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Eastern Bloc Disco at Centrala (Playlist for Feb 3, 2017)

4 Feb

Generic Sleeve [Pronit, Poland, 1960s]

The second Eastern Bloc Disco event took place yesterday evening at Centrala, Birmingham, as part of the monthly Digbeth First Friday, and this set ran from around 8pm until 10.40pm (after which a pre-prepared short mix featuring a few other songs, also listed below, saw the event through to its end, more or less). A further collaboration with Centrala, on an archival exhibition and series of events exploring the history, ephemera, design, film and wider political and cultural contexts surrounding some of these artists and sounds, is currently in development for the Summer of 2018. [Watch this space].

Grupa 220: Negdie Postoji Netko (Yugoslavia, 1968)
Koncz Zsuzsa & Illés Együttes: Fáradt Vagyok (Hungary, 1967)
Izomorf 67: Barwy Dzwieku (Poland, 1967)
Karel Černoch: Snídaně v Trávě (Help) (Czechoslovakia, 1971)
Marta Kubišová: Balada o Kornetovi a Divce (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Blackout: Powiedz Swoje Imie (Poland, 1967)
Polanie: Dlugo Się Znamy (Poland, 1968)
Karel Kahovec & Flamengo: Poprava Blond Holky (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
George & Beatovens: Lez Blazniveho Basnika (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Sarolta Zalatnay: Betonfej (Hungary, 1968)
Koncz Szusza: Visz a Vonat (Hungary, 1970)
Petr Spaleny & Apollobeat: Kdybych Ja Byl Kovarem (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Vaclav Neckar & Golden Kids: Goo-Goo Barabajagal (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Breakout: Pozlabym za Toba (Poland, 1969)
Illés Együttes: Nehez Az Ut (Hungary, 1968)
Janko Nilovic: Xenos Cosmos (Yugoslavia/France, 1974)
Czerwono Czarni: Lot na Wenus (Poland, 1969)
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi: A Co Ma Bejt (Czechoslovakia, 1970)
Angelika Mann: Wenn Ich Mal (DDR, 1974)
Hana Zagorová: Svatej Kluk (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Chris Doerk: Glaub Nicht (DDR, 1974)
Czeslaw Niemen & Akwarele: Baw Się W Ciuciubabkę (Poland, 1969)
Josef Laufer & Their Majesties: Útěk z Hladomorny (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Grupa ABC: Za Duzo Chcesz (Poland, 1970)
Jana Kratochvílová & Discobolos: Kyvadlo (Czechoslovakia, 1978)
Bemibem: Podaruj Mi Trochę Słońca (Poland, 1973)
Alibabki: Slonce w Chmurach Lazi (Poland, 1969)
Drugi Nacin: Zuti List (Yugoslavia, 1975)
Olympic: Tobogan (Czechoslovakia, 1970)
Emil Dimitrov: Scherazhade (Bulgaria, 1972)
Arp-Life: Baby Bump (Poland, 1976)
Walter Kubiczeck: Tentakel (DDR, 1979)
Grupul Stereo: Coloana Infinită (Romania, 1984)
Marta Kubišová: Tak Dej Se K Nam A Projdem Svet (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Eva Pilarova: Ohen a Led (Czechoslovakia, 1970)
Izabela Trojanowska: Jestem Twoim Grzechem (Poland, 1981)
Grupul Stereo: Plopii Impari (Romania, 1984)
Manaam: Stoję, stoję, czuję się świetnie (Poland, 1980)

Prepared Mix:

Olympic: Ikarus Blues (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Sarolta Zalatnay & Metro: Fekete Beat (Hungary, 1973)
Filipinki: Nie Ma Go (Poland, 1967)
Halina Frąckowiak: Wodo, Zimna Wodo (Poland, 1974)
Kovács Kati: Add Már, Uram, Az Esőt (Hungary, 1972)
Marta Kubišová: Svlikam Lasku (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Czeslaw Niemen: Enigmatyczne Impresje (Poland, 1971)
Omega: Gyöngyhajú Lány (Hungary, 1969)
Locomotiv GT: The Worlds Watchmaker (Hungary/Poland, 1974)
Tadeusz Woźniak: Zegarmistrz Światła (Poland, 1972)

Various Artists: Privni Pantoniada (Panton) [7


Czeslaw Niemen: Kwiaty Ojczyste (Muza, 1970)

14 Apr

Czeslaw Niemen’s Enigmatic (1970) was a recording whose songs were all settings of poems by Polish authors, two of which – Cyprian Norwid’s Bema pamięci żałobny-rapsod (Funeral Rhapsody in Memory of General Bem) and Adam Asnyk’s Jednego Serca (One Heart) have already featured here, along with some background on the recordings and Czeslaw Niemen himself. This further song is Niemen’s setting of Tadeusz Kubiak’s Kwiaty Ojczyste (Native Flowers), a poem that reads as follows on the sleeve of the original Polish LP release:

Kwiaty nad Wisłą mazowieckie
Stokrotki, fiołki i kaczeńce
Zielone wierchy nad Warszawą
Kwieciste nad domami wieńce.
Kwiaty znad Odry, gąszcze, róże,
Stukolorowe pióra pawie
W parkach Szczecina i Opola
W małych ogródkach pod Wrocławiem…

Kaliny, malwy białostockie,
Lubelskie bujne winogrady,
Dziewanny złote pod Zamościem
I w Kazimierzu białe sady.
Kwiaty nad Wisłą, Narwią, Bugiem,
Zbierane w słońcu, przy księżycu
Kocham was kwiaty mej ojczyzny
Nad Odrą, Wartą i Pilicą…

Mostly the version that follows has tried to remain true to this, with the proviso that some details have been added here and there to elucidate some of the place names and locations that may not be immediately recognised by non-Polish readers as, for example, rivers, or towns in particular regions. This has formally altered the poem by in effect, adding an extra line to it, but hopefully it otherwise remains reasonably close to its source both formally and in meaning. The song can be heard here, accompanied by film of Niemen in performance with the vocal group Alibabki, and a stellar line-up of Polish jazz musicians that includes Zbigniew Namysłowski, Czesław Bartkowski and Michał Urbaniak.

Kwiaty Ojczyste (Native Flowers)

(after Czeslaw Niemen/Tadeusz Kubiak, 1970)

There are flowers on the Masovian Vistula,
white daisies, blue violets and marigolds.
Flowers crown the green peaks over Warsaw,
lay floral wreaths on all the houses’ roofs.
There are roses, flowers from the thickets of Odra,
like hundred-coloured peacock feathers
in all the parks of Szczecin and Opole,
in all the small gardens tended near Wrocław.

Mallows strike root in Kalina and Bialystok,
grow in Lublin’s lush vineyards and wineries.
Golden clementines flower in Zamosc,
the orchards of Kazimierz turn white with blossom.
There are flowers on the banks of the Vistula,
flowers by the waters of the Narew and Bug,
flowers I love, gathered under the sun and moon,
bright in the shadow of Pilica’s castle wall,
flowers where the Oder and Warta rivers flow.

Czeslaw Niemen Enigmatic (1970)

Czeslaw Niemen: Bema pamięci żałobny rapsod (Muza, 1970)

26 Aug

Czeslaw Niemen‘s 1970 setting of Bema pamięci żałobny-rapsod, a text written in 1851 by the Polish poet Cyprian Norwid (1821 – 1883), is also the first collaboration in what would become a long-standing series, as Niemen returned to Norwid’s work many times in the years following the release of this recording. Although Norwid himself is now regarded as among Poland’s most important nineteenth century poets in his own lifetime he was largely neglected and lived a life of poverty and rootlessness, living for periods in London, Paris and New York, while never winning much financial stability or recognition: it’s said that at one point, he was reduced to living in a churchyard’s crypt. In fact, the date of Niemen’s arrangement is significant, as it was only in 1968 that the first complete edition of Norwid’s poetry appeared in Poland, so his achievement of public and literary eminence coincides chronologically with Niemen’s time rather than his own, though he had achieved a certain cult status among younger Polish writers in the early 20th century. The funeral rhapsody takes as its subject the Polish military leader Józef Zachariasz Bem, an important figure during the Napoleonic Wars who died in 1850, making Norwid’s elegy an immediate historical response to his passing. The version here follows Niemen in sticking to Norwid’s text, so amounts to a direct attempt to translate the poem itself. Some liberties have been taken but as far as I can I’ve tried to keep within the patterns of imagery and approximate form of Norwid’s original, though for purposes of comparison a more literal English text can be read here. The song can be listened to here, accompanied by footage from a Polish TV performance dating from the first release of Enigmatic, the 1970 Niemen LP on which his Norwid setting takes up the first side.

Bema pamięci żałobny-rapsod (Funeral Rhapsody in Memory of General Bem)

(after Cyprian Norwid/Czeslaw Niemen, 1970)

“An oath was given to my father and I have kept it…”



Where is the shadow going with his broken hands,
sparks flying out from his knees and spurs?
His laurel sword gleams, his green candles cry wax,
falcons and horses beat the rhythms of a dance
as streaming pennants crack whips among clouds.
There are troop encampments moving across the skies,
trumpet calls blown among flags and signs,
tents pitched in the shade of day’s lowered wings.
Did spears pierce dragons, lizards and birds?
Do thoughts sharpen to spear-points among these stars?


A woman mourns, collects her tears in a conch shell cup.
She lifts a scented sheaf that bursts on the wind,
seeks directions from grave-posts on a familiar road.
The rest go wild, smash clay pots on the ground.
In this clay’s destruction is a mournful human noise.


Boys beat their blunt axes in dark rhythms on the sky,
hammer bright brass shields on anvils of light.
A vast banner is spreading its cloth above fires
whose smoke plumes bend, resembling a bow or spear
in a blue haze tense as a tightrope’s steel wire.


We’ll press on, drown in the rock of a gorge, climb out,
pass under moonlit cloud and trembling stars
towards a lake in darkness, an impassable chasm.
The chanting stops, breaks out again in waves.
We spear-thrust your horse into an open grave.


We’ll watch for cast shadows by treacherous roads
where paths seem lost between fallen boughs,
knowing no human convoy will ever truly pass.
We’ll drive our procession on, through sleeping towns,
beat urns at gates, brighten axe-blades on whistling stones.


We’ll hammer until we’ve smashed these granite walls
like the winter log-piles that feed our fires –
chant translucent stars from night’s brink,
feel the startled jump in our ribs as hearts awake.
We’ll go on, gathering lichens from nations’ eyes…

Filipinki: Nie Ma Go (Muza, 1968)

25 Jul

Something of a first for this site, in that this version of Filipinki’s Nie Ma Go (He’s Gone) has been translated by someone who actually speaks the language of the song, the writer and regular F-Word contributor Ania Ostrowska (check out her articles on the site). Nie Ma Go has been mentioned previously, in a post whose main subject was Filipinki’s 1964 release Wala-Twist, a song written and performed in homage to Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to travel into space aboard Vostok 6 in 1963. Nie Ma Go has a more standard pop lyric, in which the end of a love affair is regretted, but the song is musically among the group’s best, despite coming from a later period in their career, when they were evidently being seen (in contrast to newer groups like Alibabki and the Swingles-style jazz-classical hybrids of NOVI Singers) as an old-fashioned proposition. The makeover seen on the sleeve of the Nie Ma Go EP shows efforts were being made in 1968 to keep Filipinki in the swing of things but it’s not clear how successful these changes were with their audiences at the time: later 45s are far harder to find than their earlier material, which suggests they sold in lower quantities. Even so Nie Ma Go is a strong effort and the Polish lyric, also transcribed by Ania, runs as follows:

Słońce mnie już nudzi,
księżyc mnie nie bawi,
wczoraj miałam chłopca –
dzisiaj mnie zostawił.

Nie ma go, nie ma go,
już go nie znajdziecie,
bo jeśli on gdzieś z inną jest,
to nie ma go na świecie!

Długo patrzył w oczy,
gdy byliśmy sami,
nagle gdzieś wyskoczył,
mocno trzasnął drzwiami.

Za co?! Daję słowo –
nic mu nie zrobiłam!
Tak ni stąd, ni zowąd
miłość się skończyła.

Czemu tak się dzieje,
proszę wytłumaczyć –
dziś się człowiek śmieje,
jutro jest w rozpaczy.

Słońce mnie już nudzi,
księżyc mnie nie bawi,
wczoraj miałam chłopca –
dzisiaj mnie zostawił.

Nie ma go, nie ma go,
już go nie znajdziecie,
bo jeśli on gdzieś z inną jest,
to nie ma go na świecie!

The song, complete with twangy guitar, lurching horns and upbeat but minor key choruses that sit on a knife-edge between a plaintive and celebratory tone, can be heard here accompanied – in this case – by a film edited together from many different Filipinki clips, in which the ‘heroine of the edit’, as its compiler admits, is one Filipinki girl in particular, Iwona Racz-Szczygielska. If you don’t know who Iwona is, you will be very familiar with her appearance by the time you reach the end of this compilation of her moments in the foreground of the group’s many promotional films, which always, it ought to be noted, gave pretty much equal screen time to all the group’s members in their original form: for the record, the line-up also included Zofia Bogdanowicz, Niki Ikonomu, Elżbieta Klausz, Krystyna Pawlaczyk, Anna Sadowa and Krystyna Sadowska.

Nie Ma Go (He’s Gone)

(Translation by Ania Ostrowska, after J. Barnaba/K. Zywulska, 1968)

I am bored with the Sun.
The Moon is fun no more.
I had a boy yesterday.
Today he’s left me.

He’s gone, he’s gone,
you won’t find him no more,
for if he is somewhere with another girl
he’s not in this world.

He looked into my eyes for a long time
when we were alone.
Suddenly he popped out,
slamming the door hard.

And for what? I swear –
I didn’t do him any harm!
Out of the blue
love came to an end.

Why is it so?
Please explain it to me:
why today you are laughing,
tomorrow in despair?

I am bored with the Sun.
The Moon is fun no more.
I had a boy yesterday.
Today he’s left me.

He’s gone, he’s gone,
you won’t find him no more,
for if he is somewhere with another girl
he’s not in this world.

Wedding Playlist: Britannia Boat Club, Nottingham (4 June 2011)

12 Jun

In case anyone was there and wondered what the hell was going on behind the decks, here’s a list (in order) of what came out of the record boxes and found its way to the turntables during a short but (hopefully) sweet set on the night:

Breakout: Poszlabym Za Toba (from Muza EP ‘Opole 69’)
Breakout: Gdybys Kochal, Hej! (Pronit 45)
Blue Effect: Sun Is So Bright (from Panton EP ‘Sen Neni Vecny’)
Petr Ulrych/Atlantis: Wine Or Love (Supraphon 45)
Karel Kahovec/Flamengo: Poprava Blond Holky (Supraphon 45)
Atlantis: Don’t You Break It Again (Nepierusuj!) (Supraphon 45)
Vera Spinarova: Den a Noc (She’s Not There) (from Panton LP ‘Andromeda’)
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi: A Co Ma Bejt (from Supraphon LP ‘13HP’)
Viktor Sodoma a Girls: Vysoka Hra (Supraphon 45)
Martha & Tena: Boure (Panton 45)
Illes: Nehez Az Ut (from Qualiton LP ‘Exmusic/Nehez Az Ut’)
Olympic: Ikarus Blues (from Supraphon LP ‘Ptak Rosomak’)
Alibabki: Slonce w Chmurach Lazi (from Pronit LP ‘Kwiat Jednej Nocy’)
Petr Spaleny/Apollobeat: Kdybych Ja Byl Kovarem (Supraphon 45)
Vaclav Neckar/Golden Kids: Goo Goo Barabajagal (Supraphon 45)

Krissi Musiol’s Sugar Statues at NEAT11 Festival, Nottingham (Jun 2, 2011)

31 May

A slight deviation from the usual versions of song lyrics to note that as part of the Hatch programming within the NEAT11 festival, on Thursday June 2nd Manchester-based artist Krissi Musiol will be performing her one-woman show Sugar Statues, reflecting on recent Polish history from the perspective of her own family’s experience, at the Polish Eagle Club in Sherwood. The event is preceded by a new performance by Jenna Finch drawing on Nottingham’s Polish connections aboard a free bus to the venue that will set off from the Playhouse around 6.30pm.

To keep things in the spirit of  the Polish theme, I was asked a week or so ago to compile a couple of CDs of Polish music to be played between and after these performances and the songs below are all included: if you fancy seeing either performance, hearing the sounds, or just having a look inside the Eagle Club itself (built by expatriate Poles after WW2, and well worth a first or repeat visit) booking is via Hatch and the Playhouse.

Sugar Statues Playlist (2 June 2011)

Alibabki – Slonce W Chmurach Lazi

Dwa Plus Jeden – When Ice Floats Down The River

Marek Grechuta & Anawa – Korowod

No To Co – The Green Bridge

Urszula Sipinska – Trzymajac Sie Za Rece

Stenia Kozlowska – Przypomnij Mi

Czerwono Czarni – Beat Mass Credo

Tadeusz Wozniak – Zegarmistrz Swiatla

Maryla Rodowicz – Wolves Chasing The Sheep

Romauld & Roman – Pytanie Czy Haslo

Blackout – Powiedz Swoje Imie

Czeslaw Niemen/Akwarele – Dziwny Jest Ten Swiat

Klan – Don’t Plant Apples of Paradise

Niebiesko Czarni – Nie Pukaj Do Moich Drzwi

Filipinki – Nie Ma Go

Tadeusz Wozniak – Pewnego Dnia O Swicie

Czeslaw Niemen – Enigmatyczne Impresje

Krzysztof Komeda Quintet – Kattorna

NOVI Singers – Torpedo

Helena Majdaniec  – Juz raz bylo tak

Jerzy Polomski – Nie Pierwszy Raz

Czerwono Czarni – Moj Dom Gdzies Daleko

Polanie – Dlugo Sie Znamy

Klan – Picking Wild Strawberries with a Razor

Czerwone Gitary – Coda

Maryla Rodowicz – Hindu Couplets

Halina Frackowiak – Ide Dalej

Romauld & Roman – Czloweik

Marek Grechuta – Twoja Postac

Zespol Izomorf 67 – The Colour of Sound

Klan – Automaty

Krzysztof Komeda – Pushing the Car

Jan ‘Pstazyn’ Wroblewski – Sprzedawcy Glonow

Tadeusz Wozniak: Zegarmistrz światła (Muza, 1972)

12 May

Tadeusz Wozniak’s Zegarmistrz Swiatła isn’t a song I thought I’d manage to produce a version of, given that even in Poland it’s considered a somewhat ‘difficult’ lyric to interpret with any degree of precision, despite consisting of a mere eight lines, repeated in different ways during the course of the song. The structure has the short verses sung first by Wozniak solo to acoustic guitar, then with a full band, then by the backing vocals of Alibabki, then by Wozniak and band with the backing vocals added, before returning to Wozniak’s acoustic rendition at the conclusion. This gives the repetitions a very different texture each time, as the lines switch between single and massed voices and the tone shifts from reflective to impassioned. The Polish lyric reads as follows:

A kiedy przyjdzie także po mnie
Zegarmistrz światła purpurowy
By mi zabełtać błękit w głowie
To będę jasny i gotowy

Spłyną przeze mnie dni na przestrzał
Zgasną podłogi i powietrza
Na wszystko jeszcze raz popatrzę
I pójdę nie wiem gdzie – na zawsze.

In the version below I’ve introduced variations to the repeated stanzas to echo this shifting musical texture (at the expense of being more strictly accurate). It may or may not work: according to Bogdan Chorążuk, the author of the text, in an interview with Sławomir Zygmunt archived here, the song’s very deliberately opaque meaning was highly controversial despite its huge popularity, so I hope this no less oblique approach to its translation at least catches something of the general flavour and atmosphere, even if at many points here literal fidelity has been wilfully discarded, even more so than usual.

Zegarmistrz Swiatła (Watchmaker of Light)

(after Bogdan Chorążuk/Tadeusz Wozniak, 1972)

This I know: when they come after me, too,
in the watchmaker’s indigo light
the blue inside my head will splash,
clear and ready, will flow through me.

It may take days to cleanse this source
as ground and air extinguish alike.
I see reflections and points of light.
I’ll leave, forever, go…I don’t know where.

And, yes. When they come after me
in the watchmaker’s magenta light
the cobalt head of a match will flash and burn,
cast a shadow, clear and sharp

as the days flow from me, leave my shape
where the floors and air once were.
I’ll look at everything again, one last time,
and go, forever, with no idea of where.

And for all I know, when they come for me too
in the watchmaker’s purple light,
the turquoise in my mind will splash,
a translucent flare, and flood my days.

It may take time to quench these flames
as ground and air fade away alike,
as all I know sharpens to a point of light
and I leave forever, going…I don’t know where.

For I know, when they come for me at last
in the watchmaker’s damson light
the water inside my head will flare,
run clear as glass, then flow to fade.

It may take days to cleanse this source
as ground and air dissolve alike.
I see reflections and points of light.
I’ll leave, forever, go…I don’t know where.