During the past ten years it’s like the Polish folk music woke up. A relatively young generation of musicians discovered their roots and took it into the 21st century. Mixing traditional elements with modern techniques, jazz, rock and many other styles. I think that never before so many folk related Polish bands are known outside the Polish borders. For this episode of Folkworld I received an album by one of these bands called Czeremszyna. They surprise me with a different sound than most of the other Polish bands I know. It made me curious and I contacted the band to hear more about the background of their beautiful music. With the help of a friend founding member Barbara Kuzub-Samosiuk pictured briefly the bands history and present.
The band Czeremszyna came into existence in 1993, in the small locality situated 4 kilometers from the Belarussian border. The founder of the band was Barbara Kuzub-Samosiuk who worked as an instructor at the culture centre in Czeremcha. The band consisted of young people, residents of Czeremcha and Hajnówka which is a town located 35 kilometers from Czeremcha.
All musicians from the first line-up came from Orthodox religion families of Belarussian or Ukrainian origin. They were mainly amateurs who sung musical traditions from their homes where they used to sing these songs in the local dialect during family gatherings. For all of them it was the first folk band they were part of. In those early years they concentrated on singing and playing the songs they knew from home and during the years they started focusing on material they collected through ethno musicological research.
These researches were mainly done by Barbara Kuzub-Samosiuk and Mirosław Samosiuk who started to record older people living in and around their home village, but also local (traditional) bands. Together with the rest of the band they listened to the recordings and chose the ones they wanted arrange into a new tune, but with preserving the authentic melody as much as possible.
In the early days the band used a basic instrumental line-up. The guitar, accordion, percussion, flute and voices were the main ingredients of their music. During the many years of their adventure with folk music they innovated the instruments. And now the line-up includes mandolin, mandola, clarinet, sopiłki (Ukraine flutes), Belarus dulcimers, violin, Slovak flute, double bass, bass balalaika and bouzouki. They also expanded the drum kit and percussion instruments. This way they were able to evolve their music from a very simple sound and structure into an enriched sound and more possibilities.
The place the musicians come from is situated in the south-eastern region of Podlasie. This is a multicultural and multi-religion region where Poles, Belarussians, Ukrainians, Orthodox, Catholics all live together. In this region people still sing traditional songs, they are familiar with rituals associated with Christmas, the calendar year and so on. However, traditional culture is slowly disappearing. Fewer and fewer people are interested in their tradition. According to Barbara this is due to the rural origin whose young people are ashamed of.
The band's goal is to arrange the folk songs in such a way that young people get the feeling that their cultural heritage can be interesting and attractive. They succeeded in this goal and are liked by a big group of young people. They also showed that with their own culture they were asked to perform even far from the Polish borders in Europe and even in Asia.
The group's last album is recorded with Todar (Zmicier Wajciushkievich), a well known Belarussian artist. It’s a combination of the music of Czeremszyna and the unique, fascinating world of Todar. They combine the expressive sound of the band with Todar’s nostalgic sound, a very unusual and rare project in Poland. With this they focus more on the Belarussian influence of the region.
Now, almost twenty years after the band was founded they seem more alive than ever. Known for their lively and enthusiastic performance, always searching for new possibilities, the band probably can carry on for many more years and is a real example for a new generation of youngsters who might also think that their own culture is not interesting at all. Czeremszyna proves them wrong, you just have to invent your own roots again and try to give it your own personal sound.
Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Czeremszyna (from website).