Anna Maria Jopek, singer and musician
TRUE CHARACTERS: The best thing about being Polish . . .is reading Wislawa Szymborska’s and Czeslaw Milosz’s poems in their original language. The worst is the seven months of winter.
When most people think of Polish music . .. they think of Chopin. But I have just done an album, Polanna, where we tried to find the essence of Polish soul in music. In one sentence, Polish music is a curious mix of wrath and melancholy.
Polish people . . .always have loads of hope for the better times to come. How else could have we survived half a century of communism? It was pretty much our sense of humour that kept us alive.
I never cared for being famous . . .Music itself has always been my prime concern. It is a great challenge to face an audience that does not know me at all. It’s a lesson in humility, in sheer communication through sound. We can win, we can fail, but we have to be absolutely honest and pure.
I work very closely in a creative sense with my husband . . .We’ve done all the albums together over the last 14 years or so. The only drawback is that he enjoys vacations and I hate them. I could work 12 months a year. He needs to do other things: travel, photography, or simply looking at nature on our farm outside Warsaw. I rarely go there.
I released three albums in one day . . .I’ve been always so curious, hungry and thirsty for the whole variety of music. This three-CD project Lustra(Mirrors) seemed to be the only answer to this . . . greed.
I represented Poland in the Eurovision . . .This was 15 years ago. I was just at the very beginning, with no album. “It seemed like a good idea at that time,” as Pat Metheny likes to say. Dublin was gorgeous, I recall. I never again participated in this kind of contest. I don’t think I ever will. This is just not my cup of tea. Not my pint of Guinness!
I trained at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw . . .I wish I could still play Mozart concertos on piano. But what I do has always been influenced by these three worlds: classical, jazz and folk. My family is filled with folk musicians.
Some of my most cherished memories on stage . . .are from the Hollywood Bowl, where I sang with some of the greatest bossa nova stars back in 2008. What a place. Perhaps the most focused audience ever is at the Blue Note Tokyo. But I also love small clubs in small Polish towns, like my favourite Jazz Cafe in Lomianki, where I play a lot. It’s like being in the living room of my friend’s house. Unique, cosy, intense.
I worked with many collaborators over the years . . .all of them define me. It’s hard to explain. The more edgy, different, and surprising the collaborators, the more I find out about myself. I’m sort of Zelig in reverse. I’ve worked even with dark metal bands, folk poetry singers, klezmers, contemporary classical virtuosos, pop stars, weirdos, everyone.
I would love to work with . . .the old, traditional village singers from Poland, while they are still with us. I’ll have to hurry.
If I could have anyone in my backing band . . .I think Mozart might be fun to improvise with.
My main influence would be . . .the authors I mentioned at the beginning. Musically: Chopin, Ravel . . . and Sting. I’ve been a huge fan for the last 30 years. I just bought my tickets for his upcoming show in Warsaw, first row.
I played in the UK only last year . . .but Ireland – why have you not invited me earlier? I love your music so much. Maybe there will be a chance to jam with some folk artists. Or this rather talented band you seem to be hiding from the rest of the world, I think they’re called U2?