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The art of listening

Phenomenal bands from India, Algeria, Belize, Colombia and other countries alongside superb Polish performers are set to appear in the 12th Ethno Port festival this mid-June. Brace for a revelry of concerts, workshops, meetings and games.

Lemma Souad Asla, photograph from the press
Lemma Souad Asla, photograph from the press

Ethno Port ranks as one of the city's top event. Perhaps the right question to ask is how well we - the locals - recognise its significance from our Poznań perspective. In the run-up to the festival's 12th edition, valuable insights can be gained by turning to the people who professionally visit such events, domestically and internationally. 

The composition

An authority on the subject, the Folk Culture Centre Radio (RCKL) journalist Magdalena Tejchma, tells us: "The Ethno Port festival offers a uniquely friendly, positive, relaxed atmosphere. I always make space in my schedule to see it, no matter what. Ethno Port's audiences embrace novelty, readily responding to music. Their openness, driven presumably by their trust towards the organisers, is evidenced by the massive purchases of tickets even before the event programme is announced. And then there is CK Zamek (the Castle Cultural Centre), which makes a magnificent venue. Perhaps all this sounds too good to be true, but I really mean it - I have quite an affection for Ethno Port, which always makes me feel great." 

Kuba Borysiak, also of the RCKL's editorial office, notes: "There are many things that make Ethno Port special. The programme - arranged by Andrzej Maszewski and Bożena Szota - is a composition of sorts, with the timing of each performance meticulously planned and placed in just the right space. From the get-go, the organisers strive to make sure that the composition, meaning the choice of artists, their order of appearance as well as the settings, are as diverse as they are captivating. This is a growing challenge as loyal members of the audience, who have grown accustomed to ambitious and remarkable concerts, have come to expect more. The Castle has turned out to beat the Warta riverside, the original venue, in many respects. This enchanting complex full of mysterious nooks and crannies, hidden courtyards, clubs, not to mention the gigantic lawn in front of it, does wonders for the atmosphere." 

A kaleidoscope

For the seventh time this year, the festival will take place in the city centre, around and inside the Castle. As in the previous years, it will continue for four days with the beautiful and most relevant slogan "Listen to the World". In this age of too much talk, mostly about things of little consequence, it is priceless to learn to pay attention to and hear other people, often from other cultures.

The inaugural concert on 13 June will feature the incredible Indo-Turkish trio Baul Meet Saz. Emre Gültekin, who performed here three years ago, will play the saz lute. On the following days, the three stages (in the Great Hall, on the lawn in front of the Castle and in the Castle Courtyard) will hold a dozen plus appearances by unique artists. The line-up includes Sofiane Saidi & Mazald with a modern version of the Algerian raï, The Como Mamas with stylish gospel songs, the Syrian artist Maya Youssef on the qanun zither, the fantastic Nooran Sisters from India, the dynamic Garifuna Collective from Belize, the Irish quartet Lankum, the Lina Babylonia Y Son Ancestros from Colombia with their dancing rhythms, the subtle Greek band Evritiki Zygia and the 11-person-strong Algerian women's band Lemma & Souad Asla. 

You must hear this!

Which artists are a must hear? Take it from radio experts. Magdalena Tejchma says: "Frankly, my top pick this year is the Nooran Sisters. Since they are such rare visitors to Poland, I can't be sure what to expect. Will they delight me or let me down? I am excited to hear Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda, Prince of Raï and the Garifuna Collective again - I can confidently recommend both of these bands with their diametrically opposed styles." Interestingly, Kuba Borysiak picked the same three bands: "Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda is among the most charismatic vocalists and most remarkable bands I've heard over the last year. To me, each of his concerts is a unique experience. The musicians from the small town of Dangrida forming the Belize Garifuna Collective deliver Caribbean rhythms and a fantastic groove. The band draws many parallels to Gypsy Queens and Kings and even the legendary Buena Vista Social Club. However, if I were to choose a single concert, it would surely be the Nooran Sisters from Punjab. Their absolutely magical, energetic, mesmerising women's rendition of traditional Sufi songs may well be one of the most interesting events on Poland's ethno scene in years." 

The right proportions

As every year, it would be a shame to ignore the Polish artists. Especially that this year's festival will bring together some of the best performers in a variety of genres. Don't miss Odpoczno, a group whose irresistible dance folk music serves up a trance experience developed through rock and jazz. The Slavic women's band Labolatorium Pieśni with its polyphonic songs has a huge loyal following. Undisputed Polish folk classics come from the famous Kapela Brodów, also featured this year. The dance party also includes the amazing Kapela Niwiński. Polish artists clearly form a strong part of the program. 

What are the strengths of Ethno Port? Kuba Borysiak of RCKL sums them all up: "Needless to say, the festival is driven by demand for new experiences and openness. It is something that Artistic Director Andrzej Maszewski keeps telling us: the festival plays a vital role by helping to shape the right perceptions and relish other cultures, to which I believe the majority of Ethno Port visitors would attest. It consists of superb, well-produced concerts (with excellent sound!), and a great atmosphere, all set in a perfect setting with the right proportions between music and fun, which is also a key part of the event." 

Tomasz Janas

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

Ethno Port Poznań

13-16 June

more: www.ethnoport.pl

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2019