Polish culture: Czesław Niemen

After a week filled with Polish-themed activities (I was invited to celebrate May 3rd at the Polish ambassador’s home) and life taking its toll on me, I am ready for another post. This time about one of my favourite solo musicians from Poland whose life is Poland in a nutshell, Czesław Niemen (1939 – 2004).


His surname was not Niemen, though. He was born as Czesław Wydrzycki in Stare Wasiliszki, in what is now Belarus. After the war, he went to a music primary school in Grodno, but in the 50’s, he had to move with his family to Gdańsk, where his career took off. After being in several local music festivals, he starts using his new stage surname (that would later become his official one, Niemen -after the Neman river near his hometown-).  He joined several bands in the 60’s, but his real succes would start when in 1967 he recorded Dziwny jest ten świat (Strange is This World) and managed to have strong recognition. A man dressed in traditional clothing mixing rock and roll and singing in Polish about social criticism but in a more uplifting mood than we would expect:

I mean would you resist to this?

Lecz ludzi dobrej woli jest więcej  – But there are more people of good will
i mocno wierzę w to,  – and I do strongly believe in the fact
że ten świat – that this world
nie zginie nigdy dzięki nim. – won’t never die due to them.
Nie! Nie! Nie! – No! No! No!
Przyszedł już czas, – The time has come,
najwyższy czas, – it’s high time
nienawiść zniszczyć w sobie. – to destroy the hatred within.

One of the most powerful lyrics I have heard, indeed. In the 70’s and 80’s, his albums became more experimental with jazz, electronica and other influeneces and he managed to travel around the world with his backing band or by himself. In the 90s, he even started learning to use a PC for graphic designing. Sadly, in 2004, he died after battling with Cancer in Warsaw. Nonetheless, he has become a milestone and the inspiration for many Polish musicians because of his versatility, style in clothing and music, lyrics and attitude.  I can see why.

There is a song that I really love from him in particular. Despite that my heart and mind are closer to Kraków than any other Polish city, this song about Warsaw makes me feel like I am walking through the old city or the parks near the Wisła and just watching the landscape. It has become an unofficial anthem of the city and the local football team, Legia Warszawa. That song is perfect for any day, even a cold and cloudy and one, like the one I am having today.

Kiedyś zatrzymam czas – I will stop time at once
I na skrzydłach jak ptak – and like a bird on its wings
Będę leciał co sił – I will fly with strength.
Tam, gdzie moje sny, – There, where my dreams are
I warszawskie kolorowe dni. – and the colourful days of Warsaw

Gdybyś ujrzeć chciał nadwiślański świt – If you would like to see the dawn at the Wisła
Już dziś wyruszaj ze mną tam – Start already today with me, there
Zobaczysz jak, przywita pięknie nas – You will see a nice welcome awaiting us
Warszawski dzień. – by a Warsaw day.

Do you know other artists with similar lifes or that have left a great mark in Musical History of your target language? Share with me and other people 😉 .