We’re continuing the Homegrown Plus Premiere series with Janusz Prusinowski Kompania, a quartet that plays rural music of Polish villages on fiddles, flutes, accordions, and other traditional instruments. As is usual for the series, this blog post includes an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore!
Janusz Prusinowski Kompania play rural music of Polish villages on fiddles, flutes, accordions, and other traditional instruments. They ground their music in dance rhythms, adding a modern improvisational flair to old melodies. They follow in traditions of village masters they have learned from, including Jan Lewandowski, Kazimierz Meto, Józef Zaras, Piotr and Jan Gaca, Tadeusz Kubiak and many others. But they are also a progressive band with their own characteristic sound and language of improvisation. Kompania’s unique style is the result of their attempt to find new ways of interpreting the most important elements of village music from central Poland.
The band has performed in most European countries (including Poland of course), as well as in Asia and North America (including Carnegie Hall and the Chicago Symphony Center). The band’s recordings have received rave reviews and national awards in Poland, and bandleader Janusz Prusinowski was awarded a Medal for Merit to Culture—Gloria Artis (Bronze), as well as the annual prize of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. Writing in Roots Magazine, Andrew Cronshaw said: “The music they produce—lurching, rhythm-jumping—is vigorous, grainy-textured, even appearing rough on the surface, but in no way is any of the playing anything but extremely skilled; these are contemporarily aware players, with deep love and understanding of central Polish traditional music and its techniques.”
Watch the concert in the player below!
In the interview, I talked with Janusz Prusinowski about his life in Polish music. We discussed the master players that inspired him, the revival of interest in village music among young people, and his own work promoting the music through performances, recordings, and festivals. We discussed the Mazurkas of the World festival, which he organizes. We also talked about the current situation in Poland regarding the war in Ukraine, and how Polish people are helping their Ukrainian friends and families. It was an educational and fun conversation for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too…find it in the player below!
After the premiere, you’ll be able to find both these videos with more bibliographic information at this link on the Library of Congress website. You’ll also find them on the Library of Congress YouTube Channel.
Also, make sure to visit Janusz Prusinowski Kompania’s website, at this link.
If you enjoyed the concert and interview, check out the Collection Connections below. You’ll find links to archival collections, guides, and other materials related to Polish folklife.
Start your research with our Poland collections guide, at this link!
Field Collections Online
You can find Polish folklife in the following AFC online collections and presentations:
Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection.
Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools in America Project.
Lowell Folklife Project Collection.
Alan Lomax Collection of Michigan and Wisconsin Recordings.
Rhode Island Folklife Project Collection.
The Wisconsin Folksong Collection (AFC collection materials shared with the University of Wisconsin, online at the University of Wisconsin website).
Several lectures in our Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series have discussed Polish music and folklife:
Matthew Barton mentioned Polish traditions in his lecture “Not the Same Old (Folk) Song and Dance: Field Recordings in the European Communities of the United States.”
Mark Slobin mentioned Polish music in his lecture “Improvising a Musical Metropolis: Detroit, 1940s-1960s.”
Folklorist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett discussed her career, including her work as chief curator charged with creating the multimedia narrative exhibition at the recently opened POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Find her lecture and an interview at this link.
Thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For several years, we’ve been presenting the concerts here on the blog with related interviews and links, in the series Homegrown Plus. (Find the whole series here!) For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.