Poland's post-communist music scene of the 1990s and 21st century has included everything from bubblegum Europop to death metal and black metal to jazz to traditional Polish folk. The music of the Warsaw Village Band could be described as contemporary Polish folk-rock; they are far from purists when it comes to Polish folk, but no one will accuse them of sounding like an American or British Top 40 group that just happens to have lyrics in Polish. Rather, the Warsaw Village Band have favored an approach that is rootsy yet experimental, combining Polish folk with a wide variety of non-Polish music -- some of it from other parts of Europe, some of it from North America, some of it from Africa and Asia. The Warsaw Village Band have not been afraid to take chances, and their long list of non-Polish influences has ranged from funk, soul, hip-hop, rock, and the blues to African music and Indian raga. They have incorporated Swedish polska (not to be confused with German polka) on occasion, and they have shown an awareness of Middle Eastern, Arabic, Jewish, Turkish, and North African music along the way. East European music (including Czech, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Baltic folk) has affected them as well.
The part-male, part-female outfit was formed by drummer Maciej Szajkowski (formerly of the band Antidotum) in Warsaw, Poland, in 1997; their first album, Hopsasa, was released that year and helped them to gain a small following in their country (the album was released as Kapela Ze Wsi Warszawa: Wiosna Ludu in the United States and Great Britain). But the Warsaw Village Band started attracting a lot more attention outside of Poland when Jaro Records, a German label, signed them in 2002 and released their second album, People's Spring (or Wiosna Ludu in Polish) the following year. The Warsaw Village Band's third album, Uprooting, was released by Jaro in 2004, and it was also in 2004 that the Warsaw residents won the BBC Radio 3 Award for best newcomer in the world music category. Subsequent releases included Upmixing (an album of remixes) and Infinity, both of which Jaro put out in 2008 (Infinity was licensed to the Brooklyn, NY-based Barbes label for distribution in the United States). Members of the Warsaw Village Band have included founder Szajkowski (b. 1975, Warsaw) on drums; Maja Kleszcz (b. 1985, Warsaw) on lead vocals and cello; Magdalena Sobczak (b. 1978) on lead vocals and dulcimer; Sylwia Swiatkowska (b. 1974, Warsaw) on lead vocals, suka (a traditional Polish fiddle that has been compared to the Bulgarian gadulka and the Indian sarangi), and violin; Wojtek Krzak (b. 1980, Kozienice, Poland) on violin, hurdy-gurdy, and drums; and Piotr Glinski (b. 1974, Warsaw) on drums and percussion. Kleszcz is the daughter of Wlodzimierz Kleszcz (b. July 27, 1949, Lublin, Poland), a Polish journalist, radio DJ, and producer who has worked with the well-known Jamaican reggae group the Twinkle Brothers and is considered an authority on a wide variety of roots music. ~ Alex Henderson