In late autumn we will once again be able to once listen to live ska in Poland. After the last year’s pause due to the lockdown, the Polish ska festival, Gdańsk Ska Jamboree, is coming back. With a new line-up (the one planned for 2020 could not be delivered), in a new venue (this time, the event will take place in the B90 club), but hosted by the same team and with the same enthusiasm. Read what Katarzyna Banucha and Justyna Roś have to say about the upcoming event.
Magdalena Miszewska: The Gdańsk Ska Jamboree will take place on 27 November. Well, how are you doing and what is currently being done?
Katarzyna Banucha: The work is in progress. At the moment, we are sorting out everything technically at the venue. In a moment we will hand everything over to other people and a lot will depend on them. We are a bit stressed. You know how big events are organised. We think we’re pulling all the strings, but there’s always one we might not catch. But we are optimistic.
MM: And at what point does that stress subside? When, as organisers, do you realise that you’ve done everything there was to do, and the rest is in the hands of fate? When the last band leaves the stage or maybe earlier?
KB: When the last band leaves. That’s when we know that everything has played out as it should.
Justyna Roś: For me, this moment comes earlier when everything kicks off. When the rehearsals are over and the first band starts their gig, this stress becomes a total action.
KB: At that time I still calculate various things and only when everything looks right do I assume it’s OK.
JR: When the money is right because we always have a problem with that (laughs).
KB: The coolest thing is that we’re doing all this for the community which is very understanding, and never lets us down, and if something doesn’t work out I don’t think anyone will hold it against us. However, you have to remember that we are doing it as a very small team, and the project is getting bigger and bigger. We are moving to a much bigger club this year. It will be our first time there, so there are a few unknowns. But we are happy because the venue has a reputation for being very professional. It is big and prepared for any possible Covid-related difficulties. Even if we had some new density restrictions, the club can cope with everything. This certainly takes some of the worries out of our heads.
JR: Also the organizational ones, because now we don’t have to worry about everything. We know that professionals will help us, that they will take care of some technical matters.
MM: We’ll probably talk more about the new venue later, but tell me, has the thought of cancelling the festival crossed your mind in the last two years? In 2019 the event was held in a slimmed-down, one-day version. Last year, due to the situation across the world, it was not held at all. Some people wondered if this would be the end of the Gdansk Ska Jamboree. Did you also have such fears or did you always have faith that the event would be able to continue?
KB: No, there was faith.
JR: There was faith all the time. I think we’re just getting into the swing of things (laughs).
KB: You know, we still have the feeling that even if we had a shameful thought of quitting because it’s too much effort and too big a risk, the community wouldn’t let us give up so easily.
JR: We would certainly come up with some other way of doing things if this one didn’t work for us or was too risky in various ways. We would do something to meet with the community somehow. We had various plans, didn’t we?
KB: Yes we did. Magda, you also mentioned that the previous edition of the festival was slimmed down. Unfortunately, this year we’re still maintaining the one-day festival, but this doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped to caress the idea of making it a two-day one. We would like it to be an opportunity to come here, to enjoy ourselves, to taste Gdańsk as a place. Especially since we now have the financial and formal support of the city. This is why we can actually think about doing anything at all. We also hope that if we can prove to the city that we’re a reliable contractor and beneficiary, then in time we’ll be able to make the event much bigger. Above all, we have a perspective, and this is what drives us most because we know that if we try, if we show that we can act even in such difficult conditions, we will convince the decision-makers, and this will bear fruit. And we would really like to survive because you know the history of ska festivals in Poland. They always ended up with just one or two editions, because it’s hard to keep it going. It costs too much and consumes too much energy to do it without any support.
JR: I think we’re a good team, Kasia, Maciek and me because we can motivate each other and get along.
MM: The history of Polish ska festivals is rather sad, that’s a fact. Ostróda Ska Reggae Stomp took place three times, other events finished after the first edition, so Gdańsk Ska Jamboree will be a record-breaker from this year on. Do you sometimes ask yourselves, if there is an audience for this kind of festival?
JR: There is. We also try to bring in bands from abroad. Of course, to the best of our financial and now Covid-related abilities. We would also like to introduce some bands to some Polish fans so that the community doesn’t close itself off musically. I think this is the way we see our future. We also notice that some bands reactivate after our festivals, so there’s still hope that it will flourish somewhere, develop.
KB: Bands from abroad, who do come to Gdańsk, really, really appreciate the fact that we fight against obstacles and try to keep the festival alive. The fact that The Magnetics will play at the festival again is actually the band’s initiative. They have been dreaming of coming back here. And it’s great that they went out into the world and talked about how fantastic Poland is, what a great festival is held in Gdańsk. It spreads among the musicians and we hope that it will soon become a standard that bands want to play at our festival.
MM: Bottle Of Moonshine, who played during the same edition as The Magnetics, were also delighted with the festival in Gdańsk.
JR: We think about them all the time. We love them.
KB: Yes, because it was a big love of mine and Justyna’s and our big dream to invite them. We were devastated when they said they weren’t playing anymore. And then when we got an email from them saying that they would meet again for this one concert and that the singer would come especially from South Africa, it was like a dream come true.
JR: The concert itself, yes, but it was also great when they wrote to us after the festival that ok, they’ve broken up, it’s over, it was the last gig, but if we ever wanted to do it again, we could get in touch. They left us some hope that maybe we’ll hear them again one day. That gives you wings, doesn’t it?
KB: Of course. I’m also very excited about what you can do with ska. It can be ska punk, but also ska latino, ska jazz. There are so many possibilities, so many bands.
JR: And we want to show that to others.
KB: Yes, yes. We have endless possibilities. The only thing that limits us at the moment is money. We have big plans, we dream about bringing in bands from South America or the US. As for now, this is definitely out of our reach. However, we are trying to get there step by step. The fact that we’re getting older and have certain commitments is also an obstacle. Justyna and Maciek have a little daughter and all that somehow distracts us from doing the things we do only because we want to, not because we have to.
JR: On the other hand, we keep motivating each other.
KB: And we don’t let go. We still hope that at some point we’ll be doing the line-up of our dreams and we won’t have to limit ourselves territorially and worry all the time.
JR: We hope that we’ll be the festival that lasts, and a regular event for ska fans, that everyone will know that we’re going to exist and not wonder when we’re going to fall.
KB: We’d also like to maybe even think about a summer edition one day, who knows. For now, we stick to winter, because it is a date that has grown into the consciousness of at least Polish fans, and it’s just somehow easier for us to organize the festival now, at this time of year.
MM: Well, now it’s time for the most pleasant thing. Tell us what will happen this year at the Gdansk Ska Jamboree and who will perform besides The Magnetics.
JR: I’ll do it in the order they’ll be playing. The first band to perform will be from Gdańsk, from the Tricity – Majestic. Majestic has been around for a long time. They had a break in touring, reactivated and then there was the pandemic, so they didn’t have a chance to do much. I know that they are developing all the time. I think Maciek talked to them a few days ago and they were in the middle of recording a video. We are very excited to hear how they will sound, as we used to go to their gigs seven, eight years ago.
KB: And now there will be new material, new energy.
JR: Then there will be Kompromitacja from Zakopane. They are more of a ska punk band. They’re coming…
KB: because they want to play at the festival. It also shows that people need this kind of stage to present themselves to a wider audience. It’s often the case, and we can’t hide it, that we don’t have anything to offer our performers, but they come anyway. And they want to come.
JR: So, that’s Kompromitacja, there will probably be a lot of energy. After that, we will hear Wersja De Lux, which is also a Tri-City band, from Gdynia and Gdańsk. They currently have two female vocalists. They perform all the time, now they are recording an album. They didn’t waste any time at all during the pandemic, they were constantly composing something. There is something so cool about them, kind of a British sound. The girls’ voices are great, too. They will be followed by The Magnetics, who we’ve already talked about.
KB: They also have new material and an extended line-up. Previously they performed here without a sax, now they will have one, so they will show us something new. And the icing on the cake will be Blechreiz from Germany. I’ve never seen them live, but those who have, say they’re a firecracker and are hard to tame.
JR: They’re a hundred years old, but they jump like if they were fifteen.
KB: To round off the show we’ll have 6T’s Club with their DJ sets. You will be able to dance yourself to death in B90.
MM: Yeah, the Ska Jamboree audience has been hanging around the club for a long time after the last show. If someone hasn’t been to this party yet, they have to prepare for the fact that it’s hard to leave early.
JR: This year, I’m convinced that there will be no shortage of alcohol at the bar. Because we’ve already had situations in the past where the bar was empty and everyone still wanted to party (laughs).
KB: When it comes to the preparation of the club and whether everyone’s needs will be met, we’re sure it will be fine. We are very pleased about that.
JR: Of course there will also be a fair. We organise it every year. The club has expanded during the pandemic. Now they have a cosy entresol overlooking the stage. The fair will be downstairs and there will be handicrafts, T-shirts, paintings, pins, records. There will also probably be some kind of a flea market.
KB: Anyone who would like to put up some records or clothes and sell them during the festival will have a place to do it.
JR: We start the whole event with an unofficial before party. We did it for the first time two years ago. Because the festival was a one-day event, we thought that some people coming from far away would also like to meet and have a chat beforehand. The meeting will be held in Screen Pub, which also supports our festival.
KB: Everyone is invited to Screen Pub in Gdańsk on Friday to have fun and get in the mood for Saturday.
JR: We always put all the musicians in one hostel. We want it to be a nice ska-related space. There are probably some free places there for anyone who would like to sleep together in the same place as the musicians.
KB: The Olympic Hostel is very close to the club, so if somebody wants to…
JR: To integrate and have breakfast with the bands…
KB: And is still looking for a place to spend the night, we would recommend this place.
MM: I think that those who are considering coming to Gdańsk already know everything about the upcoming activities, but are there any other important issues we should mention here?
KB: I think many people are concerned about the pandemic. There have been questions about whether we will allow only vaccinated people in. At the moment we are not planning any verification, but we have to take into account the fact that there might be some changes by 27th November. The participants will have to forgive us if something like that happens because it will not be up to us. But Gdańsk has high vaccination rates, the Gdańsk Ska Jamboree and B90 teams are vaccinated too. And as we have already mentioned, the club is huge and we don’t expect a massive turnout, if only because the participants from abroad won’t turn up as well as we would like. The club crowd can certainly disperse so that everyone feels safe. Of course, those who want to have fun in front of the stage, sweat and jump together, will be able to do so. But those who prefer to keep their distance will also have places to hide. We are of course aware that this is a huge club and that the Gdańsk Ska Jamboree does not yet have such an audience that would fill this hall. Perhaps there will be an impression that not enough people came, but right now, in the Covid times, we think this will be an advantage. We also hope that sooner or later we will be able to fill that venue. We want to stick with this club also because of the shipyard vibe.
JR: It doesn’t get any better in Gdańsk. And we’re staying in the shipyard, where we’ve always wanted to hold the festival.
KB: Yes, we always emphasized where ska comes from, the connection between ska and the shipyard, because I think it is important for Gdańsk, a shipyard city. I’m very happy that the city is also interested in it. We feel more and more at home here with this festival. We know that this is a good place to hold it, that this shipbuilding and dockers’ history, which is a part of the history behind the development of ska in Europe, that it all fits together and we feel at home here.
Gdańsk Ska Jamboree vol. 4 will take place on 27 November in B90. You’ll have a chance to hear live Majestic, Kompromitacja, Wersja De Lux, The Magnetics and Blechreiz. Detailed information can be found on the event’s Facebook page.
Before you leave for Gdańsk, take a look at our review of the second edition of the festival.