Friday, 1 April 2011

Każik Staszewski

My now regular Friday evening treat for you (an idea nicked from an excellent political blog) continues with a piece about Każik Staszewski, a Polish musician.

It’d be a lie to say that I am a big fan of music that comes out of Poland.  Now, I really like the work composed by Henryk Gorecki and can occasionally listen to Chopin (some pieces of his were played at my wedding reception and therefore I have happy connotations with his work).  Otherwise, well, later this year I shall see two Polish bands: Made of Hate and Hunter.  Maybe I’ll take to them.  Or maybe I’ll think that they are generic bands that don’t really add anything interesting.

Someone who most definitely adds something interesting is Każik Staszewski.  

He is largely associated with his work with the band ‚Kult‘.  Kult started in 1982 (co-founded by Staszewski and Piotr Wieteska) and their roots are in punk and new-wave, though their music is also influened by reggae, psychedelic rock , ska, traditional balladary,and jazz.

Anyway, here's one song.  Enjoy!

The lyrics that Każik writes have been described as being brutal.  Brutality is certainly a feature of post-1980 Polish art. Wojtek Smarzowski’s works ‘The Wedding’ ('Wesele') and ‘The Dark House’ ('Dom zły') are popular in Poland.  I didn’t enjoy watching both films.  Both show a Poland where alcoholism, violence, abuse of women, corruption, sex which is far from being romantic (let’s put it that way) and (to some extent) a Roman Catholic  Priest's tolerance of these things.  Poles I know really like the films.  They say it ‘represents real Polish life’.  [Hmmm.  Both films take place in villages and both make me glad that I don’t live in such a place.  (That says something about me, of course.  Art often tells more about the viewer than the art itself.)]  Anyway, Każik liked to write brutal lyrics: 'I react to reality, which is brutal, and that's why my texts are brutal," he says. ''I use vulgar words because they carry a tremendous charge of emotion and can act as an accurate means of expression.'

With the lyrics of Każik, one sees an attack at the system.  This system in the 1980’s was of course the communist authorities.  This did of course result in problems with the authorities; the Office for the Control of Publications and Performances heavily censored their second album, with twenty out of fourty songs being rejected, including their most popular songs 'Polska‘ ('Poland'), 'Po co wolność‘ ('What’s with freedom?‘) and 'totalna militaryzacja‘ ('Total militarisation‘)

Let’s look at the song 'Polska‘:

Here are the lyrics translated into English:

Unrise in the morning, sunrise in the morning
When I go along the sea in Sopot
On the dirty sandy beach
The Baltic Sea smells of petroleum
Morning sidewalks
When I go, I don't talk to anyone
How it is on sunday mornings
The sidewalks are puked all over
after the parties on saturday nights
I live in Poland
I live in Poland
I live here, here, here, here
Concerts in the afternoons
Full of brain-deads in security service
They are looking around, because their arms are itching
They love to beat more and more
Some imaginary adventures again
When I enter the stony stairs
Many of these drunken guys are trying to provoke me
Tomorrow they will meet at church
Night shops with milk
And I'm watching what's going on in front of the shop
The crowd puts its fists to someone's face
They demand capital punishment for him
Morning trains again
I stand still and look at the freaks in uniforms
Have you ever been at our train station at night
It is so dirty and ugly that the eyes are cracking,
the eyes, the eyes.

Not the kind of words you’d see on a Polish Tourist Board website!

Note the lines about the 'bread-dead security service‘ who are drunk and go to church the next day.  While it is generally seen abroad that the Roman Catholic church was a much-loved alternative to the communist state, this song shows that not everyone was a fan of them.  Każik wrote about the RC church in the song 'Religia wielkiego Babilonu’ (T'he Religion of the Great Babylon'), a title which doesn’t suggest any love for them.

From the 1990’s the lyrics attacked the new system, which was seen as being founded upon pseudo-democratic leaders, the clergy and corporations.  In the song 'Cyrk‘ ('Circus‘) Każik addressed Wałęsa with the words 'Gimme my 100 million złoty‘,  referene to a claim by Wałęsa in the Presidential elcctions of 1990 to give every Pole 100 million złoty.

So, he’s against the RC church, he’s not enamoured with Wałęsa or other politial parties within the new system.  Who does he like then?  Suprisingly, in the early 90s he said ‚I believe that our problems will be solved with Christ's return,’ he says. ‘It is on this belief in the divine order on the Earth; established without the church as a go-between’.

With these kind of words it would be surprising if he was to be loved by mainstream Poland, which places such a high value on the state (if not on the politicians themselves, as shown here) and the RC church.  However, he and Kult are very much loved.  Any perusal of youtube videos of modern live performances show young people absolutely loving the music.

Perhaps he stands for people in Poland who are dissatisfied with how things have happened, whether those whose daily lives got worse after the end of communism, or those who are dissatisfied with the politicians and church leaders Poland has had since 1989.  In any case, Każik doesn’t claim to speak for anyone; 'I speak only for myself‘.

You can read more about him here.

Are you a fan of Każik and Kult?  What music would you recommend me by them?


  1. Nice blog Czarny and I like the Polish exercises you have written :-)I came across it after reading the Garton-Ash articel in the Guardian.
    I'm not a huge fan of Kazik myself, although I liked the Tata Kazika albums in the 90s. There are plently of good bands in Poland if you like Black/Death metal- apart from Behemoth (obviously), have you heard of Thirst, Kat, Vader, Hate, Decapitation?

  2. Thanks a lot for the comment :)

    My brother-in-law likes Behemouth. Not really into growling myself. I'll be at Sonisphere so will see, err, Made of Hate and another Polish band. I'll look up those other bands, though.

  3. i like the blog!

    I think it was supposed to be Kaźik (not Każik)
    if you want to write the letter 'ź' you have choose the letter 'x' and 'Alt' on the keyboard :)

  4. Dziękuję, Paulina. Nie wiedzałem, że mogłbym robić ź. Aha, mogę :)