Alibabki: Kwiat Jednej Nocy (Pronit, 1969)

22 Jan

Alibabki were an all-female vocal group formed around 1964, probably in an attempt to replicate the success of the by-then well established Filipinki, at the peak of their popularity that year with songs like Wala-Twist. It appears that Alibabki’s repertoire was initially controlled by the group’s producers and managers, Zbigniew Ciechan and Jan Rybiński, and they were generally used as  backing singers to a variety of groups and solo artists through the mid-sixties: after 1968 they seem to have won greater independence and embarked on material produced in their own name, alongside many far more adventurous collaborations. Among Alibabki’s most notable endeavours in the latter category are their contributions to recordings by Tadeusz Wozniak and Czeslaw Niemen, but it’s on their 1969 debut LP Kwiat Jednej Nocy that they really came into their own, and fully distinguished themselves from both the pop-orientated Filipinki and the more experimental NOVI Singers. Alibabki’s frequently changing line up, featuring core members Alicja Puk, Anna Dębicka, Anna Łytko, Ewa Dębicka, Krystyna Grochowska, Sylwia Rajchert and Wanda Orlańska, marked out its own territory in sound with a unique hybrid of folk-inflected harmonies applied to pop and jazz material. The arrangements on Kwiat Jednej Nocy range widely, from the uptempo pop-psychedelia of Slonce W Chmurach Lazi (Sun Loafing in the Clouds) to the title track’s more conventional cabaret pop, a 1920s pastiche style that proved repeatedly popular at song festivals. Its lyric, by Jonasz Kofta, offers a spin on the kind of romantic floral motif also to be found in much European Symbolist poetry.  The song can be heard here, and a version of the Polish lyric can be read here.

Kwiat Jednej Nocy (A Night Flower)

(After Juliusz Loranc/Jonasz Kofta, 1969)

This white flower will bloom just once,
for one night give such fragrance out
that stars must bow, a daylight breeze
fan the flower’s small flame
as though to keep it bright for years.

These petals light up only for a moment
while the whole world sleeps,
pour wormwood and vanilla scent
from the heart of one white cup.
All the night stars will bow to its light.

This white flower knows my secrets well,
knows I loved once, for many years,
still sleep in love with the world.
Who knows this bloom is mine?
My secret knows the white flower, too.

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