Day 9. Influential albums.
Warsaw Village Band / People's Spring
Jared (my husband) and I went deeply into folk music. I will quickly define folk as I see it: the music of the people. Made by real people. Not robots.
My interest in folk kicked off with the Anthology of American Folk Music, compiled by Harry Smith and originally released in 1952 by Folkways, re-released in 1997. That re-release influenced so many people I know. My trek into international music continued with a Randy Weston live jazz performance that featured Min Xiao-fen, on the pipa.
Then, we took a heady, 3 month trip to Europe in 2001 (no joke, we flew out of Newark International on October 11). We saw many live music performances on our travels through Portugal, Spain, and Hungary, the latter being his mother country and where his grandparents lived at the time.
My love for international folk went on, as we searched for free concerts in every city we lived in and visited. And then was later supported when we lived in NYC and had access to the wonderful music collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Those were some amazing stacks. A candy store. Oh, I do miss that library. We made friends with others who loved folk music, exploring together.
I always looked back to our Europe trip with idealism and uncharacteristic nostalgia. While in the library stacks or at a free flamenco concert in a windowless, florescent-lit room at the Philadelphia Public Library, I was digging for that idealism. I was digging for that recent past, and also a deeper past. For our traditions. Hungry for what I found in Europe. Our trip revealed that in some ways Americans are really uptight. Of course, you might agree. No way, you might disagree. I agree and disagree, too.
Here is what I observed in Hungary at international folk, gypsy, punk and jazz shows: people love their music. People dance. People know the traditional music. People know the traditional dance. People sing along to the traditional songs. Sure, I was going to specific shows in Budapest, the capital city. Sure, I cherry-picked out what I wanted to observe. Regardless, I hold that bright, red fruit up as my standard...
Participate in and feel the music. No matter what side of the instrument you are on.
But, back to Warsaw Village Band. They studied with traditional musicians across one of my motherlands, Poland. Their early album, People's Spring, brings that tradition with shades and hints of contemporary music.
We saw them live in NYC. Awesome show. The drummer (don't think drumkit, think a single bass drum strapped to his chest) said, "We are hardcore folk."
"YES!" Jared and I whispered to each other. They were so punk and so folk. We were in America. And when Americans go to see international bands in America, we often sit at tables or in theaters. I wanted to pop up out of my seat and dance just like at all the shows in Hungary.
They were about our age, or in some cases several years younger. They were doing what I craved - learning from masters and making their own interpretation. Saving and honoring the traditions that our modern lifeways tear apart and tear down, sometimes without even realizing.
I haven't followed their later albums or career. I checked on their website. Like me, like Jared, they've aged. I was startled. Funny.
I chose this band, this album, though I found them later...because I could deeply relate to them.