Concert “Opoczno the capital of the oberek”
Opoczno is a region everybody knows well. Or at least everybody seems to think so. Many people can hum the classic tune by “Mazowsze” folk group, about the best polka coming from Opoczno (the Polish rhyme verse goes „Ładna poleczka bo skoczna, ale najlepsza z Opoczna”). This song, however, is not even a polka, but a variety of it called “tramblanka” which does not come from Opoczno region, and the region itself does not really belong to Mazovia. This example shows a problem often encountered by those wanting to explore the local music: the deeper they go, the more questions and mysteries they find, and seemingly obvious things are not that obvious anymore. Where are the physical borders of the region? Are they defined by administrative divisions? Or by the area where the traditional Opoczno costume is worn, which by no means corresponds to the formal territory of this region? Why do some folk groups from Opoczno sound like the ones from Radom or Kielce? Why did the leading harmonia player of “Opocznianka” group, Stanisław Borowiecki, in the 1940s used to play at weddings with Bogusz, the most famous Kajok fiddler? Why the band of Józef Zaraś from Nieznamierowice is called “Opoczno-based” by the Polish Radio? Why does a musician from Januszewice, a village in the heart of Opoczno region, sing about falling in love with a girl from Kielce? Why do fiddlers from Kraśnica play oberek from Rawa?
This is Opoczno: apparently familiar, yet unknown. The music is lively and bouncy, still its sound remains miserable and tearful. In one small village there can be a band playing the most advanced accordions, and archaic musicians playing old fiddles and bass. In the past, there were authentic village musicians in every folk group promoted by factories and industrial complexes. Traditions from neighboring regions have been always mixing. And so on.
The idea behind our concert is to show at least a tiny bit of that diversity and ambiguity. We want to symbolically recreate the path of Opoczno music, from the beginning of the last century until now. Our helpers will be the artists: Jan Kępa and his band from the border of Opoczno and Rawa regions, playing archaic bass tunes. “Opocznianka”, the band which has for many years accompanied the village harmonia player Julian Jarząb. The band Biniek-Wojciechowski-Lipski, where old, seasoned wedding musicians play with a young, school-trained accordionist, who decided to embrace the local tradition and play oberek on harmonia. Finally, “Odpoczno” band, formed by young instrumentalists from Łódź who, inspired by the recordings of the famous Opoczno fiddler Stanisław Ksyta, make music combining the elements of rural tradition, the present, and jazz.
One of the oldest and most famous folk groups from Opoczno region. It adopted the name of the now nonexistent Folk Song and Dance Group, to which it originally belonged. Among the musicians were the best instrumentalists from Opoczno, like harmonia player Stanisław Borowiecki and fiddler Stanisław Kaleta. Today, the tradition is continued by the next generation – Julian Jarząb, Stanisław Ksyta and Andrzej Rożej.
Julian Jarząb, (born 1942 in Korytkowo, lives in Różanna) has been playing the harmonia since 1965. Learned to play from his father, a self-taught fiddler, as early as 1952. At the age of 13 he already performed at dancing parties and weddings. He also builds instruments – small drums with clankers.
Andrzej Rożej, lives in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, fiddler. Has joined the band recently. Awarded the Baszta prize at the Festival of Folk Bands and Vocalists in Kazimierz Dolny (2013). Comes from a family of musicians, his father and uncle played the fiddle. However, his first instrument of choice was not the fiddle, but the electric guitar, which he has played for over 30 years. Finally, he decided to return to the family tradition and after three years of daily 10-hour practice, became an excellent fiddler. In Opocznianka, he replaced Stanisław Ksyta who passed away in 2014.
Marian Pabianek (born 1962 in Drzewica, lives in Sitowa), drummer. Has played the drums and percussion since he was 15; occasionally (mostly at weddings) plays also the button accordion.
The band was formed in 2014 by experienced musicians from Łódź, who usually play various genres: jazz, alternative rock and Polish traditional music. The link between the band members is the local Opoczno tradition. Trying to keep the sound raw and genuine, while discovering their own musical roots, the group wants to combine contemporary improvisation and the energy of folk music. Odpoczno was awarded at the Folk Music Competition of the Polish Radio, “New Tradition”, in 2015.
Marek Kądziela – guitarist, composer, teacher, lecturer at the Grażyna and Kiejstut Bacewicz Academy of Music in Łódź. Graduated in jazz guitar and composition in The Carl Nielsen Academy of Music in Denmark. Awarded at many national competitions.
Marcin Lorenc – fiddler and bassist, born in Łódź, specializes in Polish traditional music. Member of Kożuch band, collaborates with Maciej Filipczuk on “Mazurek Vulgaris” project. Has been learning from village musicians of Łęczyca and Sieradz regions, such as Tadeusz Kubiak and Czesław Skrzydłowski. His master from Opoczno is fiddler Stanisław Ksyta.
Piotr Gwadera – drummer, accordionist, active member of the Łódź music scene. Participated in many music projects at the intersection of jazz, rock, experimental music and folk. Collaborates with many bands and musicians such as L.Stadt, Blisko Pola, P.K.P., Bogowie i Marynarze Łodzi. Recently has started an adventure with traditional folk music, resulting in the formation of Odpoczno band.
Joanna Garncarczyk – bassist, vocalist, visual artist. Student of village musicians and singers, participant of traditional music-related projects (e.g. “Archaic Ukraine” and reconstruction project “Kujawy music”). Member of the Łódź-based Kożuch band.
Jan Kępa Band from Bobrowiec
Jan Kępa – fiddle
Franciszek Miniak – basy
Bogdan Stankiewicz – drum
Jan Kępa (b. 1954) – fiddler from Bobrowiec (Rzeczyca commune). Started playing at the age of 12, when his grandfather gave him the first fiddle (as a “payment” for looking after grazing cows). The first teacher was his uncle, a well-known musician, Jędrzej Chaber. Eventually, he gave up the fiddle for trumpet which he played for many years in the church orchestra and at weddings. He also played the saxophone, the clarinet and the guitar. After a long break, he came back to the fiddle. The archaic beauty of his music was appreciated by the jurors of the Festival of Folk Bands and Vocalists in Kazimierz Dolny, resulting in the 1st prize in the soloist category in 2014 competition.
Jan Kępa has also founded a band including, beside him, other musicians from Bobrowiec – Władysław and Tadeusz Chaber, Kazimierz Wieteska and drummers Jacek Szczur and Bogdan Stankiewicz. Sometimes Franciszek Miniak, a bassist formerly accompanying the famous Rzeczyca fiddler Stanisław Skiba, makes an occasional appearance.
The band plays at local festivities, musical revues and dancing parties hosted by Sochowa Zagroda, a private ethnographic museum created in Sierzchowy village by Zdzisław Socha, a passionate and collector.
Biniek – Wojciechowski – Lipski Band
Radosław Biniek (b. 1974) plays the Polish harmonia (button accordion). Graduate of music school, accordion class. Since the 1990s member of “Tramblanka” band, where he learned the oberek from Marian Popecki, the late folk fiddle master from Opoczno. Owner of many individual awards (such as 1st prize at the Fourth Intercultural Folk Revue in Dąbrowa Górnicza, 2011) . In 2013 was the finalist of the “Old Tradition” competition. Together with mother Halina and sister Kamila Biniek-Kaczorowska they form the Biniek family band. Recently Radosław has also been playing with fiddler Roman Wojciechowski.
Roman Wojciechowski (b. 1949) one of the most famous folk fiddlers from Opoczno. Has played since 1961, when his father bought him the first fiddle and took to the teacher Feliks Franczak, fiddler from Tomaszów. Has also learnt to play the clarinet and saxophone, between 1966 and mid-1990s played the sax with the ‘Wistom” factory brass band. Since the age of 15 has been plating at weddings and dancing parties, in a band consisting of accordion, saxophone, guitar and drums. For 10 years was also member of a “courtyard band” (accordion, fiddle, two banjos, trumpet and sax), which took part in revues and open-air events in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Skarżysko Kamienna and Rawa Mazowiecka.
Wojciechowski is still an active wedding musician. He plays the saxophone in the “Waganus” band, occasionally also the fiddle. For some years he has been a member of a music group accompanying ceremonies in Opoczno and Tomaszów regions. He also plays in duo with different drummers (e.g. Kazimierz Krotosz or Bogdan Lipski).
He was awarded three times at the Festival of Folk Bands and Vocalists in Kazimierz Dolny in the soloist-instrumentalist category. The artist’s recordings – as fiddler and vocalist – are kept in the Polish Radio Archive in Warsaw, the Phonographic Collection of the Institute of Polish Art by the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Regional Branch of the Łódź Community Center. They have also been released on CD.
Bogdan Lipski – plays various kinds of drums. He is not only a musician, but also a folk storyteller, for years has accompanied “Tramblanka” band as announcer.