CZESŁAW NIEMEN – IT SOUNDS AS PRIDE
RAFAŁ WĘGLEWSKI: - How do you evaluate cultivating the remembrance about ‘the king of the Polish rock music in our society from the perspective of years?
JAN EDWARD CZACHOR: – This year it has been the 15th death anniversary of this prominent artist of the Polish pop music. Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński said: Stones will not remember us if we do not remember about those who are not alive among us. The spirit of Czesław Niemen has already moved onto the other side of the life river but left us, the alive, his artistic work including his feelings, thoughts, desires….Czesław Niemen is remembered by the Polish society occasionally, for example, an anniversary of his birthday or death. There are schools have a patron in him, as well as streets, monuments (a Little Bench of Niemen in Świebodzin). There are also concerts and radio programs, memories of his fans. I think that this rich artistic non-Niemen work is hardly known by the Polish youth. Knowing the works of Niemen is limited to a few songs, like: ‘Pod papugami’, ‘Dziwny jest ten świat’, ‘Sen o Warszawie’.
– Will you agree with the statement that ‘Czesław Niemen’ caused a scandal with his artistic image and message?
– When at the 5th National Festival of the Polish Song in Opole in 1967he sang a protest song ‘Dziwny jest ten świat’, persecutions from the communist authorities began, entitled ‘we will not launch supporters of Niemen’. He was a colourful person and could shock others. Trousers in flowers, a fur coat from Zakopane, a beautiful embroidered ruble, checked shirts, a chain on the neck – irritated decision-makers of the authority. Niemen wanted to break that gloomy style of life. He was fighting with hypocrisy through his creation – he was not an artist of scandals. Hence there are attempts of slandering him by communist parties, for example, in the so-called scandal in Radomsko.
– Was Niemen ahead of his epoch or was he inscribed in it?
– When we are analyzing his works with the bands: Niebiesko-Czarni, Akwarele, Niemen Enigmatic, Grupa Niemen…or theatre, movie, electronic music – we notice that in his music creation he never stood in one place. He was looking for new music all the time and was ahead of others. Entering the world of music avant-garde, he was not understood by recipients, for example, longplay ‘Pilgrim’. An example is also a song ‘Terra Deflorata’ (Raped Land) – in which he asks questions to the contemporary man: ‘Lord, You gave us, the miracle of the Universe, the Fruit of the universe, the Land, a brutal man technocrat, is raping its destination’. An ecologic question ‘Qvo vadis homo?’…
– In his artistic works one can see inspiration and Christian roots…
– Czesław Niemen was born in Stare Wasyliszki near Grodno on the borderlands of the Second Republic of Poland. Seven months later the Red Army invaded and he became a citizen of the USSR. In the church of St. Peter and Paul he was baptized, received the Holy Communion and Confirmation. In 1958 the Wydrzycka family arrived in Poland and settled in the capital city. In Warsaw he took part in religious services in the church of St. Stanisław Kostka in Żoliborz, where he met with Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko. On 17 October 1999, on the 15th death anniversary of Fr. Jerzy, in this church there was a concert devoted to the beatified priest: Hymn about love of the Apostle St. Paul, Passion of the Messiah, Our Father, Psalm 42. He sang religious songs, among the others, in the primate basilica of St. Paul in Lublin, church St. Maria Magdalena in Wrocław. He expressed his faith in God in many texts, for example, ‘Amen’, ‘Terra Deflorata’. He participates as a performer in recording a song ‘Eight blessings’ on the occasion of the visit of John Paul II in Poland…
– The communist authorities in Poland at that time wanted to falsify the look at the person of Czesław Niemen, there was manipulation of his statement which was to support the actions of the martial law…
– He was the icon of the Polish culture. In September 1981 he recorded a concert of carols, entitled: ‘And love is the greatest gift’. After the martial law began, the artist withdrew his consent to broadcast a festive programme on TV. Unfortunately, in the programme of the TV Daily News (26 December 1981) there was broadcast a shortened and manipulated interview in which Czesław Niemen quotes words of poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid: ‘because beauty is to make us delighted with work’. One could understand it that the artist persuades workers to go on strike. And he was called a collaborator. It was an intrigue of the communist authorities addressed to Niemen to show his relation and support for the authorities of the martial law. It was not true!
– This year there has been the 80th birth anniversary of Czesław Niemen and it is necessary to present artistic work to new generations which is universal and timeless. For many artists this music is a great inspiration. Do you agree with this statement?
– I will say that Niemen is an artist, composer and unknown musician for the contemporary Pole. Young people should get to know with the poetic artistic work. Unfortunately, very few people knows music of this artist who sang also in other languages: English, Italian, Russian. He created for generations, his poetic songs make people think. One could say that he was a late grandson of Norwid.
– Czesław Niemen also played pop and rock music…
– Czesław Niemen and his Niemen band and later musicians SBB (Józef Skrzek, Antymos Apostolis, Jerzy Piotrowski) made a fortune in the West, playing progressive rock music. The musicians represented Poland but it must be said that they came from our political reality. When they appeared in the West (in RFN), they could show something different which was a phenomenon. The youth got delighted with the music. Another example is a festival in Jarocin where it was said: ‘Oh, the grandpa Niemen is performing’. There were jokes that it would be ‘Pod Papugami’, and Niemen appeared in the world of computers and synthesizers. Nobody had heard such music before, and everybody got silent. One can say that it was progressive rock music, even the critics in the West did not know how to call it.
– What person was Czesław Niemen like?
– He was an extremely humble man, he had strict rules. First of all, ‘yes’ meant ‘yes’ and ‘no’ meant ‘no’ to him. He cared about the good usage of Polish language, according to the rule: A language is as much as the nation’. He loved our language, culture and poetry. Czesław Niemen sounds as pride in the Polish culture. He was not a man of scandals, he did not drink alcohol, he did not participate in any scandals. The communist authority in Poland was trying to find some flaws in him, while he was avant-garde and nobody could accuse him of not being a prominent person. I am appealing that we should uncover the artistic works by Czesław Niemen.