“The Flowers Of My Land”

As with literary epics, there are popular songs that rise to the level of an epic. November Rain has the length, the expanse of consciousness, the presence of higher reality beyond the mere lyrics.

Czesław Niemen (1939 – 2004) hailed from Poland’s pre-war eastern Borderlands, or Kresy. He was an ethnic Pole from present-day Belarus and sang with that regional accent. The 1960s were his peak years as a recording artist and he’s best remembered for the hippie aesthetic of that era. Nuclear annihilation weighed on everybody’s mind, whatever side of the Cold War divide one’s accident of birth. He was heavily influenced by American blues and jazz, as you’ll hear in this song.

At around 30 years old for reasons I don’t recall now, I got drunk in my apartment and played The Flowers Of My Land on repeat loop until all the lights went out. It’s a song worth taking another look at. Those flowers — are they a metaphor?… what is this land… what is this “my“…

The song is both trippy and jazzy, anachronistic and timless. That choral female accompaniment carries it over the threshold of epic.

Enjoy. The two verses end at 2:45, and that’s followed by a hypnotic two-minute saxophone solo. Then, like a burst of sunlight after 4:35, the chorus kicks in. The second verse is repeated and then the long choral outro becomes the heart of this song.

Kwiaty Ojczyste / The Flowers Of My Land
Czesław Niemen (1969)

Kwiaty nad Wisłą mazowieckie / Flowers on the banks of the Vistula river
Stokrotki, fiołki i kaczeńce / Daisies, violets and marigolds
Zielone wierchy nad Warszawą / Green treetops over Warsaw
Kwieciste nad domami wieńce. / Floral gardens around the homes.
Kwiaty znad Odry, gąszcze, róże, / Flowers by the Odra river, thickets, roses,
Stukolorowe pióra pawie / Colorful peacock feathers
W parkach Szczecina i Opola / In the parks of Szczecin and Opole
W małych ogródkach pod Wrocławiem… / In little gardens by Wrocław…

Kaliny, malwy białostockie, / Cranberry bushes, hollyhocks from Białystok,
Lubelskie bujne winogrady, / Lublin region’s lush vines
Dziewanny złote pod Zamościem / Golden mulleins near Zamość
I w Kazimierzu białe sady. / And white orchards in Kazimierz.
Kwiaty nad Wisłą, Narwią, Bugiem, / Flowers by the Vistula, Narew, Bug rivers,
Zbierane w słońcu, przy księżycu / Harvested in the sun, by moonlight
Kocham was kwiaty mej ojczyzny / I love you, flowers of my homeland
Nad Odrą, Wartą i Pilicą… / By Odra, Warta and Pilica rivers…

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23 thoughts on ““The Flowers Of My Land”

  1. Pingback: “The Flowers Of My Land” | Reaction Times

  2. This is great. Thank you, PA for this post, as I probably would have never heard of him without this. Overall, it reminds me a lot of Procol Harum, with its own unique twist.

    While I’m here, I’ll post one of my favourite Euro Prog Rock songs from that era. The band is a King Crimson side project. The song sounds absolutely divine with a good set of surround speakers or headphones (Grado, Sennheiser, etc).

  3. The “Aphrodite’s Child” video: I thought I recognized a young Demis Roussos in the video! Confirmed Yes, it’s him. A while back in a post on Greek songs, linked to him in a duet with Nana Mouskouri. You’re right — Niemen’s style in “Flowers” is similar to Procol Harum’s.

  4. Good music in those videos Lothar. Sixties “blues / hippy / acid-trip” sound is one of the blank spots on my map. I think a lot of casual rock fans like me rarely go back before modern rock’s 1970s evolution. The Mandrill song was particularly good.

    Below is Niemen doing a concert in Helsinki in 1973. Opens with an Otis Redding song in English. His best-known song is “Dziwny jest ten świat” (“Strange is this World”), which is the ur-Sixties protest song about man hating man. It’s ancient history now, but in that decade you either loved or hated hippies and a lot of people in Poland at the time thought of that movement as subversive (as did people in the West, not wrongly) and disliked Niemen. He performs that song at 29:07, introducing and performing it in English. It’s musically great, but as we know now, to categorically repudiate hate is to repudiate love. A translated verse from that song:

    But there are more people of good will
    and I strongly believe that
    that this world
    won’t perish thanks to them.
    No! No! No! No!
    The time has come,
    it’s high time,
    to destroy the hate inside yourself.

    The concert broadcast features mellifluous instances of television hostess speaking in Finnish, which is a truly sweet sound to the ear.

  5. Here is a 2015 live cover of “Flowers Of My Land” by a female artist Natalia Przybysz.

    I just discovered it. Some thoughts…

    – Niemen was one of a kind and he worked in a very period-locked style, so best to interpret the song in a new way, rather than re-do it note-and-nuance-for-note. She brings her own interpretation and it works. She does a bit of that awful contemporary R&B-style note bending, whatever is called, that detracts. But not too much thankfully.

    – The distortion guitar solos are fantastic

    – Where Niemen had female backup singers in his ’69 original, here she leads that choral part, and her three male guitarists back her on those vocals. Those “la la la” solos she leads are intense and make a great contrast with her pensive interpretation of the two verses.

    – I think this is one of those performances that will grow on me… I’ll watch it again now.

    (PS: Love the lights/ stage visuals)

  6. James glad you liked it.

    PS: I was right, I wasn’t sure how to react to her (Natalia Przybysz) version of Niemen’s classic at first but then couldn’t stop playing the above video several times over. “Grew on me” might be the best compliment given to a musician. A lot of songs WOW you at first hearing and then quickly play out. This one is a better experience with each listen… at least over the course of one evening.

    There are other videos of her covering “Flowers of my Land.” Those are at more humble settings — smaller stages, clubs. She’s severe and “feminist”-looking in the video above but in other performances she smiles and banters with the audience. In a 2018 performance, her hair is long.

  7. The more I listen, the more that Nieman’s Kwiaty Ojczyste also reminds of a Polish-centric version of Galt MacDermot’s score for Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.

    Great stuff all around.

  8. That Sunshine Song is really good.

    Those chords are in that pattern of a minor tonic to the major fifth, often for instance E minor to B7.

    Hair was an epic thing. The Age of Aquarius. Like the guy on the train the other day with the paisley bandana. They thought that a new age was coming and it would be groovy. And now good luck even having a jam session on the train.

  9. Regarding getting rid of hate —

    It’s like yeah ok great but what happens when you both want the same girl and someone’s gotta lose?

    There is something about love / hate and how they go together and are the same thing but can never be reconciled, that is a fracture point to philosophy, but it’s one of those things that can’t be explained away.

    Life is competitive, this earthly plane blah blah blah etc

  10. There is a popular Russian song from 20 years ago that I can’t find on youtube. It was for awhile the number one hit there. I know this because my gf at the time blah blah blah

    The hook lyrics are in Russian

    Love me, love me
    I am dying

    I can’t find the clip, which is unfortunate because it is a good pop song full of feelz and fun. A search on “love me love me Russian” brings up this awful stupid pop hit by some faggot named Arsenium who is apparently the Russian version of like maybe Ben Affleck but without the redeeming qualities that Ben has and demonstrates occasionally by crying real tears for what’s happened to him. [*]

    * You’ll be ok, Ben, trust me on this

  11. Ben is one of those names that’s true to type: I don’t know what it means, but what it actually means is someone with a big heart.

    There is a fancy word for things being true to their name, which big fancy word Lauritz used in his recent show with Borzoi, The Third Rail Ep 70.

    Nominalism maybe? but that’s not it.

    Lauritz has an impressive big brained vocabulary and he’s not even a native speaker.

    There should be a word for about how frequently Germanic speakers speak better English than Americans.

  12. For those who don’t follow the AR podcast scene, Lauritz is a leading figure. A big brained nigger, as they say.

    He made a controversial statement on that last podcast, which was a meta point about the (apparently limited) efficacy of the AR and how said (apparently limited) efficacy might should delimit its participants’ take on it.

    It’s kind of inline with Anglin’s proclamation today that the AR brand is permanently stained. Those are two different points but sort of together.

    Lauritz said that political activism in the form of the AR, and online in general, maybe should only be considered a “hobby” albeit one about which can be passionate about, in the way of devoted hobbyists. He said that such attitude is helpful to keep from discouraged.

  13. The general trend in White Identity is positive though, not negative.

    I think a lot of the blackpill can come from what seems to be lacking, which is explicit representation in our thoughts, in the public domain.

    Implicit Whiteness doesn’t cut it not even close, because mainly it’s not honest and true. It may be necessary to remain in the domain of implicitness in the current American political scene, due to reasons, but really it can’t work that way.

    Healthy social groups have to have an explicit and positive identity. How can there even be any discussion or doubt about this?

    I don’t think that there is much contention on this point, among the younger crowd. It’s the boomer and x-er holdouts. Not to get all generational though, which is its own problem.

  14. Also liked The Four Horsemen by Aphrodite’s Child

    The leading horse is white
    the second horse is red
    the third one is a black
    the last one is a green

    Wtf is a green horse?

    That said, it’s in a good style of music, sort of a precursor to a style which is emergent now. Morgoth had a post on this theme that would be worth checking out, about a month or two ago. I didn’t check out his links, but he was saying that it was a style popular in the White imagination and that it was popular in video games for instance.

    Not in the style of the three-minute pop song which has come to dominate for awhile now.

    Final Fantasy piano music stuff. The White kids like it. It’s not fash wave; if it’s related to fash wave, it’s a better version and as a rule acoustic.

  15. Edit, in case it wasn’t obvious:

    “I think a lot of the blackpill can come from what seems to be lacking, which is explicit representation OF our thoughts, in the public domain.”

    That’s a blackpill for me. I don’t know that that’s the blackpill that was motivating Lauritz in his podcast into saying that AR activism is limited and ineffective.

  16. This is the Greek Vangelis of Chariots of Fire fame

    The soundtrack theme to that movie was a huge hit circa approximately 1980. It was the rare top-40 hit without a vocal track.

    Without having to suffer to re-listening, it was cheesy to the extreme.

    For some reason I tried re-watching that movie and it turns out — get this, what a surprise — the storyline was a poor jew having to make his way among the better looking goyim at Oxford. They didn’t want him on the track team but ultimately couldn’t refuse his cross country brilliance.

    Apparently based on a true story. So at the time, 1980, that was a huge movie and it was about oh-so-awful anti-semitism, and the poor jew triumphing over it and the English stodgies in their ridiculous running underwear uniforms.

    That song makes the case for throwing synthesizers into the ocean.

  17. Elk, if it helps, Vangelis also composed the score to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

    I agree that most MIDI synths from the 1980s should be thrown into the ocean. Although I used to own a Roland Juno-106, which has some great sounds, and I would make an exception for that one. I still own an Ensoniq EPS, but I haven’t even turned it on in years. It’s too much of a pain to deal with those old floppy discs. The sampler on it sounds great though. It has a beautiful, percussive crunch.

    But Vangelis probably used an analog VCO synth for Chariots. Those are pretty sweet. Sure, the score for Chariots is a little cheesy, but you know how those Greeks are… nothing succeeds like excess…

    PS – I enjoyed reading through your comments, as usual.

  18. I looked it up and it turns out that Vangelis used a polyphonic analog synth for both Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner. It was a Yamaha CS-80, an extremely heavy (over 200 lbs), expensive, and state the art synth for the late 1970s-early 80s.

    I had previously assumed he used something like a Moog or and ARP, which was famously employed by acts such as Stevie Wonder, Ramsey Lewis, and Kool & The Gang. But the Yamaha synth sounds like it was only available to the wealthiest and most connected musicians.

    No wonder punk rock became a thing!

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