reluctance to stage gigs, as the organisers, many of which have no idea about the folk scene, don't see the commerciality in such a venture; or have no funds.
At present there are about 27 stations that have a definite folk music programme as part of their programming for there listeners. Most of these are regional stations. National radio has two programmes for folk music. The first of these is the one who organise "Nowa tradycja". The second is Polish Radio Three. The host of the programme is Wojciech Ossowski, who for the past 15 - 20 years has been the main person promoting all folk related things here in Poland. His programme now has been moved from 21.00hrs to a late night slot.
There are only two Polish folk record labels of any size: Orange world and Folk time. Folk time is the oldest label, and has now moved away from recording new bands, to just promoting already produced material from the Eastern part of Europe, Lithuania, Latvia etc. Orange world handle and distribute all types of record labels from all over the world.
At present there is a very large problem with distribution and shops to stock their records. The largest network of shops that sell records (and other things), EMPIK, have pulled out of selling folk music that is not produced by one of the large majors. This now means that most purchasing of folk music is either via Internet, or from small specialised shops that have a distinct direction in the type of folk that they sell.
Contacts to Folk time and Orange world are: Folk time: firstname.lastname@example.org; Orange world: http://www.orangeworld.pl and e-mail: email@example.com. The current financial situation has made it very difficult for independant labels to survive in such a harsh market as records. That is why most are very small and sell primarily via Internet.
This is the aspect of the folk scene that reflects the state and expansion and development of the scene here in Poland. In honesty there are only three agencies in Poland that operate solely in folk music, these being:
It should be noted that there are a lot of small agencies operating in Poland to promote bands, but these are usually the bands themselves, and only concentrate on their own work, or at the most two or three other smaller bands.
At present there is no central base of information of what is going on in Poland. This shortcoming at the moment is being addressed by the main organisers and agencies in the folk scene, and it is projected that to the end of this year there will be more available information about the polish folk scene, obtainable via Internet.
Related Internet site: Interview in FolkWorld
with Kapela ze wsi Warzsawa
Photo Credit: The Mollis; Drawings by Annegret Hänsel
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