Polish Folk Instruments



Bagpipes gained popularity in Wielkopolska, accordions were characteristic of Mazovia, and złóbcoki, a type of fiddle, resounded in Podhale. You can learn more about traditional folk instruments played in various parts of Poland at instrumenty.edu.pl, a website created by the Institute of Music and Dance. This new online database presents almost 250 folk instruments from all over Poland. Pictures are accompanied by detailed descriptions, classifications and explanations on how and on what occasions the instruments were played. There are also recordings of how some of them sound. For example, you can listen to devil’s fiddles. The sound may be peculiar and no wonder given that the primary function of this instrument was not to produce melodious tunes, but to make noise at weddings, festivals and rituals. The project is unprecedented in Poland. It came into being thanks to Andrzej Kosowski, director of the Institute of Music and Dance, as a result of celebrations of the year of Oskar Kolberg in 2014. Kolberg was a prominent Polish ethnographer and musicologist, who in the 19th century almost single-handedly described the folk culture on the territories which belonged to Poland before the country was partitioned. The point of reference for the Polish website was Musical Instrument Museums Online (MIMO). The authors of the Polish database drew on the resources of the Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw, Museum of Folk Musical Instruments in Szydłowiec, National Museum in Poznań, and the Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski Collection. “Our main goal was to make people realise that each part of Poland sounded differently and that we can think of the country in terms of its varied soundscape, something we forget nowadays in the unified and musically simplified world,” says Agata Mierzejewska, curator of the project. The next step will be to develop a similar database of baroque instruments played in Poland.

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