Last week I featured the 1969 hit “Kwiaty Ojczyste” (The Flowers of my Land) by Czeslaw Niemen and described that song as “trippy and jazzy, anachronistic and timeless.” That post also includes translated lyrics, which celebrate the beauty of flowers across Poland’s regions. Soaring vocals by female backup singers carry the song over the threshold of greatness.
The video above is a 2015 cover performance of that classic by young artist Natalia Przybysz. At first, I wasn’t sure how to take that performance but I had a feeling that it would grow on me… I played it again.
The cover follows the same structure as Niemen’s original: two verses, instrumental solo, repeat of second verse, choral outtro. Both versions include the “na na na” chorus at key moments, which then goes full-bloom in the outtro. The cover is well done, keeping the spirit of the original in a contemporary execution. I only wish the cover version outtro were as long as Niemen’s. It really is the heart of that song.
I was right, I couldn’t stop playing the above video several times over. “It grew on me” might be the best compliment that can be given to a musician. A lot of songs wow you at first hearing but then quickly play themselves out. This one is a better experience with each listen.
I also like her interpretation of those choral vocals. In Niemen’s version, his female backup singers do that part. Przybysz leads that chorus in her cover version, which makes sense because she has a female voice. The band’s male guitarists back her on it.
There are other videos of her covering “Flowers of my Land.” Those were performed at more humble settings — smaller stages, clubs. She’s severe and “feminist-looking” in the video at the top of this post, but in other performances she smiles and banters with the audience.
Also in 2015, she performs at a small stage in Lublin. Something the eye can’t ignore is the odd way in which her left hand hovers and moves around over her lower abdomen. Could be nothing, could be connected to her unwanted pregnancy of that same year.
She sports a casual look in track pants and a plain white t-shirt in that concert. Artsy Chick from this celebration of female beauty.
Not being familiar with Natalia Przybysz, I did a cursory web search. Her other songs are what you can call contemporary pop and she comes across as someone with feminist inclinations. You can see that in her appearance in the 2015 performances. She shows a softer edge three years later, in this 2018 performance at a club in Poznan. Friendly talk to the fans, longer hair.
Top search results bring up her revelation that she traveled abroad in 2015 to have an abortion. (She has two children and doesn’t rule out having a third one, as goes a magazine interview; it’s not clear if she’s married). Such a confession is big deal in Poland, where abortion is illegal and broadly condemned; another pop star’s career tanked after a similar revelation. As to what she had done, Przybysz said “I really didn’t want that child.”
I took that biographical tangent because I’m outside looking in, and the question of common national culture interests me. There is no lack of liberalism in Poland’s pop industry and like in any Western country, there is some amount of ideological polarization. By what I had checked out, Przybysz struck me as a Lillith Fair’esque artist.
Yet what compelled me to not outright ignore her is the fact that she puts so much heart into Niemen’s “Kwiaty Ojczyste.”
I found it remarkable that at least by superficial appearances, here is a Millennial pop singer whom you wouldn’t expect to be reverent of tradition, yet she pays such homage to a beloved classic, no less so that it’s an apolitical song that celebrates the beauty of her country.
Certain national memories unite people across ideological divides. Nation Wreckers seek to corrupt those bonds of common identity so that nothing holds a people together when mundane political disagreements divide them. You can’t build a globalist empire without breaking the natural and exclusionary bonds that connect people within nations. You can’t wreck a nation without (((exploiting))) the sinful but otherwise self-correcting impulses of its people, such female rebelliousness.
Music is sub rational, the performer and the listener transcend material reality when the song strikes their natural harmonic. For me, it’s in that long choral outtro in “Kwiaty Ojczyste,” both in Niemen’s original and Przybysz’ reinterpretation. In that meditative White Energy moment you wordlessly, in streams of something that merges with a higher reality, envision great possibilities in the name of eternal life.