10 songs for 100 years of Polish Independence

Last Sunday in Poland we celebrated the 100th anniversary of regaining our country’s independence. That’s the perfect occasion to launch upon the high, international seas and to showcase our website to the rest of the world. During last 10 years we wrote most of our content only in Polish. For the last few months on our Facebook profile you could see that we’re trying to change it. From today the fully english version of our website will be available on RudeMaker.com domain. We’re gonna do our best to put all our articles in english here.

On this important moment I’d like to make a good welcome and show you a very subjective list of ten cool and meaningful songs by Polish artists, which, you could say, created or still are creating a ska/rocksteady/reggae scene in our country. Get to know a piece of our Polish musical history.

1. Alibabki – “Dykcja” (Diction)

A song “Dykcja” comes from the very first or at least one of the first ska recordings played on the European continent. In 1965 in our part of the world nobody thought about playing this kind of music. Meanwhile a beginning (but to be really famous later) vocal girslband Alibabki on Juliusz Loranc’s, their musical director’s, advice, released an EP “W Rytmach Jamajca Ska” (“In Jamaica Ska Rhytms”), which is pretty much an essence of classical ska sound from early 60s. It’s worth to mention the fantastic, funny lyrics in polish. You can find an example below.

Here’s the new frenzy, a brand new hit,
It’s called Jamaica Ska,
It cures us all from speech impediments
Jamaica Ska, Jamaica!

Demosthenes soaked with sweat
has put pebbles under his tongue,
Today we’re freed from such hassles by
Jamaica Ska, Jamaica Ska!

Don’t say no, don’t laugh at that,
It will be of use to everyone,
It will solve a lot of problems! (o-o, a-a)
Jamaica Ska – ska, ska, ska!

You should find all four songs with ease on YouTube. As a kind of curiosity from that period I also recommend you a “Shame & Scandal” cover by a band Chochoły.

2. Mr. Zoob – “Kartka dla Waldka” (Postcard for Waldek)

Beautiful example of 80’s style ska with a characteristic strong sax. Band was formed in 1983 in Koszalin and recorded its most memorable songs during the first two years, with Andrzej Donarski on vocal. The clip above looks very Madness inspired. “Mój jest ten kawałek podłogi”  (This piece of floor is mine) – that’s a much more famous hit of this band, up till today frequently played on the radio, but “Kartka” remains my favourite here if only for its really original lyrics.

Tram has passed through my breakfast,
Blatantly drove into my house.
It made a stop at my table,
Though it hasn’t been here before
Mr. motorman in yellow beret
Has stopped and said to me,
That he’s taking me on a trip through the world.
I left a message at the door:
Don’t be angry, Waldek, this tram is really yours and the rest is mine.

3. Dr. Cycos – “Nie pytaj mnie” (Don’t ask me)

Many years ago, at some really fat party, I said that this is the best Polish ska song ever. It was almost dawning and I was dancing at the club while laying on the floor – these were the circumstances, which probably explain a lot. After all those years I sustain that claim with a certain dose of teasing, because probably no other song can make me smile so much and put me in this kind of state of bliss. Dr. Cycos is a band from Szczecin, that lived its life quickly, but fruitfully. In 1997 these guys recorded probably the first casette almost fully comitted to ska music in our country. In one of interviews, the band’s leader Paweł “Piguła” Czekała said:

At some point I simply felt an urge to play something, that my wife would like to hear.

A song “Nie pytaj mnie” amazes me with pretty much everything, from lyrics, through silly backing vocals, to one of a kind manner of singing. It’s simply perfect and don’t even try to correct me on that. What’s also meaningful – the song was a part of cult compilation “Skadanka” by magazine “Machina” from 1999. You can find lots of other polish ska jewels from that period there.

4. Vespa – “To miasto” (This city)

If there’s any polish ska/reggae band you could really call cult, it’s gonna be Vespa from Szczecin. Despite lots of changes of the band’s lineup, they’re continuingly playing since 1995. They’re touring not only in Poland but also abroad. They’re still putting out new releases and more than that, those releases are still top level. Regardless of a significant turn to more swing sounds in the last few years, they stay deeply connected with their subcultural skinheads/rudeboys roots.  “To miasto” as well as “Skuteromania” (it also appeared on previously mentioned “Skadanka” compilation) are nowadays downright anthems sang along durning the shows. It’s worth mentioning that “To Miasto” comes from an album “Bujaj się”, which was recently reedited on vinyl, 15 years after its premiere.

5. Podwórkowi Chuligani – “Halina”

Funny, humorous lyrics are nothing rare in ska music, but Podwórkowi Chuligani (Backyard Hooligans) took them into a whole new level of absurd. Cheery guitar ska with a punk twist beautifully harmonizes with pure idiotic lyrics, which you simply can’t not love. Story of Halina, who wanted to go to the movies to see “Ace Ventura” is an absolute classic.

By the blue Danube,
Among ducks and fumes…
There lived Halina,
with her blaggard.

But it wasn’t good, not at all!
Because  Józek guzzled beeer…!

Józek, really pissed off,
Always busted her ass,
When Halina wanted to go,
to “Ace Ventura”!

There’s a moral of this story,
Józek dont’t you push it
Let Halina to the movies,
If not, she’ll fuck you up!

Everything ended well!
Józek still drinks beer…!

Trust me, their other lyrics can be even more silly. This band from Płock also has a fully deserved legend status in Poland, still plays gigs and records new albums. More than that, only recently it can show off a vinyl version of its debut album too. Worth knowing, worth having.

6. Konopians – “Słoneczko” (Sunshine)

While writing about Polish ska you can’t skip Sosnowiec and its surroundings. This city is to this day considered by many as Polish Kingston. Already in the 90s it was famous for its strong ska scene and many bands that eagerly seeked inspiration  in Jamaican music and 2tone – Skankan, Black Gang, The Gamblers, The Stylers or still active Horrorshow, Ziggie Piggie and Konopians coming from nearby Czeladź. This band since 1996 teaches us how much freshness you can still bring out from ska, rocksteady and reggae sounds. Charismatic vocalist Cozer and his crew are doing their best at live shows as well as on recordings. “Słoneczko” is an example of band’s early-cheery activity, which is still, as the years go by, an element much demanded by live audience. Already back then you could hear the characteristic, recognizable up to this day, sound of Konopians. Make sure to check out their more recent achievments – it’s different for sure and for sure it’s still great.

7. Las Melinas – “Złe, pijane dziewczyny” (Bad, drunk girls)

After all those years I’m not sure, but it’s quite possible, that I first heard Las Melinas in 2011, in Orneta, a small village in Warmia region. Few members of the band come from that place. At that time there was a big party happening – one of a few events in Polish history you could actually call a ska festival. Their gig was probably far from perfect, all that was still somewhat crude, yet much fun and joy and great to dance to, especially after few beers. Later it was even more fun to see that the band has been frequently playing during the years, recorded two albums, and is consequently progressing to this day. When I’m talking about progress here, I really mean it and right now I wouldn’t call this sound crude anymore. You can see a huge work put not only into technique, but also a better and better understanding of the music those guys are playing. That doesn’t change the fact that a song I’ve put here comes from an early period described above. It found its place on a debut album kinda autoironically named “The Best Of 2008-2011”. Why this particular song is on my list? You could probably put it on sentiment, but the truth is, what I still see here is potential and energy for a true super-ska-hit.  More or less universal lyrics about bad, drunk girls helped for sure.

8. Cała Góra Barwinków

It’s gotta be the most busy band in Polish ska scene. 16 years of playing, 5 albums, countless gigs and festivals all over the country. They have been literally everywhere. This crew from Kłobuck has even appeared on tv, where they fought breavely and not without success in one of talent shows. This cosiderably raised their popularity and made them the most recognizable band on our modest ska scene, kinda half-mainstream, you could say. All those experiences forged CGB into a brand with a quality sign. Great musicians and high level. They say they don’t like labeling their music, which in real world means, they like to experiment a little and try out sounds they weren’t previosuly famous for. You could say that “Agro” is that kind of experiment – very successful one, which I’m perfidiously labeling as funky reggae.

9.  The Bartenders – “Bergamuty”

Bartenders is a 9-man combo from Warsaw, playing the very best ska jazz in Poland. Their story began in 2006, when they formed the first lineup on the debris of band Deska. Since then they’ve managed to record two full albums, they’ve shared stage with lots of international stars and in recent years there was quite some buzz about them because of cooperation with Alibabki, girlsband mentioned in the beginning of this list. “Bergamuty” comes from “Poles Are Movin’!” album released two years ago. If it reminds you of some performances by Natty Bo and Ska Cubano or Top Cats – you’re not alone. You can hear Kuba Kaczmarek singing here. He’s also the vocalist of Cała Góra Barwinków, described a moment ago. He’s doing marvels here with his voice. He’s been a singer with The Bartenders for a few years now, but previously there was quite a rotation on this position. It’s worth, even if just for comparison, to play “Warszawo” (a very clever “Yiri Yiri Bon” cover) with Kuba Wirus, or “7na6”, where Earl Jacob sings. Talking about that last one, it’s obligatory to mention one of his solo albums “Warto rozrabiać” (It’s worth to misbehave ) which fits very nicely into Jamaican-like style.

10. xRobBlack – “Boss The Ripper”

The fact that we can pride ourselves on such a treasure as xRobBlack doesn’t stop to amaze me. Despite quite detailed explanation like our interview from few months ago, I still can’t sort it out in my head, how is this even possible, that on our small scene, a guy completely unknown to me, suddenly, out of the blue went off with so huge early reggae killers, and served them properly, on vinyl. I can honestly say, that nobody has made music of his kind and quality before here, in Poland. It’s even more astonishing, when you learn that he actually works mostly on his own, recording pretty much everything by himself in the more or less domestic environment. Effects are astounding and “Boss The Ripper” comes from a 2012 7″, which paved the way for a  release of “Grand Shelf Reggay” album three years later . Oh man, how much fun is listening to those records!

Of course there’s lots of great songs and bands missing on this list.

As I wrote in the beginning, it’s a completely subjective set. Let’s not treat it as some kind of chart. It’s just 10 cool polish songs from different times, which – I hope – managed to put a smile on your face and maybe, just maybe, got you digging some more into polish music. That might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship – just sayin’.

 

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