Who are Slav?
Slav are a brother and sister team of composers and musicians from Poland. Both of them are academically trained in music composition and production but they nevertheless have a wide field of inspiration that lies outside the world of the music college.
Slav have a unique sound and vision and I thought they would make great subjects for an interview.
The Slav interview - Amata and Marek talk about their songs and music
Slav are a duo from Poland. Marek is the composer and musician and Amata is the singer. They make a very creative brother and sister team.
Who are Slav?
Introduction to Slav
Please tell me about Slav.
Marek: We are siblings and have been playing/singing together as long as we can remember in many and various projects: from poetry set to music, through jazz, classical and celtic music to some really heavy stuff.
About 5-6 years ago, we decided to arrange and record a few Eastern-European folk songs. Just for fun. We called the project ‘Slav’. Soon after we started to rehearse, we realized we wanted to do more than recording ‘covers’ and started writing our own songs. But since we were so inspired by the Slavic folklore, and indeed are Slavs *smile*, we kept the name for the duo.
Marek ´Slav's composer and musician
A producer too
Slav - Forgotten Garden
A song by Slav
The music of Slav
Songs and music by Amata and Marek
How would you describe the songs and music of Slav?
Amata: A few people have told us that our songs are sad and asked us if we are sad in our personal lives *smile*. I must admit I am rather an introvert, but wouldn’t say I am unhappy or anything of the sort. As for my brother, he makes people laugh just by coming into the room, before he even says anything. He makes me laugh big time too. Every song is very important to us and I always try to feel every word with all my body while singing. Sometimes it’s very difficult to focus on anything when Marek is sitting just a few meters from me making silly faces. Sometimes we lose the whole day in the studio because of his sense of humour!
When asked, I always find it difficult to describe our music. Saying “We sound like Slav” would be too arrogant in my opinion. I call our style “alternative/experimental electro-folk/pop”. I don’t think you can really credit any musician with a certain style. The best way to get to know them is to listen to their music.
Marek: All our songs are important to us and mean something. If they are not about us, they are about someone we know or someone we’ve heard about. It is crucial, I think, to be honest within your creations, both the lyrics and music. It is hard to get noticed and become successful with non-mainstream music, but I believe we have to do what we feel.
Amata: My brother could compose any kind of music, and this is what he actually does anyway. He writes music for theatrical plays, movies, TV shows and commercials. He was a member of death/black metal bands for years and also made songs for disco singers. But I agree with what he just said: no matter how good your songs are, if they are disco songs and you don’t really like disco, everyone will detect the falsity sooner or later and then you’re done for.
It’s also not about thinking that you’re the best of the best. It’s quite the opposite, I think…
There are some bands whose music I could like, but I wish the people playing in them were a little bit more humble. You can forgive Beethoven such an attitude, but hey…
Marek: Yeah, you need to have a certain level of humility to keep a certain level of quality in your music. It’s not that you have to think everything you do is not good enough! You need to believe in yourself and just do the best you can at the moment. I know I am happy with what I’ve done when I think “I would buy this CD” or “I would go to a gig of this band” while listening to the final product.
How does your classical education inspire your music and what are your other influences and sources of inspiration?
Marek: We both have graduated at the Conducting Department of a Music University. Before that, I learned to play the violin and guitar and my sister – piano and classical singing.
It makes things easier for you when you’re classically trained for sure.
After my graduation, I created a choir that was called Rockspel. We mix classical music with the sounds of rock - it’s fun. I try to accomplish all the goals I had for the choir as much as time lets me. Working with such an ensemble gives room for a lot of satisfaction!
Amata: I was very curious and wanted to get to know music “from the kitchen”. This is why I chose conducting. I had a great teacher and learned a lot. These studies let me understand music from the inside, which turned out to be very helpful. The profession of conducting is a hard work, but very gratifying. Oh… although I saw this picture recently where a conductor is staring blankly at the score that says “Wave the stick until the music stops, then turn around and bow”, so maybe it’s not such hard work after all *laugh.* If I ever have a chance to lead a choir or orchestra in a concert, I will go for it. But for now, I have decided to focus on one thing and do everything I can to become better and better. And if I have to choose just one thing, I would choose performing face to face with the audience *smile*.
As for inspirations, depending on a day, it can be anything. We get much inspiration from our idols’ music obviously. Also, our oldest brother, Jaroslav, who is a film and classical music composer, influences us a lot.
There are days when we just sit in the studio listening to Dead Can Dance, Clannad or classical music. Sometimes we even watch movies, cartoons or just tell stories and laugh. You see, when we were growing up, there were no cartoon channels on TV. There was only one cartoon a day at 7pm. It was mostly Eastern-European productions, which we loved. Very mysterious, based on the Slavic folklore, kind of spooky. Later, they put on The Smurfs and stuff like that. We would record the cartoons to watch them over and over on demand later on. We still remember the whole episodes by heart! If one of us starts with just a one line… it’s followed by the whole story! Perhaps it’s a bit surprising, but such situations can be very inspiring too. We were talking about The Smurfs once and all of a sudden, Marek opened his eyes widely and said “Do you remember the will-o'-the-wisps flying over the swamp when Papa Smurf went to rescue the Smurfs from the land on the other side of the mirror? This nice flute was playing such a mystic melody!” Then we started to browse through some sound banks and very soon the whole song was complete…
Marek: Sound banks are very inspiring! They can “sing” a song themselves. Sometimes it’s just the matter of finding an interesting sound bank that suits your current mood to complete a piece in a short time. It’s exactly the same with my sister’s poems. Very often, I can just hear the text playing the music just by reading it.
Amata: I just wanted to say the same. Every singer-songwriter must know this feeling when music and lyrics just come together in the same time ‘from nowhere’. They just wouldn’t come alive apart from each other at all.
I also have the same feeling about Marek’s music. I don’t know if other people experience this too, but I think we’ve got a special connection. We grew up together, listened to the same music, read the same books and watched the same movies. We know each other very well and where music is concerned, we understand each other very well too.
When I get a sketch of a new song from any of my brothers, the music seems to sing the lyrics. All I have to do is write them down and fill up the gaps. It’s exciting and sometimes even scary! *smile*
Marek: Sometimes music comes to me while I’m sleeping. It’s a big mistake to assume you will remember it when you get up! I always record the melody on my cell phone, then listen to it in the morning and recall the whole tune. It happened with the song “Someday”, for example, which is yet to be recorded. It was a strange situation, because when I told Amata what I heard and saw in the dream, she said she had started to write “Someday” yesterday evening. She had almost finished the lyrics and when she sang the melody of the first verse, it turned out that it fitted my chorus perfectly. We were thinking about a very similar story to tell.
Slav - The Stigma [HD]
A haunting song and performance by Slav
European music festivals
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Austria's renowned Salzburg Festival has from the outset engaged issues of cultural identity in a country that has difficulty coming to terms with its twentieth-century history....Cornell University Press /
Slav performance projects
What projects are Slav working on now?
Marek: We have almost finished recording the material for “The Stigma” album and we hope to perform during various European festivals this year. New music is being created all the time too.
What other artists would you wish to work with?
Amata: Everyone we respect and could learn something from.
Marek: People like Brendan Perry, Karl Jenkins, the Brennan family… there are too many brilliant people in the world to name everyone. Not only musicians/composers, but also producers whose experience and knowledge is priceless.
Amata: I would love to meet Loreena McKennitt, Lisa Gerrard, Cecilia Bartoli, Michele Legrange. They are perfect. A single singing lesson with them would be an experience of life.
As for guys, I obviously don’t know all the singers of the world, but for me there are four men that are and will always be the greatest. They are: Bruno Pelletier, Ogi Radivojevic, Ville Valo and Maciej Maleńczuk.
Other things you like to do besides your work with Slav?
Marek: I enjoy my work in the studio, as a producer. I like skiing, reading books about ancient mythologies, and going to the theatre with my wife who is an actress. I love everything connected with Nature.
Amata: Animal rights, green tea, hiking in the Tatra Mountains. I enjoy learning Chinese (Mandarin), it’s such a romantic language! I wouldn’t undertake translating Chinese literature *laughs*, but recognizing more and more characters and being able to write longer and longer texts everyday is very exciting.
I’ve recently gone back to the beautiful art of Taekwon-do. I used to train in it for a few years as a teenager, but left when I started my studies. I am aware I will never become a champion, but fighting your body’s weaknesses is pretty inspiring too!
How would you describe each other in one sentence?
Amata: Hard-working perfectionist with a huge heart.
Marek: Strong-spirited, yet hopelessly romantic poetess.
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
Slav - Nakomai Buokira / Photographs by Jon Lewis - Help Kiribati
Helping a troubled island
Amata of Slav studies this martial art
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