Archive | January, 2012

Halina Frąckowiak: Idę Dalej (Muza, 1974)

26 Jan

Halina Frąckowiak had long been known as the lead vocalist with Andrzeja Niebeskiego’s Polish soul outfit Grupa ABC when she released her first full-length solo recording, Idę, in 1974. While many of the songs were in more mainstream idioms, the best material used progressive instrumentation and arrangements, many composed by Frąckowiak herself (including the song that concerns us here, Idę Dalej) with some additional material on the LP arranged by such notable composers as Katarzyna Gärtner and Wojciech Trzciński. The supporting musicians on Idę are drawn from a wide pool of Polish players of the time, so the approach here appears to have been for Frąckowiak to put together an appropriate backing for each song rather than work with a more stable line-up (on her second solo release, Geira, she worked more consistently with the progressive rock band SBB). Idę Dalej itself has a heavy organ-based sound and a dynamic that underscores its message perfectly: as Frąckowiak walks out on her dying relationship into some unknown future, to be lived on her own terms, the slow sections describing what she’s leaving behind are contrasted neatly with the uplift of the choruses that describe her going. I can’t help suspecting that this song might well have a similar status in Poland to that held by Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive in the UK: a perfect marriage of heartbreak and exhileration precisely engineered to make the ending of a relationship feel like the most exciting thing in the world, tinged with sadness though it might remain. The full song can be heard here and a transcript of the Polish lyric, written by Janusz Kondratowicz, can be read here:

Ide Dalej (Going On)

(After Janusz Kondratowicz/Halina Frackowiak, 1974)

There’s not much I can give you,
I’ve so little left in hand:
while the clock ticks ever faster
my days fade out like sound.

I shared everything I had with you,
each word, each passing thought,
each touch and fleeting moment:
what’s left now is not enough.

So your silence grows in volume,
impatient stares turn dark,
moods shift from cold to black,
sway like palm trees in a storm.

I’m going, I’m going back to live my life.
I’m going, as one thing’s born and another dies.
I’m going, you’ll write your own account of us.
I’m going, don’t miss me, I’ll find my own way out.

I’m going, along the path I have to walk.
I’m going, where horizons fall out of sight.
I’m going, without you at my side,
I’m going, I’ll keep going. I’m moving on.

There’s not much I can give you,
I’ve so little left in hand:
while the clock ticks ever faster
my days fade out like sound.

I shared everything I had with you,
each word, each passing thought,
each touch and fleeting moment:
what’s left now is not enough.

Today, there’s nothing left of us,
what I know I’ll no longer hide.
One hope I’ll carry against the wind:
that the memory helps me live.

I’m going, I’m going back to live my life.
I’m going, as one thing’s born and another dies.
I’m going, you’ll write your own account of us.
I’m going, don’t miss me, I’ll find my own way out.

I’m going, along the path I have to walk.
I’m going, where horizons fall out of sight.
I’m going, without you at my side,
I’m going, I’ll keep going. I’m moving on.

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25 Jan

I’ve wanted to include this particular song since a friend first alerted me to its importance in the Hungarian context around two years ago, but that same importance has made it something it seemed crucial to get at least approximately right, and the absence of any workable and reliable gloss from the Hungarian has meant it’s only now that I’ve had an opportunity to make even this tentative attempt at an English version of the lyric. Written by the Belgrade-born but Hungarian-resident brothers Zorán and Dusán Sztevanovity for their group, Metro, in 1967, the song gained prominence when featured in a film documenting the emerging youth culture of the time, Ezek a Fiatalok (These Young People). The lyric in Hungarian runs roughly as follows:

Mostanában bármit teszünk, egyre több a vágy.
Ki az, akit vádolnak? Ki az, akit vádolnak?
Téged is, ha életkorod nem sokkal a húsz év fölött jár.
Mondd csak, mivel vádolnak? Mondd csak, mivel vádolnak?
Tűnik az, hogy korosztályunk másképp él, mint jó apáink,
nem hasonlít mégse rájuk, náluk néha többre vágyik már.
Mostanában bármit teszünk, egyre több a vágy.
Ki az, akit vádolnak? Ki az, akit vádolnak?
Téged is, ha életkorod nem sokkal a húsz év fölött jár.
Mondd csak, mivel vádolnak? Mondd csak, mivel vádolnak?
Vétek az, ha hajunk hosszú,kedves táncunk nem a tangó.
Ki az, akit vádolnak? Ki az, akit vádolnak?
Tánczenénk ha gyors, ha lassú, számukra csak fület bántó zaj.
Mondd csak, mivel vádolnak? Mondd csak, mivel vádolnak?
Évek múlva biztos mi ishallunk ehhez hasonlókat,
egyszer tán a fiaink is így mondják el bánatukat majd.

Coming only a decade after the brutal suppression of the 1956 uprising, the accusatory tone, and the song’s assertion of a basic right to be, well, young, was a potent mix. The studied insolence of the very young Sarolta Zalatnay in this performance is utterly remarkable, every bit as charismatic as her Western contemporaries and predecessors, but it’s the context of the song that seems most forceful. The refrains demanding to have accusations and charges spelled out would have had a particularly powerful bite in a context where dissidence could still be an arrestable offence, so while on a par with many equivalent Western songs asserting the rights of the young, Mostanában is a song that in its own time and place must have made a stronger statement than the familiarity of some of its sentiments to Western ears would, by themselves, indicate. The song, as performed in Ezek a Fiatalok, can be heard here.

Mostanában bármit teszünk (These Days, Whatever We Do)

(after Zorán Sztevanovity/Dusán Sztevanovity, 1967)

These days, whatever we do, it seems we want more:
What are we accused of? Who has been accused?

We’re not even twenty, hanging out with our friends:
Tell me, what’s the problem? Tell me, what’s the charge?

Our fathers are another age, we don’t compare, we want more now!
What are we accused of? Who has been accused?

We’re not even twenty, hanging out with our friends:
Tell me, what’s the problem? Tell me, what’s the charge?

We don’t dance the tango, and you think it’s a shame:
What are we accused of? Who has been accused?

Our dancing’s fast, our music hurts your ears:
Tell me, what’s the problem? Tell me, what’s the charge?

I’m sure when we’re older, we’ll dance more slowly ourselves:
What are we accused of? Who has been accused?

That day, our sons will start to complain about us:
Tell me, what’s the problem? Tell me, what’s the charge?

But these days, whatever we do, it seems we want more:
What are we accused of? Who has been accused?

We’re not even twenty, hanging out with our friends:
Tell me, what’s the problem? Tell me, what’s the charge?

What are we accused of? Who has been accused?
Tell me, what’s the problem? Tell me, what’s the charge?

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.

Filipinki: Batumi (Muza, 1964)

17 Jan

This first posting of 2012 offers a small, feather-light hymn to the city of Batumi in the Soviet Caucasus by Poland’s leading early 1960s female vocal group, Filipinki, whose history is discussed in a little more detail in this earlier post, where their commemorative twist-song, dedicated to Valentina Tereshkova, the first female Cosmonaut, was given an approximate English version. After some very helpful translation from the Cyrillic titles on a series of small postcards (many thanks to the poet Peter Daniels for that effort) it was also possible to confirm that a few of the views contained in a 1955 Soviet folder, forwarded to me along with a CD by Martin Joela of the excellent Melodija website in Tallin, show one or two scenes from the city celebrated in this particular song. Released in 1964 on the same EP as the Wala-Twist (Valentina Twist) the song can be heard here and the original Polish lyric (and a probably slightly more accurate English translation) can both be found here.

Batumi

(after Artemij Ajwazjan/Ola Obarska, 1964)

In our wanderings we’ve seen many cities,
many rivers and seas, mountains among many stars.
But the city we sing about, and remember now,
the city that nourishes our kindest dreams
of how things might be: that city is Batumi.

Yes, Batumi, circled by fields of fragrant grass
the colour of tea or skin touched by sun,
where cicadas cradle us in sleep till dawn
and we’ll wake to one more moment of happiness.

We leave this city with heavy hearts, say ‘Farewell Georgia’
with a little song, launch our words like boats
on the resonant, expansive echoes of here.
When we close our eyes, we’ll see Batumi once more,
picture this place where our dreams can breathe.

Yes, Batumi, circled by fields of fragrant grass
the colour of tea or skin touched by sun,
where cicadas cradle us in sleep till dawn
and we’ll wake to one more moment of happiness.

In our wanderings we’ve seen many cities,
many rivers and seas, mountains among many stars.
But the city we sing about, and remember now,
the city that nourishes our kindest dreams
of how things might be: that city is Batumi.