” data-original-title=”” title=””>Anouar Brahem led his quartet, converting the festival aura to an inward-looking mournfulness. This set was a big improvement on a somewhat muted appearance at another Polish festival, Jazztopad, in 2019, but still suffered in the wake of the earlier Rashida Sayed performance. The line-up of resonant bass clarinet, low volume electric bass and caressed drums painted faint hues, the darkness inhabited by soft gestures, slight ascendance, and meaningful glances.
The next Courtyard set provided the shock of hearty dance-prompting Polish folk, in the street-prancing fashion, with the large group of Warszawsko-Lubelska Orkiestra Dęta dedicating themselves to collecting and preserving tunes from the Roztocze area of south-eastern Poland, and the bordering Ukrainian west. Their massive line-up boasted rows of brass and reeds, plus a lone, large baraban drum, sat out front to beat out the audience dance steps. This year’s cavorting zone was smaller than usual, soon filled, with the dancers setting off on circulatory chains around the remaining courtyard seated audience. Group singing abounded, and the polkas were powered by impish clarinets, garrulous trumpets and gruff tuba-pumping.
Dziczka are a six-piece all-female, all-vocal group from Poland, but dedicated to a Ukrainian folk repertoire, and guided by Tetiana Sopiłka, a member of Kyiv’s Drewo. They opened the Sunday programme, dressed in traditional costumes, and sat around a table, with its still-life bowl of rosy apples, shaping a concentrated communal ambiance. During what seemed like a long set, there wasn’t enough sonic variation in these admittedly substantial songs, and it was becoming apparent that this year’s festival had a sharp divide between performances of insular and outgoing natures, as if to mirror the wild divergences in today’s harrowing times. This was a ‘worthy’ repertoire, but involved heavy-going over the slow-changing duration. There was also a person in the audience who insisted on always being the first to applaud, and then didn’t continue once the rest of the crowd joined in. Perhaps this was someone who was affiliated with the singers, but as each song evolved, your scribe was left cringing in anticipation of that dreaded curtailing clap.
Here comes Sunday’s finest combo! The Hudaki Village Band hail from the Tisza River part of Ukraine, using Romanian and Hungarian instruments in their line-up. At 5.30pm they whipped up the Courtyard population into a vigorous dancing circulation. Joyous in the face of invasion, they partied in the midst of persecution, their music strengthening the spirits. There was violin, cimbalom, a shoulder-drum with attached cymbal, accordion, upright bass, acoustic guitar and clarinet (Yuri Bukovynets sporting a large feather in his hat). Rollicking, lusty, firm and forceful, the Hudakis declared ‘we will fight the evil,’ and singer Kateryna Yarynych entered the fray, for a pair of mournful songs. Another singer, Olha Senynets, also played the ütőgardon, a Transylvanian cello-like instrument, struck percussively with a stick. The songs are mixed up with Roma and Jewish influences, born at wedding parties, sustaining madcap dancing down the front, and around the edges of the courtyard.
Closing the festival in the Courtyard, the foursome of Atine managed to span themes of graceful tranquility, a poignant sense of quiet power emanating from their repertoire, and in particular the original material. Their backgrounds are a combination of Iranian, Palestinian and French, while their instrumentation is tar (lute), kanun (zither) and tombak (goblet drum), with lead vocals courtesy of Aïda Nosrat. The sound of ancient Persian music was shimmered through a playing style that sounded distinctly modern, with Nosrat’s well-defined individuality commanding the audience’s attention via a sense of poised expression. Ethno Port seems to regularly select closing acts that impose a thoughtful atmosphere of reverie, with the more flamboyant dancing peak already reached in the early evening.
As Ethno Port returns to its full strength, let’s hope that the free admission community gigs will return for 2023, perhaps in the castle’s surrounding park spaces, whilst the frontal flagstones are being renovated.