– article translation –
I’m not finished – an interview with Mirosław “Carlos” Kaczmarczyk
A guitarist, composer, jazzman from Poland settled in Oslo, honored with the “Outstanding Pole” title in Norway in the Culture category. A quarter of a century ago he founded Loud Jazz Band, which today, with its nine great albums, is well-known on both sides of the Baltic Sea. At the time when in Warsaw he could start to reap profits from what he had done so far, he decided to … land on the moon. Whether he wanted to send an alarm – “Oslo, we have a problem” – please read in this interview on nPortal.
nPortal: – How did you get to Norway?
M. K. – In 1994 my fiancée came over here to study. We had known each other for many years, we went to school together, so moving along with her was an obvious choice for me. And although we were preparing for this change, it was like landing on the moon anyway. Suddenly, from Warsaw, where so much was happening, also around me, I came to Oslo, where I did not know anyone, and no one knew me. All I had was a little stretch of the street in front of my house, a piece of reality that I could walk from right to left. And the piano at home.
nPortal: – Was it hard?
M. K.: – It was … well… quite different. Just before leaving Poland I was at the peak of my career. A nomination for the “Fryderyk Award”, the Polish equivalent to Grammy, concerts, contacts, contracts, well-known names all around, all doors opened. And in Oslo, such a silence … I was like a child who must learn to speak and move again. All expatriates know exactly what I am talking about – you go out to a street and you have no idea which way to go, who to talk to, you do not even know how to do shopping. There was something fascinating in it, frightening and funny at the same time.
nPortal: – Please, tell us about the funny side of that experience.
M. K.: – When I talked with my friends from Poland, they asked me if I already had got the Norwegian citizenship, or whether I had played on the public TV. Whereas my peak of the week was to buy bananas in the corner shop! My first Norwegian job was teaching guitar to a private student. His name was Viggo, he came for the lesson at 4 p.m. and I was trembling with excitement from the noon. After the lesson I counted the crowns, ran to the store, and then jumping with joy I brought to my wife the first bananas bought for the money I had earned myself! (laugh)
nPortal: – Didn’t it hurt a bit? The crawling phase in a new country is especially difficult for those who in Poland could not only run, but even fly. You have to pocket your pride, and it ain’t easy …
M. K.: – I think that my talent is the ability to accept compromises with life. You come to a new country where no one knows you, no one knows how many diplomas you hide in your pocket, and how important you were back home. It is a bit unpleasant but also natural, because no one is particularly eager to run to welcome you. In this situation you have two options. You can get offended by the fact that no one recognizes you and your undeniable importance, you can hold onto this grudge, complain and suffer, and finally, after some years, return to Poland deadly offended. Or you can also treat this relocation, firstly – as an opportunity for a new opening, and secondly – as a process.
nPortal: – In what sense an opportunity?
M. K.: – Sometimes I’m joking that thanks to the moving, I started life twice, but for the second time I was much smarter, and I was aware of the limited time to spend. In another country everything can be re-arranged. Coming to Norway, however, you must realize that this is a special place. It is not a country for people who crave for socializing, events quickly following one after another, “happening”, and daily amok. Everything here happens in a different pulse, even the musicians here play differently, they have a long and wide pulse. To find your place in Norway, you need to gradually attain similar peace, to tune to this new rhythm. And once your blood begins circulating in your veins to the Oslo heartbeat, you can feel that you no longer have to struggle, run, and shout. It’s gonna be good, if only you have avoided the panic at the beginning of the adaptation.
nPortal: – What’s so dreadful?
M. K.: – Perhaps the fear of change, of identity loss. I can tell beginners – cool down – you are a Pole, and so you will remain, this change will only enrich you. You do not have to run around Oslo’s main street wearing the Krakow attire to demonstrate your Polishness. You are so magnetized with Poland that you don’t need to flaunt yourself, it will never leave you. Relax, calm down, watch, learn everyday life. Learn the Norwegian language, learn the Norwegian people, show some humility towards life and remember that all this is a process, it takes time.
nPortal: – You’ve mentioned already that building a career in a new country is a process. What was your next step after the private teaching?
M. K.: – I found a job as a music teacher. And again, my Polish peers asked me if I taught at the Music Academy in Oslo, while I was employed in a small school in the countryside. When driving there to work for the first time, my old Peugeot refused to obey. I was ashamed for the junk, but this situation helped me to understand that the seemingly detached Norwegians are in fact helpful and friendly. The principal and fellow teachers referred my car to a garage. While I was teaching lessons, the mechanic fixed my worn muffler. We tend to think that others are only looking for occasions to laugh or sneer at our weaknesses, whereas in fact it is worth giving them trust.
nPortal: – So you were teaching kids in a village school thinking that it was a stage on the way to the goal?
M. K.: – Exactly. Maybe it’s easier for musicians to spin visions? As a creator, forgive me for uttering this word, I’m used to create. Composing, after all, consists in imagining and then staging certain scenarios in the mind. I project similar visions to life. I assumed that the first year in Oslo was only the first step, and there will be maybe 15, maybe 18, maybe even more. I will slowly reach my goal. Today I can say that I’ve managed to accomplish the plan.
nPortal: Your band Loud Jazz Band, currently with a Polish-Norwegian lineup, featured at all major jazz events on both sides of the Baltic Sea, will soon be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Are you working on something special?
M. K.: Yes, we are, there will be a gala show in Poland, but I won’t disclose any details. Do not ask about it anymore, because it will come out that I do not know them myself (laughs).
nPortal: What do you consider the band’s greatest success?
M. K.: – What comes to my mind right now is the last album. This live recording is in many respects an ideal reflection of our success. It shows a cross-section of the unusual personalities that have gathered in and around the band. The gig was recorded here by a Norwegian. At the mastering stage, I decided to transfer the work to a specialist in Poland. The first thing he did was to praise the work of his predecessor. At the next stage, the same thing happened – everybody had a theoretical reason to get annoyed and nit-pick, but actually they appreciated the professionalism of the other contributors and did an excellent job themselves. And this is just a fraction of the phenomenon that delights and puzzles me. I have the impression that the process of forming this band, apart from hard work, trials and errors, has also been a subcutaneous and difficult to describe miracle.
nPortal: Try to describe it anyway.
M. K.: – Loud Jazz Band’s greatest asset are people. These high-class musicians with impressive achievements. Strong artistic personalities. Eight people, each completely different from the others. Percussionist Maciej Ostromecki from Ciechanów, synthesizer virtuoso Piotr Iwicki from Warsaw, saxophone wizard Wojtek Staroniewicz from Sopot … I could talk about any member of the band for hours, but I’m afraid that you do not have enough space on nPortal to honor them properly. Please visit our website http://www.loudjazzband.com/, one song will tell you more than a thousand words. I would like to add that the diversity of our musical CVs doesn’t get in our way at all, on the contrary, the differences are inspiring, and the effect is staggering, as evidenced by that CD. And one more, another small miracle, we’ve been surrounded and supported by a group of good and proven in battle friends. May I name a few?
nPortal: – Sure, here is always a place for a token of friendship.
M. K: – There is a great designer, who’s created our record covers, website and posters – Kuba Karlowski from Gdańsk, and there is Krzysztof Pietrucha from Warsaw, with whom I would probably have stolen many horses, as we Poles say about someone you can count on in a tight spot, if I only needed them. (laugh) And finally, the most important one – the main secret of my success and a person in my opinion deserving of distinction more than me – my wife Danuta Kozon. An artistic soul and systematic mind, organizer of festivals and originator of hundreds of great ideas. Ant that’s it for now in the way of acknowledgment.
nPortal: – Where in Norway we’ll be able to hear Loud Jazz band live soon?
M. K.: – A good opportunity will be the THANKS JIMI FESTIVAL on May 1 in Kolbotn. I am the artistic director of this festival and its enthusiastic fan, so I cordially invite you all. Last year it featured 80 guitarists playing together, including one talented ambassador. This year even more Poles are coming!
nPortal: Your name, as well as your band, is a well-established brand inside and outside the jazz communities in Poland and Norway. You’ve got, for the second time, a place on Earth that you dreamed about. Your competence is not questioned. But, when you happen to hear some disrespectful opinions about Poles in the media, does it irritate you, or you just ignore it after all these years?
M. K.: – I’m a happy man – I’ve got no TV set, no Facebook profile, I’m no Internet addict. I’ve got a forest outside my window, and a piano in front of it. So, I don’t care for such media scuffles, though I understand that they can hurt someone. I’d advise a fair measure of sense of humor. Someone’s negative statement about Poles cannot deprive you of energy! After all, we Poles also like to pick holes, maybe even more than those actually kind and polite Norwegians. I perceive them as having a lot of respect for others. I can see it in my students, for example.
nPortal: – Are they polite to you? Poles tend to believe that Norwegian youth is raised too “stress-free”, and the education system is worse than Polish.
M. K.: – Do you know what I remember from my Polish school? Fear, constant fear of teachers. Norwegian students are not afraid and that’s good. So, I never patronize nor intimidate them. Instead, I teach them, and I teach myself too. The kids are normal, cool, and diverse, but this is just the stage of life from which they grow out. Youth is energy, not wisdom, still far away from the “finished product”. I bear in mind that they are not “finished”, just as when I came to Norway, I was not “finished”, nor “finished” I am now. I am happy that I can give them a hint at this stage. I am also happy that I can give them something Polish, because despite the passage of years, I am so magnetized with Poland that I shine with it. They respect me, they are polite and nice. Maybe because I’m nice to them?