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Eastern Bloc Disco Playlist (Nottingham Contemporary, 16 Jan 2016)

16 Feb

Generic Sleeve (Pronit)

Last month, to celebrate the opening weekend of Monuments Should Not Be Trusted (curated by Lina Džuverović) and expand on the display of Eastern Bloc 7” records included in Behold! The Markets Shall Erase Our History! (both exhibitions remain at Nottingham Contemporary until 04 March), an Eastern Bloc Disco was staged, featuring soul, rock, psychedelia, pop, folk and more, all released by the official state record labels of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, East Germany and the USSR between the early 1960s and mid-1980s. The session also included a live set from UrBororo, Pil & Galia Kollectiv’s new venture into “skewed filing cabinet swamp blues for corporate inflight listening” – an “objectively boring” band whose songs are made from an unlikely merger between the sounds of surf, grunge and punk, and whose lyrics are borrowed from a 1970s Management Self-Help guide.

The all-vinyl playlist for the night ended up looking something like this:

Marek Grechuta: W Pochodzie Dni I Nocy (Poland, 1974)
Raimonds Pauls/Margarita Vilcāne: Līgotāji (Latvia/USSR, 1974)
Izomorf 67: Barwy Dzwieku (Poland, 1967/8)
Raimonds Pauls/Nora Bumbiere: Divpadsmit Asaras (Latvia/USSR, 1974)
Blackout: Powiedz Swoje Imie (Poland, 1967)
Grupa 220: Negdie Postoji Netko (Yugoslavia, 1968)
Vera Spinarova: Andromeda (Czechoslovakia, 1972)
Krystyna Pronko: Po Co Ci To Chlopcze (Poland, 1973)
Czeslaw Niemen & Akwarele: Baw Się W Ciuciubabkę (Poland, 1969)
Josef Laufer & Their Majesties: Útěk z Hladomorny (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Flamengo: Kure v Hodinkach (Czechoslovakia, 1972)
C&K Vocal: Generace (Czechosolovakia, 1974)
Omega: Gyöngyhajú Lány (Hungary, 1969)
Romauld & Roman: Pytanie Czy Haslo (Poland, 1970)
Drugi Nacin: Zuti List (Yugoslavia, 1975)
Piotr Figiel: Dyplomowany Galernik (Poland, 1974)
Olympic: Ikarus Blues (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Locomotiv GT: Ringasd El Magad II (Hungary, 1973)
Hungaria: Koncert a Marson (Hungary, 1969)
Blue Effect: The Sun Is So Bright (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Olympic: Everybody (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Breakout: Gdybys Kochal Hej (Poland, 1969)
Illes: Nehez Az Ut (Hungary, 1968)
Karel Kahovec/Flamengo: Poprava Blond Holky (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
George & Beatovens: Lez Blazniveho Basnika (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Martha & Tena: Boure (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Atlantis: Don’t You Break It Again (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Petr Spaleny & Apollobeat: Kdybych Ja Byl Kovarem (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Sarolta Zalatnay: Betonfej (Hungary, 1968)
Halina Frackowiak: Wodo, Zimna Wodo (Poland, 1974)
Stan Borys: Wyplakalem Oczy Niebieskie (Poland, 1969)
Koncz Szusza: Visz a Vonat (Hungary, 1970)
Emil Dimitrov: Scherazade (Bulgaria, 1972)
Marta Kubisova: Tak Dej Se K Nam A Projdem Svet (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi: A Co Ma Bejt (Czechoslovakia, 1970)
Angelika Mann: Wenn Ich Mal (DDR, 1974)
Arp-Life: Baby Bump (Poland, 1976)
Walter Kubiczeck: Tentakel (DDR, 1979)
Grupul Stereo: Coloana Infinită (Romania, 1984)
Izabela Trojanowska: Jestem Twoim Grzechem (Poland, 1981)
Grupul Stereo: Plopii Impari (Romania, 1984)
Chris Doerk: Glaub Nicht (DDR, 1974)
Vaclav Neckar & Golden Kids: Goo-Goo Barabajagal (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Czerwone Gitary: Coda (Poland, 1970)
Grupa ABC: Za Duzo Chcesz (Poland, 1970)
Marta Kubisova: Cervanky (It’s Not Unusual) (Czechoslovakia, 1968)

Generic Sleeve (Supraphon)

Through the evening, a muted playlist of videos also ran on a large screen, and everything shown at the event can be seen in the Eastern Bloc Disco playlist compiled here – between 2 – 3 hours of visuals in total, now available with their soundtracks intact.

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Alibabki: Słońce w Chmurach łazi (Pronit, 1969)

3 Dec

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 title track’s 1920s pastiche cabaret-pop to the uptempo pop-psychedelia of Slonce W Chmurach Lazi (Sun Loafing in the Clouds), a song that was probably more responsible than most for sparking my interest in Polish music many years ago, when a copy of the LP featuring it turned up in a batch of Muza and Pronit LPs in a Nottingham charity shop. A version of the lyric in English, fudged as it might be in places, is therefore something I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to add here. The original Polish lyric can be read here and the song itself can be listened to here.

Słońce w chmurach łazi (Sun Loafing In The Clouds)

(after Józef Sikorski/Gregorz Walczak, 1969)

I know that tomorrow you’ll maybe come
and we might both be deep in love –
this world could be a coach with four horses,
sunlight glowing on my long white veil.

And look! The sun is lazing in the clouds
while I dream of doing the same,
or so I dream, or so I’ll dream.

But what if – when you fall back to earth –
you ask some other girl to marry you?
Then I’d cut a hair-switch of supple birch,
lash out at all this summer’s dark.

And look! The sun is walking in the clouds
while I dream of doing the same,
or so I dream, or so I’ll dream.

But I hope that tomorrow you’ll maybe come
and we could both be deep in love.
I’ll cross four worlds, with four horses,
my happiness, this long white veil…

And look! The sun is loafing in the clouds
while I dream of doing the same,
or so I dream, or so I’ll dream.

Yes, I know that tomorrow you’ll maybe come
and we could both be deep in love
but I’ll master my own fate, here on my own.
I’ll master my own fate all the same.

And look! The sun is walking in the clouds
while I dream of doing the same,
or so I dream, or so I’ll dream.

And look! The sun is floating in the clouds
while I dream of doing the same,
or so I dream, or so I’ll dream
now I’ve mastered my own fate, all the same.

Alibabki: Kwiat Jednej Nocy (Pronit)

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.

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.

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

Filipinki: Wala-Twist (Muza, 1964)

17 May

Filipinki were an all-girl vocal group founded in 1959 at a technical college in Szczecin and became popular through exposure at song festivals and other events during the years that followed. By 1963 they were well-established, and while relatively mild by the standards of Polish beat music (Filipinki were generally given the kind of material associated with teenage life in a slightly earlier era, and steered towards a more ‘family entertainment’ ethos than some of their later peers) they are important historically, as the first of their kind in Poland, and did get to perform the occasional song that allowed them to deliver on their potential. The exuberant Nie Ma Go, for example, is as memorable a mix of sweetness, twang and lurching horns as anything in the back pages of the girl-group sound.

In Wala-Twist the musical aspects of the song and arrangement may be fairly saccharine, but the twist in this particular twist is its lyric, which celebrates the achievement of the female cosomonaut Valentina Tereshkova  who became the first woman into space aboard Vostok 6 in June 1963. One reference in the opening verse may need clarification: Pan Twardowski is a sorcerer in Polish folklore whose story shares many features with the Faust legend. One difference lies in the story’s conclusion, when Twardowski prays to the Virgin on his way to Hell and is saved, but deposited on the Moon, where he remains to this day, his only companion a former colleague (turned into a spider by Twardowski himself) who descends on a thread from time to time to gather news of earth. The Filipinki version can be heard here, and there’s also an alternative take from Karin Stanek, recorded the same year: the Polish lyric is available here.

Wala-Twist (Valentina-Twist)

(after J. Janikowski/W. Patuszyński, 1964)

Pan Twardowski has been waiting for years
with his sorcery and spider to bring him news.

He’s put his flags out all over the Moon,
calls through the clouds: “Bravo, Wala, well done!”

He sings Wala, Valentina, Valentina Twist
among the rocks and craters of lunar space –
yes, sings Wala, Valentina, Valentina Twist
among the stars and comets of outer space.

Valentina, the planets already know you well
because today you became the world’s first sky-girl.

Your name’s Wala, Valentina, the Satellite Miss,
because today you are the first girl in space!

We gave flowers to Gagarin, made this twist for you,
singing Wala, Valentina, Valentina Twist:
yes, gave flowers to Gagarin, made this twist for you,
singing Wala, Valentina, Valentina Twist.

Maybe the moon will send you a letter today.
He’ll find two guitars, pick up the spare, and play

(to welcome you, as you take your bow in space)
this song called the Wala, Valentina Twist.

Valentina, the stars and land know your name,
they’re singing this Wala-Twist with us:
Valentina, even oceans and clouds sing your fame,
twist for Wala, Valentina: first girl in space!