Friday, June 14, 2024

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Q&A with Jarek Wist

Kasia Braiter talks to Jarek Wist, a singer, songwriter and composer who has been present on Polish and foreign stages for years, singing swing and retro-pop. He has released four- including two solo – albums “Jest zapisane” and “On Your Skin” and the concert album “Swinging with Sinatra” with Krzysztof Herdzin’s Big Band and recently [2020] an album – Dolce VitaM – of Italian hits from the 50s and 60s. He gives concerts in Poland and abroad including in Italy, France, Brazil, the US and Canada.

Jarek, how long have we known each other? Do you remember? Ten years, I guess?

Oh, a long time:). I think about 8-10 years. We met at our friends’ party and we had a great time talking.

After that, you were probably with your husband at my “Swinging with Sinatra” concert.

Tell me about your professional path during these 10 years.

First of all, I put on 5 kilos (laughs). Secondly, apart from the project with Sinatra’s songs, I have managed to release three albums, two of which are solo.

The first – It Is Written (“Jest zapisane”) – is the first attempt to highlight the thoughts and melodies that circled around in my head at that time. The album was kept in a retro-pop atmosphere and was actually somehow a record of many of my stage experiences. The album received a very positive reception, and some songs are still played on the radio in Poland.

The next solo album was Na Swojej Skórze (“On Your Skin”)  and there the vast majority of songs were mine or almost entirely mine. Somehow maybe I exposed myself too much in some songs and maybe that made it a bit complicated.

My last “baby” is Dolce VitaM, inspired by Italy. It is perhaps the most polished album and contains the most important music in Italy during the Dolce Vita era. Among this we can find songs that are well-known and adored by Polish audiences such as Volare, Quando quando quando, Tu vuò fa ‘l’americano, or Piove (Ciao Ciao bambina), as well as some that are completely unknown to us, but important for the culture of Italian music of those times. Unfortunately, the album was released a week before Covid-19 came out, and it took away from me the possibility of full promotion and touring.

Now Jarek Wist is a bit different … his music is less like “pillow talk,” although I must admit that there is still some romance left in him. We’ll see. I am not revealing anything yet. 🙂

I remember a few of your concerts. All unique. A crazy concert in Rio, where the equipment was reminiscent of very old times, tp put it politely. Tell us about your travels.

I was best known for my first and extremely important project, Swinging with Sinatra. It was highly appreciated by critics and the public alike. At that time, I was performing on stage in the company of a large Big Band under the direction of Krzysztof Herdzin. We managed to play some great concerts, including one of the most important ones on Telewizja Polska, TVP Kultura. Then, with a slightly smaller line-up, I visited many music scenes in the country. There were also concerts with string orchestras and I must admit that they were magical.

Thanks to such publicity, I was also invited by the Polish diaspora. Brazil was one such place. I will never forget those moments. It was March 2016. We went there dressed in winter jackets. After landing, it turned out that we were in the tropics:). I was shocked at how the local audience welcomed me. I remember that in addition to the capital, we also visited Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro. It was an amazing experience. I think it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. And now to the point, the concert in Rio, namely at the Olympic Center. It was a special event. In fact, we found ourselves on stage with equipment, how to put it, from a slightly different era. I had a completely rusty microphone and for auscultation I had plastic earbuds. My drummer had an electric drum kit and the pianist a strange keyboard. I remember that we probably never had so much fun on stage as we did right there. As always, the audience demanded more songs.

Thanks to such a positive reception and a few other circumstances, I was invited to Brazil again the following year, where I proudly sang the Brazilian and Polish anthems in the company of the Military Orchestra in Brasilia.

Then, many more guests came to my concert than the year before. Well, some (I mean, among others, the then German ambassadors) escaped from their own posts to appear at a concert at the Polish Embassy.

All these wonderful experiences thanks to you Kasia and your husband Andrzej. You perfectly represented our country in Brazil. Everyone saw it and appreciated it then.

Thank you for the invitation. (smile)

I like performances abroad – the Polish diaspora community is a very grateful audience, as well as local audiences, there are  always crowds, willing to listen to my music, I feel at home everywhere. Apart from Brazil, I have already sung in the US and Canada, also in Rome and Paris. In September I am going to Greece, I plan to travel to other places too …

For me, however, the most wonderful moment was Caruso in your a capella performance at 1 am, on the 12th floor of the Copacabana hotel, on the balcony where the sound of the ocean was the backdrop. Lovely memories.

Oh my, yes! It was one of the greatest moments. I remember you invited us to your room at the Copa Cabana. Then you and your friends asked me to sing Caruso. I must admit that I did not know the words, so I was making up something. Singing in such a place and company is a truly honorable event. Then I decided that if I ever put out an Italian music album, it would be this song.

And now back to Poland. You always have new plans, new concerts. The pandemic has been tough for you too. How did you survive it?

It was very hard and in fact, like many of my colleagues, I had to look for another job.

It was then that I started teaching Italian online and occasionally fulfilled my culinary passions. It was such a difficult time for me that a week before the pandemic I released the Dolce VitaM album. I was hoping to travel to promote the album. Somehow I don’t want to go back too much to how I felt then.

Now I am starting to meet my pianist again and make my new thoughts and melodies a reality. I hope we can create something really good and real.

I hope I’m not revealing a secret, but you have one more unique skill. You’ll reveal it to us.

Of course. Anyway, I said something in response to the previous question. I’ve always liked cooking. When I was studying in Italy, I decided that I had to learn the secrets of, among other things, Italian confectionery. During the pandemic, I started baking Christmas cakes for my friends. The “BABY” (panettone) were admired so much that I had to buy two new ovens for the next Christmas. Today I make delicious Italian Panettone, Colomby (Easter yeast cake), tarts, poppy seed cake, cheesecakes or cakes. I can say that I have my own little studio. I named it Dolce Buchetto. I am proud of it. The idea is to make everything from natural ingredients. Even orange peel or ginger can be candied by me. Well, sometimes some house elves help me. (laughter)

What is it like to be almost Italian in Poland? I know that you are 100% Polish, but you have a lot of Italian passion and habits. Where did it come from?

My mentality is not entirely Polish. Sometimes it helps me and sometimes it bothers me.

I hate gray, envy and endless dissatisfaction with everything. I love talking a lot and loudly. To joke too, although I feel introverted to a large extent. As for the Italian traits, I certainly have a melodiousness and a certain level of sensitivity, although I do not know whether the last feature can be attributed to mentality.

When I act like an Italian in jokes, in Poland it is perceived as kitschy behavior.

Ah, I think you should always be yourself and do what you feel, because only then will others appreciate us.

Our world has changed in a month. Ukraine is on fire and Poles have gone to help its citizens. I know that you also joined this help. Tell us.

I made some delicious cakes that I shared with some of the people who came from there. I always thought that there would be no wars in Europe in my lifetime. I was wrong. I hope it will end as soon as possible and Putin will pay.

Katarzyna Braiter
Katarzyna Braiter
“I often hear your opinion, dear readers living in Poland, that until you learned the Polish language you were not able to grasp our business, cultural or social reality. Therefore, you have not been able to effectively bring the attractive offers you have to the table. Poland Weekly will allow you to participate in Polish everyday life more fully and with greater awareness of the ongoing processes.”