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Seven stores – interview with Alina Jurczyszyn (Laboratorium Pieśni) [INTERVIEW]

Laboratorium Pieśni returns with the new album “Hé oyáte”. This is an album that comes out after a few years break. In the meantime, a lot was going on with the world, pandemic, war in Ukraine, etc. How much did this fact, what was happening around us, affect this album?

You know, we operate at our own pace of life. Laboratorium Pieśni is 7 women. 7 separate lives, 7 separate adventures, 7 separate stories that intertwine. There are mothers who gave birth to children along the way, there are various journeys that were in progress. And in fact, this time of the pandemic was a very creative time for us. Then we really sat down to rehearse for the new album. For us, it was also a time of strong creation. And we could get out of this situation of such increased touring, which was before the pandemic. Because we really traveled a lot, at concerts and workshops. And there was simply no space to record a new record.

Was working on this album different from working on “Rasti”, “Rosna” or others?

It’s much more personal in the sense that when we started recording our songs, we recorded heavily in the traditional formula. You know, one transferred somewhere from my travels around various villages and collecting songs, or from our various trips around the world. Songs collected at the source or passed on to us by various beings we met along the way. A “He oyate” is very much ours. For the first time, there are songs that we created ourselves from scratch, including lyrics that are made up in a language that does not exist. It’s just connected to those melodies that were popping up somewhere in our heads, in our hearts. So there are a lot of songs created by us both in the lyrical, melodic and rhythmic layers. These are our original works from start to finish. Of course, there are also traditional songs, because we wouldn’t be ourselves, Laboratorium Pieśni, if there were no traditional songs. But there is a lot of our work and also a lot of our arrangements.

The fact that you gave yourself a better chance this time with original things was a challenge or was it natural?

Well, it was very natural. We have rehearsals once a week where we practice and bring our own new compositions. One of us says: “I dreamed something like this.” At the next rehearsal, someone says, “I was walking through the woods and this came to my mind.” And then we worked on this together. For example, we sang it to ourselves, it was already appearing somewhere in our space and we gradually added arrangements. Well, we came up with a lot of these songs anyway, so this album is also a compromise. In order to fit this material on one album, we even had to exclude some songs from this album. I think they’ll be on the next one.

The reason for our conversation is of course the album “Hé oyáte” and the tour, but 2023 is also special for you for another reason. This year marks exactly 10 years since the creation of Laboratorium Pieśni…

Michał, it’s amazing that you noticed it, because it was only this year that it dawned on us that it has indeed been 10 years. In this line-up, of course, because there were various rehearsals before, but we have been singing in this line-up for 10 years. And we have this idea – you’re actually the first person I tell this to. We have an idea to record an album like “The Best Of” for our 10th anniversary. Maybe 10 songs. Although our songs are 10-12 minutes long, so I don’t know if it’s real, but we are thinking about such an album, such beloved songs of our fans, which they always wait for at concerts and always sing with great joy. And we are also thinking about such a concert tour. Probably for next year. Because 10 years is a lot for one band. I feel that it is very special and beautiful that we are together all the time and in such joy we still create with passion. This is very special to me.

And as you mentioned, keeping seven girls in one, so to speak, herd all the time is a challenge that I’m really impressed with…

We laugh that these are seven women, seven problems every day. But we already have our patents. We laugh that we’ve gotten to know each other well enough that we know how to talk to each other, how to be with each other and how to support each other. This is not only a band, but I think that we really are a musical family that has been through many things together.

What made you decide to devote yourself to this kind of music? Folk music, world music, ethno… Because I have the impression that this is still not music for a wide audience. On the other hand, you’ve been a huge success. And not only in Poland…

It is interesting that just at the beginning this success was very foreign. You know, I’m still in awe and I’m so grateful. Because we travel around the world and sometimes we play for thousands of people . And it is beautiful and a bit like a fairy tale. I deeply believe that the music we make simply carries a very moving message to people. We take you to a slightly different world, a different dimension. It’s really amazing that we travel all over the world and for that I’m very grateful. Now we will play our premiere concerts in Krakow, Warsaw and Gdańsk, and then we will play outside Poland. So really there are only three concerts left when you will be able to see us in Poland. But you asked about origins. I will limit myself to the essence, because this is obviously a story for a book. Generally speaking, now it’s a joint creation and each of us brings our own songs. Sometimes something inspires us and we create together. But such pre-beginnings were born out of my passion for traditional music, somewhere back in my studies. I started listening to this kind of music and it moved me a lot. Especially those polyphonic Ukrainian songs. They were very emotional for me, very moving, and I was curious as to why it moved me so much. What is it that makes me cry to these songs. I started looking for an answer to this question, I traveled around the villages, I learned these traditional songs. Then I studied at the Gardzienice Theater and learned these songs there for several years. I went to all possible workshops of traditional songs. And after a few years – I won’t exaggerate when I say – that I had piles of notebooks filled with these songs. And at some point I decided that there was so much of it that it was time to start a band. Cosmos heard this dream a little. And so, slowly, people like Kamila Bigus began to appear around me, with whom I also run workshops. One year, all the girls who today make up the Laboratorium Pieśni came to these workshops , i.e.: Lila Bosowska, Iwona Bajger, Alina Klebba, Magda Jurczyszyn-Turło, Karolina Stawiszyńska-Wiatrow and the aforementioned Kamila Bigus.

What do you think made you win over the international audience so quickly?

This is the magic of the internet and the magic of how the internet can amazingly support artists’ activities. We were living in such a, let’s say, innocent way. We just sang together, we didn’t have any big ambitions or big plans. We also shot music videos for it. Sometimes someone would drop by, record something and we would post it on Facebook or YouTube. One of our music videos, “Sztoj pa moru (Што й па мору)”, as we uploaded it on the internet, suddenly went crazy. Like a virus that has spread all over the world. We just watched those numbers growing on Facebook, those 1,000 likes, those millions of views, and we were like “what’s going on?” We were in shock. And after this music video, when it started touching the hearts of people around the world, concert organizers from all over the world contacted us and started inviting us.

You mentioned that workshops played a big role in the band’s history. But Laboratorium Pieśni is also the Etnowiosnowisko festival and musical performances… What is happening with this side of your activity?

Now our activities are primarily focused on music, playing concerts and conducting workshops. These are our two bases and spaces that we develop the most. Sometimes during the season we are just somewhere every weekend or at concerts or at workshops. But really, at the beginning, when I finished my studies, I really wanted to do some festivals and para-theatrical music performances. And indeed there were three editions of the Etnowiosnowisko festival. There were also performances around various traditional rituals. One of the last performances, “Empty nights or songs that are ending”, was a performance born out of my interest in Kashubian funeral songs. Because I am strongly connected with Kashubians. Then from Laboratorium we recorded our music and traditional music and we invited dancers to do it, and that’s how the show was made. So, finally, the show was born. For the moment this theatrical and festival activity has expired. There’s just no space for it. However, recently girls say that they missed a show, so who knows?

Interviewed by MICHAŁ KIRMUĆ