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09 07

Festival of happy people

Alim Qasimov, Alireza Ghorbani, Omar Souleyman, Söndörgő and Amsterdam Klezmer Band, Chico Trujillo, Tuuletar – these are only some of the outstanding artists from many parts of the world who celebrated the Krakow festival’s anniversary with their concerts. In addition, the festival featured a very interesting representation of the Polish scene, headed by the Muzykanci ensemble, which also celebrated its anniversary, as well as a symbolic theatre epilogue: Do dna [To the Bottom] directed by Ewa Kaim on the stage of AST Krakow. Those were some beautiful days filled with beautiful music. Nearly six thousand people enjoyed the event together with us.
The twentieth anniversary of the EthnoKrakow/Crossroads Festival was very impressive. Once again, we demonstrated that the festival is one of the most important events presenting folk / ethno / world music in Poland. The sheer scale of the event and the artistic quality of the subsequent festival days, as well as of individual concerts, allow us to state once again without any doubt that this is also one of the most important events in Europe.

The four days in July were characterised by the ever-changing weather conditions, but the atmosphere of the festival remained great, the music was excellent and the audience reacted superbly – both in smaller concert venues, as well as outdoors. It was colourful, varied and extremely interesting.


This anniversary edition of the festival was not only excellent from the point of view of art, but also symbolic for many reasons; one of which was the fact that Muzykanci – a band whose importance cannot be overstated – decided to celebrate two decades of their artistic activity during the event, and also because experienced, legendary artists, masters and virtuosos met on one stage with younger artists, who are at the beginning of their path. This peculiar meeting of generations, which turns into a creative community, is also one of the hallmarks of this great festival. This is because it does more than simply facilitate the natural transfer of techniques, skills and methods of stage interpretation, but also – perhaps first and foremost – the ability to delight in music based on traditions despite the generational differences. This community was established between the performers and the audience, but it was also very apparent on the stage; perhaps most evidently during the concerts of Alim Qasimov and his daughter Fargana, or Muzykanci – the Słowiński and Hałas families with their children.


The festival was also important due to the fact that it showed such a broad range of performers associated with folk / ethno / world music scenes, proving how extremely sophisticated and diverse are these genres of music, which was showed – in a symbolic way – by the successive (arranged somewhat thematically) days of the festival. Wednesday was a celebration of voice, mystical and spiritual singing, which in many ways is an imitation of tradition, while Thursday brought a lot of extremely energetic art inspired by tradition, but very modern, combined with various trends and genres. Paradoxically, each one of these days had also an element that contrasted with the dominating colour. The spiritual day, focused on a subtle, perfect vocal message, ended with a spontaneous dance party to the rhythm of Italian melodies. On the other hand, the multi-faceted, vibrant Thursday, filled with innovative interpretations, began with Kurpie songs sung a capella. This is because the folk world is not only extremely diverse, but also due to the fact that sometimes seemingly diverging themes meet, look at each other and they intertwine, for the benefit of artists, listeners and the music itself.


The same was true for the next two days. While Friday was a breath-taking journey through the world and was a kind of multi-coloured kaleidoscope, Saturday showed us and confirmed once again the power stemming from Polish music inspired by folklore. On the first of these days the artists from Burkina Faso, Hungary, the Netherlands, Serbia and Chile brought us hot dance music, encouraging the audience to have fun, only slowing down for more lyrical moments. On Saturday, Polish musicians were equally eager to offer the audience their lyrical, fascinating and melancholic themes, rarely speeding up. On the final day, before the music started, a meeting with Andrzej Bieńkowski took place – a conversation, reflection, a story about traditional music, as well as about the complicated and fascinating history of meetings of Polish rural artists with Jewish music. Because in folk music (regardless of how we name this genre) everything starts with memory, with a story, with respect towards one’s ancestors – and towards the other. It is also a great, extremely important lesson of the 20th edition of the Crossroads Festival, as well as a beautiful memento of the last two decades of the Festival’s history.

Places, people

The concert venues and spaces have served their functions perfectly. Although all of them have been proven in earlier years, there is always this moment of uncertainty and doubt, during which we ask ourselves whether all the artists will sound good enough from the stage that was planned for them. Here, it is worth remembering that the festival has returned to the Museum of Municipal Engineering after a few years, to a different hall than before. Surprisingly, both the sophisticated, spiritual and vocal work of Alireza Ghorbani, Alim Qasimov and his daughter Fargana and the Teofilović brothers sounded just as fantastic there as the vibrant, rocking dabke music performed by Omar Souleyman, drawing upon the Syrian tradition, as well as the electronic dance music. Their performances were juxtaposed with the austere solo singing by Adam Strug, which required concentration from the audience, as well as Grzech Piotrowski’s improvised explorations.

The intimate but perfect Strefa Club was great as always, serving as a stage for the musicians of the Spanish band Viguela and many others during dance nights. The dance evening in the Alchemia Club was just as great, and so was the exotic meeting with Nepalese music of Night at the Galicia Jewish Museum. Finally, the Festival also featured an outdoor stage in Wolnica Square, where – regardless of the whims of the weather – everyone was very well received: from Mamadou & Percussion Mania (Burkina Faso) through the excellent Szikra project, which brought together Hungarians from Söndörgő and members of the Dutch Amsterdam Klezmer Band, the Serbian Marco Markovic Brass Band and Chilean dynamite Chico Trujillo, to Polish artists: young bands Pokrzyk and Raraszek and classics: Adam Strug Band and Muzykanci. 

The theatrical epilogue of the festival was Do dna [To the Bottom] directed by Ewa Kaim, presented on the stage of Krakow’s Academy of Theatre Arts. The performance, inspired by Polish traditional songs, is symbolically in touch with the narrative of meetings at the Crossroads – stories about the need to go to the source, to reach and draw from the bottom of the well, and to read our cultural DNA in archaic songs about birth, passing, love and death.
Two decades 

The Crossroads have been around for twenty years – two decades of incredible history. Today, it is difficult to count all the important artists from all over the world who have performed at the Festival. On the other hand, the significance of the festival for the history of Polish folk/ethnic music, as well as its influence on the taste and sensitivity of (generations of) audiences, is quite clear and tangible. 

What will be remembered after this 20th anniversary edition? Certainly, the extraordinary atmosphere, smiling audience, enjoying the concerts and listening to the beautiful music, hailing not only from Krakow, and not only from Poland – they came from different parts of the world and represented many generations. They were united by a community of admiration for traditional music, the one presented in an in crudo version, close to its sources and interpreted in the artists’ own way. Because the value of the Crossroads has always been the great ability to combine different ways of looking at cultural heritage, different ways of understanding it and talking about it.