The members of the Warsaw Village Band may resemble punk rockers, but they're actually outlaw neo-preservationists of the most vital kind. Dedicated to giving ancient music from the lowland Mazovia region of Poland a welcome shot in the arm, this young Polish group presents mostly traditional music with a distinctly modern edge. Its mesmerizing sound simultaneously startles and satiates. Formed in 1997, the band began to receive international recognition a year later after winning the "New Traditions" Polish radio competition. To an authentic mix of 16th-century Polish szuka (knee-violin), cello, dulcimer, hurdy-gurdy, baraban drum, frame drum, and vocals, the band adds some techno, a little trance (which existed millennia before synthesizers and strobe lights were conceived), some topsy-turvy turntablism, and an untamable love of life. Two drums create hypnotic rhythms, while vocals are performed in a special 21st-century version of "white voice" technique (similar to open-voice throat singing) that drives the power and passion of Polish music straight to the gut. The result is a unique music that the band sometimes calls "bio-techno" or "hip-hopsasa" (a traditional invitation to jump, i.e., "Let's dance!").
The band brings its mix of folk-dance melodies, ballads, and rural songs to Oakland for the first time on Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave. The show is presented by Kitka, our own outstanding Eastern European vocal ensemble (see Kitka.org or call 510-444-0323).
Both live and on its two CDs, the band produces one raw, thrilling sound after another. Its recent World Village CD, Uprooting, features guest appearances by Janina and Kazimierz Zdrzalik, teachers of metaphysical songs' trance melodies and traditional dances; the Lipsk Women's Choir, whose sound and repertoire reflect a melding of eastern and western Slavic cultures; and the Marian Pelka Band, whose senior members create ecstatic, trance-inducing music. With luck, the evening will include "When Johnny Went to Fight in the War," the band's original lament against war, aka "humanity's stupidest invention." Certainly the ancients would stomp their feet in approval.
For more info, visit WarsawVillageBand.net -- Jason Victor Serinus
Best of all possible operas
Think these times call for optimism? So did the protagonist of Voltaire's 1759 novel, Candide, which effectively uses satire to point out the limitations of a naive, overly cheery worldview, given the reality of the brutality of war and the inevitability of human suffering. A new Festival Opera production of the story -- based on a recent Scottish adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's operetta, and featuring tenor Isaac Hurtado as Candide and soprano Marnie Breckenridge as Cunegonde -- opens at the Dean Lesher Center Saturday and runs until August 21. $31-$100; 925-943-SHOW or FestivalOpera.com -- Eric K. Arnold
Get a Job
The Biblical story of Job isn't just a parable, it's also quite relevant to contemporary times, says director Derryl Tanner. His play Unseen: Today's Story of Job replaces livestock with things people can relate to -- money, cars, and job security -- but the basic theme remains the same, as does the inspirational aspects of the tale. "Our message is: keep the faith, hold on," he says. Unseen's West Coast debut happens this Saturday and Sunday at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, Berkeley's one-stop culture shop (2640 College Ave., 510-845-8542, JuliaMorgan.org). Tickets are $25; for more info, call 925-798-1300. -- Eric K. Arnold
Dances with Birds
Expand your knowledge of ornithology this Sunday. Interdisciplinary artist Patricia Bulitt has created eleven large-scale sculptures, each one containing informative text about the history and habits of a different avian species in English, Latin, Chinese, and Spanish. Bulitt will also perform a dance piece, "Migrating Woman with Bird."The event is part of Tilden Park's Sharing Watershed project, and happens from 2 to 4 p.m. at the park's Environmental Education Center. Info: 510-5252-3255. -- Eric K. Arnold
Culture Spy - April 20, 9:52 AM
Culture Spy - April 13, 12:18 PM