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Heavyweight

On Nigunim Bastarda lead us through their world with profound reverence, far away from the profane, maintaining the narrative potential of the nigunim. Yet the most important thing is that they are able to convey the full emotional load of this timeless music in their own inimitable style.

Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska

Bastarda – a meeting of musicians from different worlds, yet with some points in common – immediately yielded a unique language which the trio keeps developing from record to record. In 2017, their Promitat eterno, which featured medieval pieces composed by Piotr of Grudziądz, attracted attention with the steady tempo dictated by Michał Górczyński’s contrabass clarinet, Tomasz Pokrzywiński’s stately bow strokes on the cello and Paweł Szamburski’s wandering, lyrical clarinet motifs. This was a powerful, fresh, contemporary take at music composed several centuries ago. Yet there was also the weight, in terms of sound and atmosphere, pushing the tone and unique rhythm of the instruments – very dignified, slow, and carefully enunciated – to the foreground. Given how busy and pressed for time all of the musicians are, Bastarda could seem a one-off affair, but last year, on Ars moriendi, the group again surprised listeners with their daring interpretations of funerary songs. Bastarda played the meditations and polyphonies in their characteristic, solemn style, heavy and slow, letting silence in between the music. The acclaim proved universal, irrespective of geographical location – the limited vinyl pressing of the album was released by the peculiar Time Released Sound label, as a result of which the trio was noticed in many parts of the world.

Nigunim is again informed by music from the past – music that is strongly marked with identity and unique aesthetics. Nigunim are wordless songs chanted in groups, as Hasidic Jews believed that words limited the power of melody. This is not the first time that Szamburski and Górczyński have reached for Jewish music – they delved into this world in Cukunft and Ircha Clarinet Quartet, even slightly touching upon the subject of nigunim in the latter. Yet under the moniker of Bastarda, their style is truly unmistakable (if someone was not convinced, this record really paints it very clearly). Bastarda filter the Hasidic tradition through their own dark, heavy sound, yet one that is not devoid of a certain lyricism. The opening, Baroque “Emes” with Pokrzywiński’s brilliant solo oozes a funerary atmosphere, like the material published on Ars moriendi, but “Meme” is already marked by a degree of street frivolity reminiscent of Cukunft, particularly when Szamburski plays all those beautiful parts on his instrument. “Leyaakov” sounds lyrical, “Achar” evokes a march, while “Kulom” stands out with its melodious, albeit heavy passages on the contrabass clarinet and cello, counterpointed by the high tones played by Szamburski. This is all very pared down and conscientious, no-one is in a hurry here. Nigunim from the legacy of the Modzitz dynasty from the vicinity of Dęblin and from the collection of Moshe Bieregowski contain an array of different moods, but Bastarda filter them through their own sound: sacral, stately, slowly emerging from the darkness on the narrow ledge between life and death. Even with Szamburski’s clarinet in the nostalgic “Mame”. It is not without significance that the concert was recorded during the “Music of Faith Music of Peace” festival – Bastarda has the power to play everything all at once, live. In my mind’s eye, I see them playing Nigunim in the shadows, by a bonfire or in a dark cave, fighting with the piercing silence.Spluttering out the music to let it resonate and resound. The power of the nigunim, with their characteristic, drawled out vocals, comes to the fore in the penultimate “Modzitzer”, and perhaps even more poignantly in the finale, which – as is customary on Bastarda’s records – features a guest. Grochów Choir weaves a human factor into this heaviness and darkness, showing us that there is light – and thus also hope – at the end of the tunnel.

Nigunim were created based on secular melodies, marches or folk songs, which were then given a sacral character. Bastarda adheres to it, with its characteristic zest, dignified and solemn manner. Szamburski, Górczyński and Pokrzywiński lead us through their world with profound reverence, far away from the profane, maintaining the narrative potential of the nigunim. Yet the most important thing is that they are able to convey the full emotional load of this timeless music in their own inimitable style.

Bastarda, Nigunin, Multikulti