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Vol 2, No 14
10 April 2000
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Cultural news from Poland Poland's Week in Culture
Wojtek Kość

In this week's cultural round-up section we have:

Click on the appropiate heading or just scroll down to browse.

Music for the Masses

For many years folk music has been shown disrespect and considered as something not really worth paying attention to. Folklore programs on both TV and radio were usually associated with elderly ladies standing in circles and singing to some totally unfashionable tunes. Mentioning fascination with such music undertakings would discredit you in the eyes of your peers.

Part of the blame must be assigned to the Communist-era authorities, which, as it was with virtually everything, put emphasis on presenting folk music to the wide audience, but those efforts of course were counterproductive. They flattened the character of folk music showing off its "redneck" qualities, much to the disgust of its audience.

In the 1990s however, folk music has slowly been forcing its way to a position of respected and loved entertainment. It all probably started with the band named Trebunie-Tutki who performed music from the band members' family regions in the Tatra Mountains. Their music was not maybe an instant hit but it paved the way for the others. The real popularity came after Tutki unexpectedly teamed up with reggae musicians from Jamaica, producing a stunning mixture of local mountain tunes and reggae beat.

Ever since, Trebunie-Tutki has been country's leading folk music performers - although at this point one should rather say of folk music doctored with reggae, pop, rock and whatever else coming to the musician's minds. But folk was basic. 1999 and 2000 brought about the real boom for folk music in Poland and by Polish artists.

One noteworthy exception is Goran Bregovic, the Yugoslav musician skillfully adapting tunes from his now ruined country. His huge popularity reached zenith after he was joined by one of Poland's top pop singers - Kayah. This only gave further boost to talented folk artists who literally sprung in the space of last 12 months. Names of Golec uOrkiestra, Kapela, and Brathanki, the latest hit band, are present in all the media. Quality music, one must add.

Musicians constituting the bands in question are not rookies in the music sphere. Many, if not most of them, have much experience in playing any kind of music at such diverse events like local weddings or Jose Carreras' concert in Warsaw (such is the experience of Brathanki's guitarist Jacek Królik).

Combining various kinds of music with folk comes all the easier for them and the effects of that are increasing sales: albums from Golec uOrkiestra and Kapela already have status of gold records. But the real reason for folk music bands' repute is that finally music for the masses comes from the masses, not from artificially arranged, boring lot.

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Book of the Week

Stanisław Lem's Okamgnienie
(In the Twinkle of an Eye)
Published by Wydawnictwo Literackie,
Kraków 2000

Stanisław Lem is, of course, known as a science fiction writer. He would probably slam the door in your face if he heard you say this, though - and quite rightly so. His last science fiction novel appeared in 1988 but even before that he disliked being labeled in this way. Since then he has turned to what he is best at - writing philosophical essays concerned with the future of science, technology and the effect they have or will have on people.

But Lem does not belong to the legion of progress (what a horrific word, he would probably say) enthusiasts. His latest book is yet another in a series of his essay collections in which he either states or predicts the humble plight of humanity which is (nearly) at mercy of unethical science development, infected by the stupidity of Internet.

Gazeta Wyborcza's reviewer opposes Lem's pessimism, writing that to perceive the world in his manner is to lose the sense of life. I disagree: viewing the world critically is necessary in order to stay alert to its absurdities is ever-useful.

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Compiled by Wojtek Kość

Slavko Živanov
Democracy Serbian Style

Sam Vaknin
Macedonia's Prospects

Michal Frank
Slovak TV and Drugs

Focus: Tourism
Gusztáv Kosztolányi

Catherine Lovatt
Beyond Dracula

Mel Huang
The Baltic Boom

Andreas Beckmann
Prague's Golden Goose

Andrew James Horton
On Kusturica

Elke de Wit
Dreaming in Colour

Elke de Wit
One Last Lunge at Freedom

Culture Calendar:
Poland | UK | USA

Hall and Perrault
Europe's Right

UK Press Review