Idle Thoughts On A Pop Ballad

This will be a bit free-form. The thirty-year-old artist Anna Jantar was survived by her baby daughter who also went on to became a pop singer. From Infogalactic, on the March 14, 1980 airplane crash:

On its final flight, the aircraft was piloted by Captain Paweł Lipowczan and First Officer Tadeusz Łochocki. Flight 007 … from [New York] Kennedy International Airport … was approaching [Warsaw] Okęcie Airport at 11:13 local time. During their final approach, about one minute before the landing, the crew reported to Okęcie Air Traffic Control that the landing gear indicator light was not operating, and that they would go-around and allow the flight engineer to check if it was caused by a burnt-out fuse or light bulb, or if there was actually some problem with the gears deploying…

Nine seconds later, the aircraft suddenly entered a steep dive. At 11:14:35, after 26 seconds of uncontrolled descent, the aircraft clipped a tree with its right wing and impacted the ice-covered moat of a 19th-century military fortress with the speed of about 380 km/h (238 mph) at a 20-degree down angle, 950 meters away from the runway threshold and 100 meters from a residential area.

At the last moment Captain Paweł Lipowczan, using nothing but the plane’s ailerons, managed to avoid hitting a correctional facility for teenagers…

I’m familiar with that correctional facility from childhood visits. I looked it up now, and it looks the same, it’s still a center for teens with drug addiction and criminal problems.

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Continuing with the Infogalactic article about the airplane crash:

Among the 87 fatalities were Polish singer Anna Jantar, American ethnomusicologist Alan P. Merriam, six Polish students returning home from an AIESEC conference in New York and a contingent of the U.S. amateur boxing team. According to the doctors who arrived at the scene, many of the passengers were apparently asleep when the plane hit the ground, but some of them – including many of the boxers – were supposedly aware that they were about to crash, as they held to their seats so strongly that on impact, the muscles and tendons in their arms became severed. Some reports suggested that some of the boxers actually survived the crash and drowned in the moat, but no evidence for this was presented.

On March 14th of this year, the correctional center hosted a memorial service on the anniversary of the 1980 air disaster:

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Living in Boston in 1999, I occasionally made a Saturday drive to a Polish store in New Britain, Connecticut, where I bought records. I formulated a rule of thumb: buy the CDs that show a plain-looking female artist on the cover — after all, if it’s not the looks that got her the record deal, it must have been the voice.

(That’s not how I rediscovered Anna Jantar, though. What happened, is that I visited Warsaw a few weeks earlier and riding in a taxi to a friend’s apartment, this burst of sunshine from 1974 played on the car’s radio and I asked the driver, “What song is that?”)

In 1977, ABBA gave a concert in Poland. A famous Western band’s appearance behind the Iron Curtain was a big deal. Here is their little-known song “Move On,” with footage from that leg of their tour. The song itself grows on you, and the video even more so when you catch the nuances of Boomers in bloom. Suburban_elk asks:

So they [Boomers] went on canoe trips in the Wilderness and tried to make sense of it, and all they found was hunger. (In their case, that was really all they found. There was not much of a resolution, except that wehn you get hungry enough you will eat just about anything, up to and including, well nevermind.)

The mindspace i am trying to suggest is the Boomers’. Is that still topical or not?

In a way it’s no longer topical. All those concerns that they had — which concerns were Aesthetics — are not the concerns that we have now.

But on the other hand, they are still there and unresolved.

You wonder, should Boomers have remained children — should they all have died before they turned thirty? They were beautiful and unprepared for what hit their world in middle age. For example, Björn Ulvaeus’ son was robbed not too long ago, and that spurred the ABBA veteran to advocate… a cash-free economy. Take Boomers for what they were: they gave us ABBA, the greatest pop music band in history.

And in Sweden… those schoolkids’ future has to be secured but who looks out for them? Sometimes their own parents least of all. Things to see in the “Move On” video linked two paragraphs above:

  • Agnetha Fältskog is a vision. Like just about every young woman, she has those little imperfections that modesty makes irresistible. (0:54)
  • Show time! The fatigue of travel and the stage-fright are forgotten; game-face on. (1:55)
  • Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad accepts flowers from a fan and chats for a moment in the middle of a song. (2:09)
  • Rock stars once tended to their own luggage. (3:00)

I can’t get enough of that “Move On” video. Young Swedes will take their country back once they decide that they’re better-off doing something than nothing. Our brothers across the Baltic Sea are intelligent people with a talent for cooperative action.

On my drive back to Boston, as I played the newly-bought Anna Jantar Greatest Hits double-CD in the car, the next song struck me as one that approaches the ideal form of a female pop ballad. Is it the perfect ballad? I dunno, the French classics are untouchable but no fair, they’re French. This one isn’t in French but its lyrics banish talk, praise the flawed man, are endearingly candid in their grasping for the right words to offer the truth about women, and in all this, she has no idea what she wants.

Nie wierz mi, nie ufaj mi / Don’t believe me, don’t trust me
(Anna Jantar)

Nim coś powiesz, zmilcz / Before you say something, don’t talk
Nim coś powiesz, zważ / Before you say something, reconsider
Bo mówiąc przegrałbyś / Because speaking frankly, you’d lose
A zmilczeć możesz jak poeta / And silent, you’re a poet

Tyle zalet masz / I see so much in you
Tyle zalet masz / I see so much in you
I tyle pięknych wad / And so many beautiful flaws
Cudownych tyle wad / So many wonderful flaws
A jednak / And yet…

Refrain: 
Nie wierz mi, nie ufaj mi / Don’t believe me, don’t trust me
Bo z rąk ci się wywinę / Because I’ll slip out of your hands
Nie jest tak, że w kilka dni / It doesn’t work that way, that in just a few days
Zdobywa się dziewczynę / You win the girl
Nie, nie jest tak / No, that’s not how it goes

Poprowadzisz mnie / You will lead me
Przeprowadzisz mnie / You will guide me
Przez zaufania próg / Over the threshold of trust
Gdzie już byś mieć / Where you can have me
mnie mógł za swoją / As yours

A ja umknę ci / But I will slip away from you
A ja wymknę się / I will sneak away
I ty nie będziesz mógł / And you won’t be able
I ty nie będziesz mógł / And you won’t be able
Mnie pojąć / To know me

[Refrain x2]

Nie wierz mi… / Don’t believe me… [spoken]

(The song was recorded in 1978. Lyrics: Andrzej Bianusz. Music: Antoni Kopff)

That thing I said earlier about modest attire amplifying a cute girl’s attractiveness… this live cover is pretty. Not just because of the song or the teenage girl performing it, but also because of the ethnic integrity of the spectators, without whom there would be no song:

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Songs From Yugoslavia

Hej Slovani, naša reč / Hey, Slavs, our Slavic language
Slovanska živo klije / Lives on

Those are lyrics from the former Yugoslavia’s national anthem. The wording and language varies a bit between the different national groups that comprised “The Land of Southern Slavs.” Balkan experience is different from that on the northern plains. The mountains and the shadow of the Ottoman empire shaped things differently than our history did, with Germany to the west and Tsar/Stalin to the east.

Doris Dragović Željo Moja. I linked to a live performance at 1986 Eurovision because there is some vintage Euro stuff in the announcers’ prelude to this performance, including a shot of Norwegian reindeer-sledding. But you can look up the recorded version easily for a high-definition sound; it’s a pretty song. It is introduced in English and French as “Love is Fire” for some reason, but Željo Moja means “My Wish.” It’s interesting to compare languages. For example, the line before the chorus:

Croatian: “Tiho tiho, suzo, ne daj se”
Polish: “Cicho cicho, łzo, nie daj się”
English: “Hush hush, my tears, don’t give in”

1991 Yugoslavian Civil War. The wounded Serbian soldier in the footage below appears to have been conscripted and assigned to a unit that didn’t have much in the way of leadership. He was left behind by his platoon, interrogated here by a more professional-looking Croatian unit that found him:

Croat commander: “Don’t worry, we won’t kill you”
Serb: “Please don’t, brothers”
Croats [laughing]: “Brothers? we are not brothers”

Serbian and Croatian languages are nearly identical, though the former is written in Cyrillic and the latter in Roman alphabet. The enemy soldiers in the video communicate without difficulty. My fluency in Polish allows me to pick up many of the individual words but without the subtitles, I’d be almost, but not quite, able to understand what they are saying.

It seems nonsense to us now, to see Serbs and Croats at each others’ throats. We just don’t understand the Balkans of that period. It helps to envision things coming to a showdown right here. Compare their ethnic conflict to our incipient ideological one and think about the liberal down the street who’d have you fired from your job if he discovered that you comment on right wing blogs. In a hypothetical situation similar to the one in the video, we’d understand our prisoner’s English just fine and all the same, we’d laugh at his appeals to brotherhood.

I think a lot about this. I don’t want a civil war so I’ve tried to be patient with libs because our paths are not separate, we’re just having to wait out their hysteria. But neither reason nor compassion works. There is no communication. They want to go down, and take us with them.

“In the modern Europe there is no room for homogeneous national states. It was an idea from 1800s, and we are going to carry it [multiculturalism] through…and we are going to create multi-ethnic states.” — Gen. Wesley Clark

NATO’s bombing of Christian Serbs on behalf of Muslim gangsters woke me up to the malevolent nature of the American empire. There was a news story about U.S. bombers hitting a downtown bridge in Serbia and people scrambling to help the wounded civilians. Then the planes made another pass, this time killing the bystanders who ran to give first aid. A man was quoted grieving over his teenage daughter, who was among the people who rushed to help.

Amadeus Band’s Moja Zemlja (“My Country”) features a contemporary HD video of a Serb special ops team rescuing a hostage in a hero-villain story. Watching it will increase your testosterone. As a commenter here once put it:

One thing that I’ve noticed about the music scene among the Slavs, is that a lot of mainstream music takes on nationalistic, militaristic, masculine/patriarchal and anti-“globalist” themes, and isn’t relegated to the fringe like it is in the western world. Love and pride of culture, country and people is promoted rather than outright ignored or even intentionally trashed.

There was a tired quality to Warsaw Pact’s and Yugoslavian armed forces. Since then, and especially as a result of several countries’ joining NATO, it’s been a different story. As dramatized in the video, the armed forces of these countries have modernized and some of them have combat experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. And arguably, morale and personnel quality is higher in east-central Europe than elsewhere on the continent.

Bijelo Dugme Te Noci Kad Umrem (“The Night I Die”). The great Bosnian band — I blogged about them a while back. The song is about different women’s reactions to the news of the speaker’s death. The guitarist (wearing a white shirt) in this 1987 fan-participation live performance, Goran Bregović, is now regarded in Europe as the Balkan folk-pop musician.

Divlje Jagode Krivo Je More (“The Sea is Wrong”) is a contemporary performance some years after the power ballad’s original release. Also from Bosnia. Something I find cool in Yugoslavian languages is the words that have an “r” but without any nearby vowel. They are spoken in a trochaic consonant burst. Examples: srce (heart), krv (blood), mrvica (crumb), or crni (black). Their equivalents in Polish are more pronounceable: serce, krew, mrówka, czarny.

Ti, ti si ga upoznala / You, you met him
jedne ljetne večeri / one summer evening
On, on te poljubio / He, he kissed you
dok more se pjenilo / while the sea was foaming
I ti si se zaljubila / And you fell in love
mada nisi htjela to / though you didn’t want to

Krivo je more / The sea is wrong
Znaj, ljeto je varljivo / You know, summer is deceptive
a srce ti zavodljivo / and your heart was seduced

Kući kad si došla ti / When you came home
znala si da si u zabludi / you knew you were lost
A to veče uz mora šum / But that evening by the roaring sea
Od sreće sva si blistala / you blissfully glowed
Krivo je more / The sea is wrong

Yugoslavian National Anthem, (1943 – 1992). Its opening line is at the top of the post. The melody is based on “Mazurek Dąbrowskiego,” which has been the national anthem of Poland since 1926, but the Yugoslav variation is at slower tempo. The video shows propaganda images from pre-civil war Yugoslavia, along with English subtitles.

***

“We are not brothers.”
— Croat soldiers laughing at a wounded Serb POW

Is that still true?

Laibach. Their pan-Slavic interpretation of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia anthem in English, from their 2006 “Volk” album:

“A Letter To Che”

I don’t get many of the allusions, but it’s fair to say that the song is about people who blindly follow fashion and revolutionary ideologies. It came out around the time of George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, so there is that as well. “A Letter to Che” (orig. List Do Che) by the band Strachy Na Lachy is musically in the style of tango.

***

Celują mi prosto w serce / They’re aiming straight at my heart
Dziś kupców jest dyktatura / Today’s dictatorship of merchants
Oni mierzą do mnie jak do szczura / They aim at me like at a rat 
Tych złotych Czterdzieści i Cztery / Those golden Forty Four
Kod z kresek na parabelce / A code of notches on the pistol
Zwymiotowało moje serce / My heart vomited
Taka dziwna przebija je gwiazda [x2] / Such a strange star pierces it

Refrain:
Hej ty i cała twoja wiara / Hey you and your comrades
Zastyga krew na transparentach / The blood on the banners dries
Ja pamiętam cię tylko ze zdjęcia / I remember you only from a photo
Komendancie Che Guevara / Commandant Che Guevara

Mijałem targ na sygnale / I passed the market on lights and siren
Twarz twoją widziałem wspaniale / Saw your face clearly
Tam gdzie kurwy grzyby i krasnale / Among whores mushrooms and dwarves
Na szklankach i na firankach / And on knick-knacks

Aż tu pewnego poranka / Until one morning
SMS z okolic piekła: / A text message from hell:
“Czerń dzisiaj głodna i wściekła” / “Hungry and vicious is darkness today”
Tak napisała Zetkin Clara / So wrote Clara Zetkin

[Refrain x2]

Roll call of Cuban political prisoners c. 2003:
Raúl Oliverio Castañeda
Alejandro González Raga
Margarito Broche Espinosa
Fabio Prieto Llorente
Osvaldo Acosta

Zawalił się kapitalizm / Capitalism collapsed
Światu but na nodze już się zapalił / The world’s feet are on fire
W Gawroszewie robią bomby w barach / They make bombs in bars
I palą hawańskie cygara / And smoke Havana cigars

[Shabadabada]

Znów modna jest broda Jezusa / The Jesus beard is back in style
Na widokówkach z Nablusa / On postcards from Nablus
I znów odbiera wojsk paradę / And the military parade
Osama Bin Checko-Laden / Is reviewed by Osama Bin Chekho-Laden

A ja gdy z mego snu się zbudzę / And when I awake
Zaraz wam zdradzę to hasło: / I’ll reveal the slogan:
“Nie pozostanę wredną wszą / “I won’t be a wretched louse
W brodzie Fidela Castro” [verse x2] / In Fidel Castro’s beard”

[Latin music]

Ile ty chcesz za te szklankę [x4] / How much do you want for this glass

[Refrain x2]

Ile ty chcesz za te szklankę / How much do you want for this glass

“I shake like a spleen ripped out of an eel”

An older friend once explicated the llyrics of this 1981 anti-Communist song for me, connecting each verse with a historic circumstance. I wish I remembered more of his commentary. The only one I recall is that the “jug-ears of naïve confidants” refers to secret police.

The subject of “Witkacy’s Self-Portrait” (Autoportret Witkacego) is Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (1885 – 1939), commonly known as Witkacy, a prolific artist and writer best known for his expressionistic paintings and eccentric persona. A biographical note about Witkacy, referring to his period of service as an officer in Russian imperial army:

Witkiewicz witnessed the Russian Revolution while stationing in St Petersburg. He claimed that he worked out his philosophical principles during an artillery barrage, and that when the Revolution broke out he was elected political commissar of his regiment. His later works would show his fear of social revolution and foreign invasion, often couched in absurdist language. — Infogalactic

Living in Poland in the 1930s, he fled toward the country’s eastern frontier when Germany invaded in 1939 and committed suicide seventeen days later when Soviet Union attacked from the east.

Translating songs or poems involves a tradeoff between three things: original intended meaning (word choice), meter, and rhyme. I always focus on the first. With meter, I aim to make it as close as possible to the original in terms of the syllable-count and scansion but I keep a soft touch there. A matching rhyme scheme between unrelated languages is too unlikely, and not worth doing at the cost of compromising the other two priorities.

The song taps into Witkacy’s style of absurdism. With a leap of faith, it is relevant now. The regular stanzas in the original have an AABA rhyme scheme. Roger Waters should perform my English translation:

***

Witkacy’s Self-Portrait

By habit I watch the world
So it’s not from narcotics
That my eyes are red
Like laboratory rabbits’

I just got up from the table
So it’s not from deprivation
That I have the clenched lips
Of hungry Mongols

I listen to sounds not words
So it’s not for fecund thought
That I have the jug-ears
Of naïve confidants

I sniff out the cutthroats
So it’s not for the sake of folklore
That my nose casts the shadow
Of aggrieved Semites

I see the shape of things in their essential form
And that makes me great and unrepeatable

Unlike you – ladies and gentlemen if you’ll forgive me –
Who are an idiot’s rhyme copied on a duplicator [line x 2]

My neck’s rather stiff
But I’m still alive
Because politics to me
Is dishwater in a crystal glass

My mind is hard like an elbow
So don’t kick me
Because the revolution to me
Is red fingernails

I’m as sensitive as a membrane
So by evening and morning
I shake like a spleen
Ripped out of an eel

I’m terrified of the apocalypse
So to calm my mood
I scream like a child
That’s locked in a dark room

I more than any of you choke and gag!
I more than any of you wish to stop living but can’t!

[The first person-singular pronoun above allows a primal scream in both languages: “aaaaaaaaiiii” in English and “yaaaaaaaah” in Polish. — PA]

But I won’t let anyone touch me and therefore
When necessary I’ll be the one
Who deprives the world of Witkacy

***

Lyrics: Jacek Kaczmarski. Music: Przemysław Gintrowski

Morning Songs

An aubade is a composition about or evocative of sunrise. As popular songs go, Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken” is among the prettiest. Beck’s euphonic Morning is a keeper:

Can we start it all over again this morning?
I let down my defenses this morning
It was just you and me this morning
I fought all my guesses this morning
Won’t you show me the way it could’ve been?

I’ll relate an experience that might sound like nothing much but it continues to have an effect on me a year-and-a-half later. Make of it what you will. At dawn, my father-in-law and I were passing through a little town in eastern part of Poland, he drove. It’s countryside with birch forests and tall, flower-adorned crucifixes at every crossroad.

Driving slowly through the wioska, we turn a corner and a burst of early morning’s sunlight floods everything. How to describe this. My perception opened for a moment. This lasted for a microsecond. What I saw, when we turned that corner, was a young woman pushing an infant stroller and a little boy walking with her.

They were real people, actually walking on the sidewalk and like I said, the vision was a flash but during it their silhouettes against the golden sunlight made an effect of the light being the sole reality. People who describe their near-death experience talk about an overwhelming sense of being embraced by love and for that moment, without a prelude and ending at that same instant, that is exactly what I felt.

That morning is when I stopped worrying.

“When the Morning Lights Arise” (orig. “Kiedy ranne wstają zorze”) is Franciszek Karpiński’s aubade, written c. 1800. My translation:

When the morning lights arise
To You the earth, to You the sea,
To You the elements sing:
Be praised, mighty God.

And man, without measure
Showered with Your gifts,
Whom You created and saved,
How can he not praise You?

Still rubbing my waking eyes
I at once call to my Lord,
To my Lord in Heaven
And I seek Him by me.

Some into the sleep of death have fallen
After lying down last night…
We still woke up
To praise You, God.

Pretty Faces

Hope Sandoval is deep inside herself, a diva reputed for her paralyzing stage fright.

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” ― Pablo Neruda


Mary Hopkins’ finishing-school “daahnce” is a turn-on. Smiling is a vocalist’s challenge. Having a genuine bright-eyed freshness is another professional challenge, but not for her.

“Why, he wondered, should he remember her suddenly, on such a day, watching the rain falling on the apple trees?” ― Daphne du Maurier


Melania Mina Špiler is not as Apollonian as she’d have you think. See her eyes roll back and her breasts heave in preemptive surrender to her great teacher.

“She had curiously thoughtful and attentive eyes; eyes that were very pretty and very good.” ― Charles Dickens


Courtney Love speaks to our spirit in this live performance, climaxing in whooping cough at 2:45. Her Pacific Northwest accent is pretty, like when she says “pahhhrrrts.”

“She had the secret of individuality which excites and escapes.” ― Joseph Conrad

You remember your first make-out with a girl (or otherwise). Tell us about it if you’re not shy. I described mine here.

Open thread.

“Warszawskie Dzieci”

This post is about nationalism (which in contemporary context is synonymous with patriotism: love of family and belief in a future), as well as a look at the 1944 marching song “Warsaw’s Children” and Laibach’s creative reinterpretation of the original. If you recall the post titled Zero Hour a month ago, it marked the August 1, 1944 outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising. The campaign lasted 63 days and Warsaw fell on October 2, 1944.

In a time when national monuments in America and Sweden are torn down, the sight of healthy people openly honoring their heroes, freely in their own public space and in a peaceful relationship with the state, is aspirational.

“Taking migrants would do more damage to Poland than European Union’s sanctions… Remember that the now very numerous Muslim communities (in Western European countries) started out as relatively small numbers.”
— Mariusz Błaszczak, Poland’s Interior Minister, May 2017

I think that people in Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia know that any compromise with liberalism leads to death. Western people in their deluged countries look at the Visegrad Four as the first victors in the long war against globalists.

My translated lyrics to “Warsaw’s Children” are at the end of the post. Here is the original marching song, performed last year on the anniversary of Zero Hour:

The avant-garde Slovenian band Laibach recently created their own interpretation of “Warszawskie Dzieci.” At turns, they sing fragments of the original in Polish and weave in a spoken English translation of a popular prewar song “Heart in a Knapsack” (Serce w plecaku). The video below was made by Poland’s National Centre for Culture.

There are original forms and derivative tributes. The former are often simple, self-contained, and perfect. A creative tribute drinks the waters of the original. Classic forms inspire mannerist interpretations, and as such the cover-form offers tantalizing possibilities that can succeed spectacularly, revealing the compressed wealth of the simple original. At other times, the creative tribute misses the point or runs away with the artist’s ego, and fails.

Does Laibach’s cover of the original song work for you? Frankly, it blew my mind:

***

Warszawskie Dzieci

No disaster can break free men
No bloody hardship frightens the bold
We’ll go together toward victory
Our people arm-in-arm.

(Refrain x2, after every verse)
Warsaw’s children, we go to fight
For your every cobblestone we give our blood
Warsaw children, we will go to fight
On your order we’ll bring wrath to the enemy!

Powiśle, Wola and Mokotów [districts]
On every street, in every house
When the first shot is fired, be ready
Like the golden thunderbolt in God’s hand.

Built with hammer, saw, chisel, trowel
Our capital city, proud of her sons
Who stand with her faithfully 
To guard her iron laws.

Glory to the fallen, freedom to the living
May Heavens hear our song 
We believe that righteous Almighty
Will repay for the blood that’s spilled.