May 2006

Warsaw Village Band
Presented by Gary Topp
May 24 & 25, 2006Lula LoungeToronto
Warsaw Village Band Takes us to an Ancient Forest
by Sue Bullas with photo by John Leeson
Tuning up in the dark, the string instruments and wind chimes create a haunting sound as a girl with a scarf over her head sits down in the middle of the stage with a cello. We, the audience, sit with baited breath in candlelight, some of us aware and others not knowing what is to come. There are lots of Polish tongues wagging in the audience, anticipating a great show.

‘Absolutely roots style. Are you ready Toronto?’ asks the band spokesman Maciej Szajkowski.

Even the way they hold their violins to their chests, the cello leaning to the right, the way they hold their bows part way up and use them as percussion to accentuate the notes creates their own sounds. The humming bird hands of Magdalena Sobczak who plays the dulcimer hammering the strings with what look like fancy spoons.

The sound is rhythmic and repetitive in a tribal way, as tradition would have it. They use their music almost as a chorus. The verses their powerful voices sing are laced with the strength and wisdom of their ancestors. The words I don’t understand impart the mysticism, myths and lore of loves and struggles from a village far away to the room, carrying us over a bridge through time. Throughout it all their faces are expressionless, leaving you to wonder — are the words happy or sad ones?

The variety of instruments is too vast to list and too difficult to spell. Sylwia Swiatkowska plays the old polish fiddle, a 16th century predecessor to the violin. It is difficult to play, with the strings being pressed by your nails. This is the instrument that most intrigues me. Maciej Szajkowski also has quite a collection of percussion instruments.

Sylwia Swiatkowska
Many of their songs are ‘from the ancient to the future’ as our Polish host Maciej Szajkowski explains. While he speaks with a shtick humor the crowd becomes more and more impassioned by the music as the night goes on, yelling out in Polish. ‘Peace for Wild Horses’ and ‘Bloody Maggie Meets the Devil’ are two of my favourite songs of the evening. The most memorable song I did not get the name of. Only three musicians Maja Kleszcz (cellist), Wojciech Krzak (violin) and Piotr Glinski (the baraban drum) perform a slower tempo song that showcases Maja’s jazz-style performance. Her beautiful voice both haunts and stirs us simultaneously.

“We heard the voice of big respect” says our host. While most of the band wear traditional garb I love the face of Jimi Hendrix staring back at me throughout the performance. Jimi would have great big respect for these talented musicians helping to keep their musical roots alive and thriving. To the Warsaw Village Band, I would love to visit your village anytime.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Sue Bullas
• • • • • •
John Leeson
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The Live Music Report
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