Karolina Cicha & Bart Pałyga: Tatar Album

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Listening Post 127. Poland’s first Muslim residents came by invitation when medieval rulers saw wisdom in welcoming Tatars, known for their military skills. A thriving community took root and there were Tatar units in the Polish army as late as 1939. Fewer than 5,000 Polish Tatars remain today; clustered mostly in and around Bialystok, they retain their faith, their cuisine and an affinity for archery, but not their language. In 2013, the Bialystok-born singer, composer and musician Karolina Cicha and fellow multi-instrumentalist Bart Pałyga released an album celebrating historic minority languages, including Tatar, from the area around Cicha’s hometown. Concerts and workshops for local Tatars followed. Inspired by the community’s longing for the lost parts of their culture, she set out—again with Pałyga—to reconstruct the musical-linguistic heritage of her neighbors. The result is the stunning Tatar Album (Płyta Tatarska), a story to open eyes, ears and hearts. It features traditional songs from contemporary founts—Volga Tatars, who share the pentatonic scales of China and Central Asia; and Crimean Tatars, whose melodies are closer to Turkish music. Cicha and Pałyga use string instruments—saz, kobyz, dothar—that Tatar ancestors could have carried across the steppes on horseback, plus modern touches like the accordion. Their songs, many drawing parallels between human qualities and nature, echo longing and vitality. In the joyful Kirfiklere (Black Eyelashes), past and present merge as Cicha compares thunderbolts of hoofbeats to the flames of love (video 1). Her soothing voice rises from a whisper in Jaz cite (Spring is Coming) as Pałyga’s fiddle and overtone singing flow like warming winds (video 2). Dahdan da endi bir kozu (The Lamb Came Down the Mountain, video 3) contrasts tranquil images of flora and fauna with a tumultuous arrangement—not unlike the drama and peace of the 600-year Polish Tatar saga. (Wydzwiek)

 

Kirfiklere: “Why are your eyelashes so black if you don’t have black eyes?/Why did you fire up my young heart if you are not burning in its flames?/The moon is looking at me with sorrow/He must know my thoughts well/Who would not want to go through life with his beloved?”

 

Jaz cite: “A smiling sun is looking at us, shining into our eyes/And ice is breaking on the river, heading into the sea…/Soon, a slender white birch will release its leaves/And May will bring us white and crimson flowers.”

 

Dahdan da endi bir kozu: “The little lamb came down from the mountain, it has curly horns/Open your black eyes in a star shine at dawn/In gardens they are sowing in rows scented flowers/You are wondering in vain/I have already said everything”

 

 


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