Intense Polish Art-Rock Bandleader Karolina Cicha Brings Her Otherworldly Jewish Music Project to Drom

by delarue

For whatever reason, Balkan music in New York has evolved to the point where there’s a sort of Balkan solstice, in winter and late summer. Golden Festival takes place in mid-January, a worldwide gathering of bands and singers, held for the past several years at Grand Prospect Hall at the southern tip of Park Slope. The New York Gypsy Festival features many similarly first-class acts, spread across several weeks and venues in September and October. One of the highlights of this year’s festival promises to be the performance of rare Jewish songs from Polesia by charismatic Polish art-rock/folk noir singer and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Karolina Cicha with cellist Bart Palyga at Drom on Sept 28 at 8 PM. $15 advance tix are very highly recommended.

Cicha is an intense performer who deserves to be better known outside her home country. At this show, she and Palyga will be playing songs from her 9 Languages project, a mix of somsetimes driving, sometimes haunting, often otherworldly Jewish folk material from the badlands of Polesia, bordering Russia, Belarus and Lithuana, a desolate region that for many decades was home to a more-or-less thriving Jewish community. Cicha has a thing for rare and antique instruments, both winds and strings, which may be a part of this.

Cicha’s vocals are starkly ornamented, plaintive and often anguished: avant-garde Carpathian chanteuse Mariana Sadovska often comes to mind. For a taste of Cicha’s goth-tinged antiwar art-rock, check out her video page. For her more folk-oriented material, there’s a page of intriguing audio at Flipswitch. The first track starts out seemingly blithely, a flute-driven dance that quickly goes into creepy art-rock territory. The second is a breathless folk-rock stomp with jawharp, accordion, shivery fiddle and ominuous layers of throat-singing. There’s a pulsing art-rock fiddle tune with hypnotically soaring mulititracked vocals, and an even more hypnotic, gorgeously atmospheric one with accordion and layers of strings and vocals. There’s also an eerily bouncing piano-and-accordion vamp, a swaying lute dance that sounds like a sea chantey, a mournful klezmer accordion tune from her hometown of Bialystock, and an angst-fueled vocalese-and-cello piece that sounds like a Polish Randi Russo, just for starters. Those who want to go deeper into Cicha’s fascinatingly eclectic catalog can also check out her ethnocloud and youtube channels.